Electric motorcycles have been slow to take off, and rightfully so. Until now, they haven’t been able to offer riders the performance or range of gas bikes except bikes like the Energica Ego which come in over $30k. But with two manufacturers, Alta Motors and Zero Motorcycles, finally appealing to serious riders and not just hardcore environmentalists with a thing for gimmicky techno-wizardry, that could all change.
Alta Motors, the electric bike company with the dream of building the best motocross and dirtbike on the planet, has finally delivered their first motorcycle. No, not the best electric motocross or supermoto, the best motocross and supermoto bike, period.
This isn’t supposed to be the best “green” option - it’s aiming to be the best, fastest, most badass thing on the race track.
It takes between two and five years to develop and produce most new motorcycles from established manufacturers, but eight years on as it changed names from BRD to Alta, and kept coming out with few news tidbits, was starting to feel a bit like vaporware.
(Especially after Mission Motorcycles, another brand we had high hopes for, filed for bankruptcy just down the street from Alta’s San Francisco headquarters.)
But now, eight years after it set the ball rolling on producing an electric dirt bike, Alta motors has delivered its first Redshift MX.
This delivery comes just a month after Alta took their Redshift SM (supermoto) to the final date of the SupermotoUSA calendar in Sacramento, California. The initial plan was just to ride it around during the practice session on Saturday but, with Kevin Butler on the bike, the lights removed, and slicks fitted - the bike recorded times so quick that they decided to enter it into Sunday’s race.
Come Sunday, the conditions were ridiculously wet and ridiculously muddy as Butler lined up at the back of the 250 cc class heat race. Despite being a relative to newbie to supermoto, Butler finished the eight lap race with a comfortable lead over the second place finisher. With pole position, he won the 250 cc main race easily.
With so much success in the 250 class, Alta decided to enter it into the bigger 450 class as well, because why not. With only 40 horsepower, the Redshift is definitely a 250 class competitor, but Sacramento is a tight track and the team thought it could be interesting.
Again, he started at the back of the pack and, again he passed (almost) everyone - this time coming in second.
Alta’s bikes are one of the most exciting things happening in motorcycling landscape over the next year. Yes, they’re still a little pricey for the average guy looking to buy a 250 cc dirt bike, but for racers or anyone who wants to ride competitively in any way, there’s a great chance that these are about to become the best thing out at the track.
To help explain all of the things that go into making these bikes so special, Alta put together a handy-dandy infographic on the Redshift’s inner magic. The bike is a marvel of not only engineering, but what the future of electric bikes allows when it comes to design. The eight-pound electric motor, spinning up to 14,000 revolutions per minute, allowed them to completely change the frame, to give it more flex so it bounces back into shape instead of cracking or bending when you inevitably dump it.
But there’s a lot riding on these little bikes’ performance, and their success or failure could herald either a revolution, or just another dud in the path of history.
In October, we told you about how Zero Motorcycles was releasing some new motorcycles, and how they were finally ones we’d actually want to ride. Because they could be good (motorcycles, not just good for electrics).
Their new motor makes 130% more power and 150% more torque than other brushless motors being used in similar applications, and they’ve finally gotten range (when using the upgraded battery and additional battery pack) up over 150 miles. They’ve also dramatically reduced charge time (again, with an additional and expensive upgrade).
The best addition, however, is the 2016 Zero FXS pictured below, which takes the Zero FX and gives it a supermoto treatment. It doesn’t get the fancy new motor but, with 44 horsepower and 70 foot-pounds of torque and a 293 pound weight, this thing has me all sorts of excited.
2016 is the year electric motorcycles are going to start to make sense and, as a fan of the future as most humans should be, that’s very exciting.
Photos: Alta and Zero