Lightning Motorcycles Bet on Niobium Tech to Break Land Speed Record of 256mph.

Lightning Motorcycles,

Lightning Motorcycles together with CBMM, team up to design and incorporate lightweight niobium tech to beat the 250mph land speed record.

Lightning Motorcycles has partnered with magnet experts CBMM in order to develop technology that could help break another speed record, currently standing at 256mph.

Lightning set a speed record at Bonneville in 2012, reaching 218.96mph on a single run, but now their goal is to exceed 256mph to break the record, and the land speed record competition is becoming more heated.

Signed in January, the partnership between Lightning and CBMM aims to leverage the applications of niobium and to create an electric two-wheeler to break the current commercial motorcycle Land Speed Record (LSR).

Niobium is a metal that when mixed in even the slightest quantities (just 0.1%) with another metal, it forms a super-alloy that is incredibly stable at varying temperatures and also has increased strength characters too. 

The project intends to test different metal in various components of the vehicle, in order to improve its performance and, eventually, exceed the 250 mph (around 403 km/h) mark. This is done through rigid frames and parts that have less mass with the same structural strength, while using different metal composites.

Lightning Motorcycles,

Mariana Perez de Oliveira, CBMM’s Market Development Manager, sees the partnership with Lightning Motorcycles as a strategic one, as it will serve as a platform for testing and further developing niobium technologies in high-performance vehicles.

Niobium is already in use, for instance, in the manufacturing of high-strength steel that is widely used in the automotive industry, in part due to its ability to develop more resistant components that play an important role in increasing vehicle safety.

“Weight is an enemy of the bike.” comments Richard Hatfield, CEO of Lightning Motorcycles, who mentions that Lightning has been researching niobium for some time, and the company now takes a step further towards the goal of 250mph and the Land Speed Record.

Lightning LS-218

The LS-218 started setting records and getting a lot of attention before market introduction. In 2012, it ran a 218 mph run, with a record average speed of 215 mph. That record had since been beaten by Voxan Wattman, in two separate occasions. It also took 1st place in Pikes Peak in 2013 with a 20 seconds lead on 2nd place, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ FIM EPower championship. With all those wins the LS-218 had a lot of attention well before it was formally introduced in 2014.

Lightning LS-218
Lightning LS-218

The LS-218 was featured on Discovery channel, Jay Leno’s Garage, and with all the publicity things were looking good for Lightning. The company announced opening their facilities in San-Jose CA. right at the end of 2018. Then, in March 2019 announced the Lightning Strike model.

Lightning Strike

With the great publicity coming in from the LS-218, Lightning wanted to attract more customers, with a model that doesn’t have peak racing performance, and can be suitable for more riders. The announcement of the Strike also drew a lot of attention, as Hatfield describes. With a starting price of $13,000 Lightning offer a 10, 15 or 20kWh battery, using a 90kW motor.

Lightning Strike,
Lightning Motorcycles,
Lightning Strike

Despite the great attention and PR these two models received, Lightning has yet to really “take-off” and come to mass production of these models, or at least – mass delivery. To this day, skeptics tend to point to the fact that to this day, almost no LS-218 bikes, nor Strike bikes – are to be found in a private customer’s hands.

Our Take:

Lightning are back to the headlines, and it has been quite some time since we last heard news from this front. It has been quite a bumpy road for the team at Lightning, be it the pandemic, supply chain issues, or simply doubts an fears on the demand side. Having new tech is great, but having better production capacity, that’s even better.

Back in November of 2020, a report on by Sabrina Giacomini, raised serious concerns on the motorcycle safety, mismatching performance specification and lack of transparency with delivery numbers. We conducted a full length interview with Richard at the time, we even interviewed other people familiar with the story, and went back to follow up with Richard at Lightning.

The article was asking “what ever happened to Lightning Motorcycles” and since we pondered the same, we went ahead and interviewed every party we could get a hold of.

To put things clearly ahead, the reason we originally archived the interview story was since we could not come to a real conclusion whether things are going great and deliveries will pick up in 2021, as Lightning claim and project for their own future. For that reason, we decided not to go ahead and publish the story.

Important to note, that USA standards for “Custom Bikes” are some what different then, say, Europe. In the U.S you can write off a motorcycle as “Custom Bike” and have it licensed for the streets, without some of the most basic inspections for safety and basic components (like ABS). Lightning are focused currently on domestic sales for the US market, but would need to get homologated first for international sale.

These days, Lightning has set up shop at a section off of Mike Corbin’s facility in Hollister CA., where they plan to continue producing. For those unfamiliar, Corbin built electric bikes as far back as the 70’s, and had set the land speed record in 74′.

We remain hopeful that Lightning can bring not only technology improvements, and new speed records, but also a solid production line and a fully homologated bike that delivers to customers at scale. It appears that the company lacks nothing in demand, and should really just put their focus on actually delivering motorcycles to their anxiously waiting customers.

We wish Lightning the best, and want to see them succeed just as any other brand. It remains their burden – to deliver, with high quality, on motorcycles that are much anticipated.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

Source: Lightning, Niobium, MCN, Ride Apart

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