By Max Klein & Fish
Photography: Max Klein
Max: E-Go, We-Go, U-Go… Fast
If you chat with the average grizzled motorcyclist, someone who’s been riding since the route to and from school was both uphill and snow-capped, they’ll likely gripe that electric motorcycles will never have a real place in this world: the battery tech isn’t ready, electric motors are unexciting and not up to spec. I’ve also heard from representatives of the capital B Biker world that electric motorcycles lack soul.
Complaints vary from rider to rider, but the one thing that they all agree on? Electric bikes are too quiet. “How am I supposed to save lives without a loud pipe?” they wail, teeth gnashing.
These guys need to get out more, and maybe check out the Italian-made Energica models.
Their first model, the Ego (Electric Go?), blends in with modern sportbikes like ET in Elliot’s closet full of toys. At first glance, it presents as an obviously-Italian, drop-dead sexy 600, but get closer and you’ll realize you’re in the presence of something out of this world.
Underneath the shapely yet sharkish bodywork lurks a 100kW motor, a massive battery pack, and a power inverter that would be at home on the International Space Station. That combination translates to 136 electrified horses that peak at 4,900 rpm and hold steady until 10,500 rpm. If “only 136” horsepower doesn’t impress, there’s 143 foot-pounds of torque immediately available upon twisting the throttle, if you are a fan of dominating the areas between stoplights.
Depending on the distance between those lights you might even hit the electronically limited 150 MPH top speed.
The more mild-mannered Eva (Spanish for Electric Go?) sports a 70kW motor with 95 frolicking horses and an equally-instantaneous 125 pound-feet of torque—enough to loop lesser bikes into oblivion. Ego’s little sister must have been naughty—she’s grounded to just 125 MPH.
I say “lesser bikes” because Energica’s models employ wizardly electronics to keep both wheels on the ground, with four maps—Rain, Urban, Eco, and Sport—none of which allow for excessive front wheel lift no matter how hard you rip on the throttle. Those maps also manage maximum torque and horsepower to help you conserve battery life or attempt to smoke the rear tire—and rivals—on corner exit.
The Vehicle Control Unit does more than just make the motorcycle move—Energica says their proprietary multi-map adaptive energy and power management algorithms maximize the battery, not only for a single ride, but for the lifetime of the packs… even when the key is off. Think of it like an electric Santa Claus.
Ego and Eva both sport Brembo brakes and Bosch ABS, with a rear wheel anti-lift protocol that kicks in if you get too stabby on the front. The Bosch-on-Brembo action also works well no matter what level of regeneration you have the bike set.
Yup. When braking or when rolling off the throttle, you get a proportional amount of juice back. There are three settings—low, medium, or high—and depending on which level the bike is set, you get “engine braking” when rolling off as well. On low, the brake effect was similar to that first 1% you give to put a little heat into the pads. Medium was similar to slowing for the idiot in front of you on the freeway, who’s “stealthily” lifted his phone to check his texts. High? I actually came to a complete stop twice on our test day only by just letting off the “gas.”
You can shut the regen all the way off if you want to coast, and there’s a neutral spot in the throttle that has the same effect.
All this moto-cyber-motivation isn’t just modded into an existing gassy chassis. I’ll let Fish tell you about the ride, but it was quickly obvious to me that Energica spent as much time on their geometry homework as they did their physics.
I’m no stranger to range anxiety, so one of the first questions I wanted an answer to was, “Can I have fun on this thing and make it home afterward?”
We did about 60 miles on our test ride, and when we finished I had about 19% left on the Eva, but Fish had just 6% remaining on the Ego. Now, normally, I’d be right there with some of you, making the that’s it? face, but I must mention we were not e-going at a normal pace. I took each Energica on multiple sustained, sometimes electronically-limited high-speed runs, and had regen turned off much of the time. Rumor has it that if you don’t ride like a couple of tools you can get 125 miles out of the Eva. Our short test day didn’t allow time enough to test that theory, nor did we have any non-tool riders in attendance—maybe next time.
But with the quick charge option on board, you can get back on the road for another 60-ish miles of triple-digit shenanigans in about half an hour, and the Energica app can show you where to find a compatible station. Without the quick charge option, you’ll need about three and a half hours of impatient toe-tapping and watch-checking to top off.
The price of being able to propel yourself through space and time at a Johnny Law frowned-upon pace for a Magellan-approved distance? Just how damn big and extra damn heavy the batteries have to be.
I don’t know how much the cells weigh, but I do know that the Ego tips the scales just over 568 pounds. That’s 202 pounds heavier than a Yamaha R6 or 14 pounds lighter than a Yamaha FJR 1300, if you’re a “but the glass is half full!” type. The Eva is about 550 pounds—figure out your own comparison on that one.
So yeah, they’re heavy, but if it’s not clear by now, Energica didn’t hire a bunch of dummies to design their bikes. There’s a reverse gear. Well, technically a “park assist,” as it will move you backwards or forwards at a maximum speed of 1.74 MPH.
Pricing quoted EnergicaMotorUSA.com when we rode the Ego and Eva was about as heavy as the bikes, both of which start at $29,700. However, as we were about to go to press, our contact at Energica shared the latest promotional pricing, originally intended for release at IMS Long Beach: both models will start at $24,900 with state incentives included, and will come equipped with DC fast charging capability and a 110-volt home charger, nearly five thousand dollars off previous pricing.
Those of you with your exhaust set to life saver are still gonna be a little bit bitter that you don’t have to straighten the paintings in your house every time you potato-potato-potato into the garage. But while quiet, the bikes do make own unique noises.
Acceleration sounds like a Roush supercharger spooling up on Darth Vader’s TIE fighter. After you get to cruising speed, you hear almost nothing but nature, but the chirping birds and croaking frogs can be interrupted by the sound of the suspension bottoming out on Stage or similarly bumpy roads, so don’t zone out.
On deceleration, both the Ego and Eva emit a sound that can only be described as the Devil’s fiddle from the Charlie Daniel’s classic, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” right around a minute-fifty into the track. Not that the Eva and Ego are looking to steal souls—I mean, we’ve already proven they have their own.
Fish: Grizzled Bear On An Electric Bike
While I sometimes wear the label with pride, in this instance the grizzled old biker patch on my ‘Stich is not an enviable label. I’ve not yet been convinced that electrics are in my future, and I don’t really care what future generations ride. Put another way: you’ll have to sell me on something more than sustainability and reduced emissions before I’ll buy into the electric motorcycle movement.
Energica may have just done so. Technological wizardry has never been much of an enticement for me. I understand the many benefits, but prefer motorcycles that are visceral, emotional, and raw. If I’m not overwhelmed in some way, the bike’s not for me.
The Ego and Eva have that ability to overwhelm.
I started the ride on the more comfortable Eva, pulling my old man card on Max. My love for naked bikes drew me to it from the minute we arrived at Energica’s place on the Peninsula. The styling isn’t exactly bold in the context of modern nakeds and super-nakeds, but it’s engaging. The exposed trellis frame and mechanical bits seem pedestrian enough at first glance, but the unconventional battery pack shrouded in shark gills and the unfamiliar shapes of the electric drivetrain—and that sweet swingarm—garner some deeper glances. The overall look is still decidedly Italian, just updated.
When you straddle the Eva, it stops being an electric motorcycle—dropping the qualifier is important here. Turn the ignition key, cycle the start button, twist the throttle and go. The absence of clutch lever and shifter bring back memories of the beloved DCT Hondas, only now I need not worry about making sure I’m in Sport mode.
The Eva’s ergos are that of a mildly aggressive streetfighter. A comfortable-enough seat and very standard switchgear meet you, and the interface on the dash is only mildly different from the gasoline bikes I know and love. The easy-to-read TFT display provides your speed, and some graduated lights illuminate based on how much power you’re consuming. There’s a very simple left control interface to choose regen mode and power delivery settings.
Our ride was too short for me to experiment extensively with the power delivery modes, but I did explore the regen levels, shuffling between off and the three levels. I’m a rear brake enthusiast, so I still found myself adding rear brake along with throttle to tighten lines, but the regen made other rear brake use all but unnecessary for regular riding. The bike could actually be ridden in a style eschewing brake usage in all scenarios other than emergencies. Definitely an interesting new skillset to be honed.
It’s almost a shame the regen is so effective, as the Brembos are fantastic on their own, everything you’d expect on a top-level bike, with superb feel and brute force stopping power.
When it came time to swap bikes with Max, the two bikes’ similar interfaces and intuitive dynamics made switching to the Ego an easy adaptation. I could groan about the sportbike ergos, but I’ll spare you the bulk of that. The increased power did help to ease the ache of being folded up, and the swap happened just in time for a nice section of sweeping corners so I got to wick up a bit and exercise my rarely used sportbike riding techniques.
These are both fantastic motorcycles that happen to be electric-powered. No qualification required. Power delivery is exceptionally smooth, to be sure, but there are ample amounts of it, plenty for achieving unbelievable speeds, unbelievably quickly. The chassis geometry does an exceptional job of keeping the front wheel on the ground, letting the rider really use the instantly-available torque. I admit that I have a soft spot for bikes that let me get on the power early in corner exit, and the Ego does this well. Between the VCU’s management of power and the chassis, particularly the relationship between the counter sprocket and the swingarm pivot, it’s as if there is a wheelie control system on board—but there’s not.
Suspension, even without the Öhlins upgrades, is top notch. The damping and spring rates are very well matched in stock form. We took the Energicas on some of California’s less than well-maintained back roads for photo opportunities, and even folded up over the Ego’s tank, I didn’t have a single criticism. The Ego is composed, even when taken out of its element.
After being given the green light to give the Eva a spirited hoon on the way home, I forgot that the power level is turned down on the naked Energica. I really didn’t notice. The Pirellis on the bike are close to their limit when aggressively applying throttle for gratuitous grins. Top end may be diminished, but street riding is largely uncompromised.
We traded one more time to give old man Max some back relief and I took the Ego on the last leg of our run, which included some tasty downhill twisties: twist throttle, grin, brake, lean, repeat. I was busy enough that I didn’t have time for range anxiety, nor was I concerned—there was charging not far away, after all.
And so it was laid out clearly for me to see: a motorcycle that happens to be electric powered. Excellent chassis dynamics, wonderful brakes, exciting power delivery, and whizbang electronics that can keep the thing cutting edge for a long time to come.
I’m not sure where I go from here, but I’ve certainly been stripped of some of my grizzled old biker cred.
This story originally appeared in our November 2017 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.