Energica Electric Motorbike Review – CRP to rock e-superbike niche?
Something is going on in the emerging electric motorbike market. Conventional wisdom holds that the action should all be at the bottom end, in the provision of competent electric mopeds for young, hard-up riders. But, at a time when many of us have still to catch a whiff of e-moped tyre, makers are going head-to-head with $20,000+ electric superbikes. We’ve already had the Brammo Empulse. Now Modena, Italy builder CRP is taking pre-orders for its 220kph Energica streetbike. What’s going on?
A cynic might observe that, if an e-superbike can win kudos from dyed-in-the-wool petrolheads, its makers can expect a payoff via improved sales of e-mopeds. Presumably that would be especially true if they could add some slick team trim to the basic bikes? In that case, CRP is spectacularly well-placed to cash in. Since the company launched its racing division five years ago, it has gained a goodly portion of competition experience — and, for several decades, its main business has been in the production of specialist bodywork.
Well, whether CRP is really eyeing up the spinoff opportunities or not, its immediate task will be to win over a notoriously tough and conservative market. Brammo’s Empulse has led the e-superbike charge, its strong performance and nifty handling earning rave reviews from committed motorcyclists. Now it’s the Energica’s turn. How will it fare among these arch-conservatives?
A TT racer, Jim, but not as we know it
Having cut its teeth working with mighty Honda on the development of petrol bikes for various Italian race leagues, CRP Racing switched its attention to TTXGP, Azhar Hussain’s, uh, misfiring zero-emission add-on to the world TT series. CRP’s early TT racer design became one of the world’s first production electric superbikes, and the Energica project builds on its success.
This begs a fundamental question: is a TTXGP racer an appropriate platform for a streetbike? Hussain’s races are conducted over a single 40-mile circuit, and the bikes built to compete in them trade endurance for speed and acceleration. While roadgoing bikers may appreciate the Energica’s competition heritage and flat-out performance, they’re likely to be less impressed by its limited range.
Putting our reservations aside for a moment… we’d have to admit that the Energica really, really looks the part. The long wheelbase and low handlebars combine with flowing lines and subtle paintwork to produce what must be one of the best-appointed superbikes in the world — and certainly the best-looking e-superbike.
Performance is remarkable, too. That 220kph (or 137mph, depending on your preference) top speed means that the bike will see off all but the very fastest of its competition, electric or otherwise, and it’s no slouch at braking and cornering, either. The build is perhaps a tad more conventional than that of the Brammo, with the motor placed low and far back to weight the rear wheel and a stiff Ducati-style steel spaceframe in place of the flex-prone aluminium of its predecessors. But the Energica still riffs interestingly on the possibilities of low rotating mass… and, having seen footage of the CRP and Brammo machines going head-to-head, we wouldn’t fancy living on the difference.
All-up weight is around 225kg. That’s substantially more than its predecessors, but not unmanageable. CRP Racing’s recent addition of US rider Shelina Moreda to the team makes the point that, e-superbike or not, the Energica is still light enough to be handled by a woman. Unfortunately, the term ‘light’ can’t be applied to the pricetag – although EU18,000 is not unreasonable for a machine of this quality. Assuming you’re still with us, let’s examine the bike more closely.
Motor and Drive
Like an increasing number of performance electric vehicles, the Energica uses a permanent magnet motor. Rare earth magnets are expensive and horrid to work with, but confer substantial performance and weight advantages over conventional motor designs. The Energica’s oil-cooled unit puts out more than twice as much power as that of the Brammo, delivering an eyewatering 160Nm of torque — which doubtless explains why CRP didn’t bother with a gearbox. (Pushing 100kW straight through the rear wheel seems so much more, well, Italian.)
Brakes and Suspension
No surprises here — except, perhaps, that the Energica designers’ latest revised spec appears almost identical with that of the Brammo. The principal suspension component is that mighty 43mm Marzocchi fork, while a Sachs monoblock unit brings up the rear. Brakes are solid Brembo disks. None of that regenerative nonsense, mind you — the front is exactly the kind of twin-rotor monster you’d expect to find on a stock 600cc machine. It should be more than enough to hold you, even if you’re descending a 20% grade in a hailstorm.
Batteries and Charging
CRP aren’t saying much about the battery, which doesn’t appear on the official spec sheet. At the preview, chief designer Giampiero Testoni stated that the unit delivers a full 11.7kWh, significantly greater than that of the Brammo or indeed CRP’s previous racers. How the charge time compares is unclear. We know that the bike has an onboard power management system called MAPS, so we’re kind of hoping that Energica riders will be able to get by without one of the ubiquitous Level II chargers.
Range is a little controversial. The makers claim 150km / 90mi at 80kph, which is pretty good considering the formidable output of the motor. However, we’re guessing that ultrafast dashes and bursts of full-throttle acceleration will reduce that significantly. (Remember the 40mi course at the TT circuit.)
Gadgets and Options
As you might expect on a superbike, the Energica offers full LED lighting, ride-by-wire controls, and a multifunction LED dashboard, the latter with GPS functionalities accessible from the handgrip. There’s also the promise of colour options when the bike goes into full production (tho we like the stock white/green just fine).
Veni, vidi, vici?
When CRP talk about ‘DNA da corsa’, they’re not exaggerating. This is an e-bike that wears its Italian racing heritage on its sleeve, trading practicality for stunning looks and flat-out performance. Price and limited range mean that it won’t be for everyone — but that won’t prevent the rest of us from lusting after it. (Sigh.)