By now, you've probably seen the Mission One electric superbike. It's a rare motorcycle that can garner the kind of instantaneous, Internet-wide coverage this bike has. How has it done so? With a mix of green credentials, good design and high performance; the Mission One will hit 150mph and has a range of up to 150 miles on a full charge. But while we feel all the positive press is deserved, we want to take a closer look at the reality behind its creator's claims.
Update: We've embedded the first video of the Mission One live and in the flesh below. While the bike does appear to both exist and be capable of spinning the rear wheel under its own power, we're still disappointed that we haven't seen it in motion yet.
Earlier today the Mission One was announced to the world with an email
that began, "Hello, I hope this finds you well. We follow your blog
daily and look to it often for inspiration within our studio." This
identical email was received by many publications, including Jalopnik, Gizmodo, Boing Boing, TreeHugger and, yes, Hell for Leather.
That email was almost too good to be true. It contained details of a
never before seen product that looked good, went really fast and, most
importantly, was powered by electricity, meaning it was eco-friendly.
Recognizing that there's a very mainstream desire for just such a
product the editors of these publications jumped at the opportunity to
outdo each other with positive press. The more they could talk the
Mission One up, the more page views they'd get.
With 100lb/ft of torque available from zero rpm, the Mission one
promises performance to rival gasoline-powered superbikes. In
comparison, a Ducati 1098 R makes 99.1lb/ft at 7,750rpm and 180bhp at
9,750rpm. No power figures for the Mission One have yet been released,
but, if this chart is accurate, it looks like 140bhp could be a rough
figure. That incredibly flat torque curve sounds wonderfully usable,
only beginning to tail off at 7,000rpm, which presumably leads to the
top speed not quite matching that of most liter bikes.
Recharging is claimed to take just two hours using a 240v outlet. That
might sound odd, but most electric car companies install such a device
in owner's homes to facilitate rapid charging, we can't see why,
especially for $68,995, Mission should be any different. Using an 110v
outlet requires eight hours to complete a full charge.
Perhaps more impressive than the machine's looks and performance claims
are the people behind it. The list of employees reads like a list of
recent wunderkind from companies like Google, Tesla, Ducati and Ford.
Which brings us to our concerns.
The Tesla Roadster first captured minds in a similar way to the Mission
One in July 2006. Since then it's received near universal acclaim, but
has only just gone on sale in very limited numbers, for a price that
keeps getting adjusted upwards even while performance and specs keep
getting less impressive. The current price tag is $128,500, but
indications are that a $140,000 figure could arrive as early as this
week. In all that time the company has managed to blow through over
$105 million in venture capital while seeing numerous scandals and
turnover among its staff and has still only managed to deliver a small
handful of vehicles to high-profile customers.
Looking at the Mission One's specs, early indications are that they're
very similar to those of the Tesla Roadster. Like that vehicle, the
Mission uses lithium-ion cell batteries with intensive cooling and
management to counteract the natural tendency for those batteries to
heat up under heavy load and catch fire.
Amid the impressive list of components on the Mission -- Öhlins, Brembo,
Marchesini -- there's one notable exception: any mention of what kind of
frame is used, any picture of it or even an indication as to what
material it's made of. Could the Mission One, like the Tesla Roadster,
be based on the frame of a gasoline-powered competitor?
Neither is there a mention of weight, electric vehicles are notoriously
heavy with the Tesla Roadster weighing 804lbs more than the Lotus Elise
it's based on.
When it comes to the design, we're both incredibly impressed and a
little disappointed. While designer Yves Béhar has achieved a wholly
new take on the conventional superbike shape using flat surfaces and
right angles to subvert the typically more acute sportsbike archetype
the opportunity to pursue new solutions free from the packaging
constraints of internal combustion was not taken. The decision to do
this was likely taken due to price, proven performance and customer
acceptance, not to mention the possible need to use an existing frame.
We're also not sure how production-ready these concept renderings are,
the tail in particular looks incredibly impractical.
The one the thing that the Tesla Roadster has achieved, that no vehicle
before it could, is generating proof of mass market acceptance of an
electric car. Because of it, manufactures like GM, BMW, Chrysler and
Mitsubishi are all bringing electric cars to market. Well, in
Chrysler's case it's lying, but the other three have genuine electric
products either on the road or in their near future.
Could the Mission One do the same thing? If it can, the planned initial 2010
production run of 50 bikes could have an impact far greater than its limited
We don't want to say that the Mission one is all hype as we're
genuinely excited about the prospect of an electric superbike, it's
just that we're reluctant to commit the weight of our hopes and dreams
to it, at least until we see an actual physical, working example.
Battery Pack: High Energy Lithium-Ion w/ Integrated Thermal Management System
Motor: Liquid-cooled, 3-phase AC Induction
Torque: 100 lb-ft @ 0 to 6,500 rpm
Transmission: Single speed
Suspension/Front: Ohlins 43mm inverted fork; fully adjustable, 4.5-in travel
Suspension/Rear: Ohlins Single shock w/piggyback reservoir; fully adjustable, 4.5-in travel
Brakes/Front: Dual Brembo 310mm disc; Brembo radial-mount forged 4-piston calipers
Brakes/Rear: Brembo 220mm disc; single-piston caliper
Wheels/Tires/Front: Marchesini forged aluminum 3.5" x 17", 120/70ZR17 - race Compound
Wheels/Tires/Rear: Marchesini forged aluminum 6.0"x17", 190/55ZR17 - race Compound
Top Speed: 150mph
Range: 150 miles per charge (est. EPA drive cycle)
Recharge Time: Under 2 Hours @ 240V (8 Hours @ 120V)
Interactive Feature: Adjustable regenerative rear wheel braking
Interactive Feature: Intuitive / adjustable data acquisition system