Solar power and one of the world’s fastest motorcycles…


The Lightning Superbike is powered by electricity; it doesn’t use a trace of gasoline or petroleum at all. Last year it received many awards and accolades and we take a closer look at how solar power is being utilised to drive such a high-performance vehicle…

In August, Total World Energy looked at the airplane powered only by the sun, Solar Impulse. In October we looked at the boat powered only by the sun, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar. Back in 1996, Honda aired a TV promotion campaign about their plans for developing a solar powered car, and in 2013 a motorcycle powered only by electricity developed by solar panels became the fastest production motorcycle in the world. Clearly, solar power and its uses are coming to the forefront of the everyday energy mix.

In June last year, the Lightning Superbike team competed at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) in Colorado Springs. As the second oldest motor sports event in the USA, running since 1916, PPIHC is a 12.42 mile (19.99 kilometre) course that begins at 9,390 feet (2,862.07 meters) above sea-level and finishes at the 14,115 foot (4,302.25 meter) summit of the spectacular Pikes Peak –Americas Mountain. As the drivers climb toward the summit, the thin air slows reflexes and drains muscle strength in addition to robbing internal combustion engines of up to 30% of the power they were capable of at the start line. Competitors and vehicles must be in top shape and condition simply to finish, let alone win.

Lightning didn’t just win the electric category, they were faster than the closest world-class gas-powered bike by almost 21 seconds. The majority of the electric bike field posted times in the mid-12-minute range – Lightning Electric Superbike was more than two minutes faster.

Lightning Motorcycle was the fastest of the 82 motorcycle entered and beat all but the eight fastest cars at the PPIHC. Adding to the achievement, the Lightning SuperBike was powered by clean, renewable solar energy.

The bike is a result of collaboration between California based Lightning Motorcycles and SMA America which manufactures solar inverters. Lightning Motors Corp. has been involved in researching and manufacturing electric two wheeled transportations for more than six years.

The Lightning SuperBike was not the first electric bike to compete at the event but it was the first to have such an impact. It has paved the way for the Lightning LS-218, the latest offering from the pioneering company. Powered by a 380V 20 kwh battery pack and IPM liquid cooled 150kw+ 10,500 rpm electric motor, the LS-218 produces 200 hp and 168 ft·lbs of torque. Weighing just 495 lbs, the bike can reach 218 mph and the motor can reach 10,500 rpm. To charge, it takes just 30 mins on a quick charger and 120 minutes on level two charger and a full charge will take the bike 160-180 miles at highway speed.

But perhaps most importantly, the EnerDel battery pack can be charged through a specially adapted solar panel system. The bike is charged with solar power through a mobile charging station that features an inverter made by SMA America and Trina panels. “The merger of solar power and electric vehicles is exciting to witness and we are thrilled with the success of the impressive SuperBike,” said Henry Dziuba, president and general manager of SMA America after the PPIHC. “The win at Pikes Peak shows that superior, world-class performance can be achieved today with clean technologies.”

During the performance at the PPIHC, the bike was driven by Carlin Dunne who is now three-time consecutive overall motorcycle champion and King of the Mountain. “We are incredibly gratified with the performance by Carlin,” said Richard Hatfield, founder and CEO of Lightning Motorcycles following success at the PPIHC. “The Lightning team worked around the clock to ensure that we provided the best possible bike for the race. We set this as a goal more than four years ago after our first North American road-racing event. Sunday, we achieved our goal. This accomplishment is a big step forward for Lightning, and we believe this is a giant leap forward for public acceptance of clean, renewable energy-based transportation.”

Adding further clout to the bikes renewable energy offering is the regenerative braking system which helps achieve the impressive mileage from a single charge. The braking system is made up of Dual Brembo 320mm discs, Brembo radial-mount forged 4-piston calipers, two Brembo T-Drive 320mm Fully-Floating Rotors and two Brembo GP4-RX CNC Radial Calipers.

This fantastic vehicle is yet another example of exactly what can be achieved with today’s modern engineering ideas. We can power a boat and a plane that can travel all the way around the world using nothing but solar power. We can power cars and buses using electric motors and now we can power the world’s fastest production motor cycle with solar technology; so how long will it be until all of our travel is 100% clean and 100% efficient? We’ll explore more innovative transportation solutions in the coming months…


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