July 15, 2024

Under EV Investor Ideanomics, Electric Motorcycle Maker Energica Looks Beyond Just Building Bikes

7 min read
Under EV Investor Ideanomics, Electric Motorcycle Maker Energica Looks Beyond Just Building Bikes

American EV investment firm Ideanomics (IDEX) completed their purchase of Italian electric motorcycle maker Energica Motor Company late last year, and both a new motorcycle model and new expansion plans show that growth is the plan for the boutique bike builder that was founded about the same time Elon Musk was assembling his first electric cars. But since that time, Energica has remained a small-scale, low-output operation while Tesla has ballooned into a market-dominating, trillion-dollar behemoth. That may start to change.

Ideanomics is looking to make a name for the relatively unknown Energica bikes in the North American market with new models, dealership expansion plans, and capitalizing on the bike’s time-tested battery and motor controller technologies in the developing electric mobility market, part of a new venture at Energica known as “Energica Inside.” More on that in a bit.

The big short-term news for Energica is that production is getting under way on its fourth electric motorcycle model, the Experia, an all-new, ground-up design that has resulted in a motorcycle that is less powerful than the brand’s other models, but is far more practical – and perhaps much more marketable.

The $25,880 Experia is a “sport-touring” model, a mashup of sorts between the high performance of a sport bike and the comfort and capacities of a touring machine. The rider enjoys the scenery from a comfortable, quiet cockpit, but if the road gets twisty, the Experia has the handling chops to keep things interesting. The Experia is styled in the vein of the current “adventure bike” (or “ADV”) category that is currently white hot in the motorcycle industry and indeed, with some more aggressive tires and a few other tweaks, it looks as though the Experia could wander off the pavement a fair bit – and Energica is lightly marketing it as such. Other models in this category (and price point) include BMW’s popular 1250 GS and Ducati Multistrada models, among many other marques. So popular is the ADV category that typically cruiser-focused Harley-Davidson introduced a high-tech, all new adventure model last year, the Pan America, to rave reviews. See my review below.

MORE FROM FORBESRide Review: Harley’s ‘Pan America’ Adventure Bike Moonshot Sticks The Landing

Energica calls the Experia a “green tourer” rather than an adventure bike. The $25,880 price nets buyers the Launch Edition bike, adding things like three ADV-styled hard pannier luggage cases and a few other upgrades. Nearly $26,000 is not an unusual number for a high-end ADV or sport touring machine that also is comfortable and capable. Almost every major motorcycle manufacturer now offers adventure bikes in its lineup, with models ranging widely in price. The Experia is definitely at the upper end of the scale, but it has the tech and performance to match.

Where the Experia departs from the competition is in the propulsion system, of course. Instead of pistons, gears and gasoline, the Experia is powered by a new battery pack and a newly designed 102-peak horsepower liquid-cooled electric motor. It has no gears, no clutch, and no exhaust. The battery pack has been completely redesigned so it’s no longer a big box the bike has to be built around as in past models. Instead, it has lobes and sections, and fits inside a reworked, slimmed-down frame, making the bike easier to straddle, since it’s also fairly tall. And instead of succumbing to the temptation to always add more power (something especially easy to do with electric powertrains), the Experia dials back the output with that new motor, which is both smaller and 22 pounds lighter than the motors in the other Energica machines. For comparison, Energica’s motor in its halo model, the Ego RS sportbike, makes up to 171 peak horsepower and over 150 pound feet of torque – numbers that would make a car fairly spritely, let alone a motorcycle. As you might well imagine, the Ego, and its streetfighter-styled sibling, the Eva Ribelle, are beyond supercar fast, with 0-60 times close to 2.5 seconds – if you can keep the front wheel on the ground. A third model, the EsseEsse9, is a bit more tame, but not by much.

Huge power is great for racetracks and short-duration, high-speed riding, but just like a having a big V8 motor in a car, it tends to chew through the fuel supply in a hurry. For the Experia, Energica smartly went with the smaller motor and a new larger battery offering a maximum of 22.5 kWh of capacity – the largest electric motorcycle battery currently being offered by any bike maker. The smaller motor also sits lower in the frame, which aids handling and helps the bike feel lighter than its 573 pounds might suggest. Even with the smaller motor, the Experia can still easily clear triple digits and is electronically limited to 112mph, but a big top speed number wasn’t what Energica was after with the Experia, the real goal is addressing the Achilles heel of electric motorcycles: extended riding range. The company says that urban riding range will be over 250 miles before a charge is needed, while highway riding nearly halves that number to 130 miles at a constant 73 miles an hour. Mixed riding will average 160 miles, depending on the “mix.” More speed and more highway miles equals less range, and vice versa. For comparison, most other electric motorcycles on the market can barely clear 100 miles of range in mixed riding.

Electric powertrains work opposite of gas-powered machines, getting better “mileage” (or range, in the case of EVs) in stop-and-go urban riding where regeneration tech charges the battery anytime a motorcycle (or electric car) slows down, and lower speeds also demand less electrical power. And while 130 miles of pure highway range doesn’t seem like much, many riders welcome a break to stretch, eat, nap, drink or check their phone after more than two hours in the saddle. When it’s time to charge the Experia, Energica leads in that regard as well, with all Energica motorcycles accepting fast-rate DC Fast (”CCS”) chargers that will zap the battery to 80 percent in an hour. The bikes will also charge using common Level II home chargers, or they can be plugged into a wall outlet like an appliance. Slower, but better than nothing.

Deliveries of the new Experia are expected to begin this September for customers that pre-ordered the bike after it was announced earlier this year.

Along with the new Experia, Energica is also looking to leverage their expertise in electric powertrain technologies with a new endeavor called “Energica Inside.” Under that program, Energica could work as consult with companies that might not have the engineering or financial resources to undertake large R&D efforts or beta systems iterations when building electric powertrains. They could also team up with larger-scale companies looking to speed up their electrification efforts.

However, Energica CEO Livia Cevolini told Forbes.com that Energica would not be specifically building the tech for those companies, rather, they would be supplying the “expertise” they have developed in battery technologies, motor controllers, charging and power management since launching their first electric motorcycles over a decade ago.

While the data and design “advisor” approach is significantly different (and perhaps more cost effective) than building the actual EV tech other companies would pay for, this is suddenly becoming a crowded field – and it could get even more saturated as large-scale players decide to get in the make/design-it-for-other-OEMs game that is easier to enter with electric drivetrain tech than, say, cranking out sophisticated new gasoline or diesel engines.

Already in the electric motorcycle space (or just the not-electric-car-space), market leader Zero Motors is already working with UTV/ATV icon and Indian Motorcycle parent Polaris (PII). Smaller players like three-wheel EV maker Arcimoto (FUV) are also looking to partner up, making Energica’s “Inside” play far from guaranteed. Arcimoto plans to produce the base chassis and propulsion hardware (below) for other EV makers instead of just filling an advisory roll as well, so there are clearly several ways to play at this point.

Hooking up with a much larger vehicle maker as a development partner not already in the EV space would be a key win, such as if Energica were to partner with, say, Kawasaki, which has struggled with EV efforts to date, or a European carmaker. However, most every vehicle maker has now dedicated resources to EV development and would, most likely, want to keep their efforts “in-house” at some point to reduce costs and streamline integration, so it could be a tough sell for Energica Inside.

Time will tell and indeed, context is important: We are still in the very early days of the EV revolution in transportation, so truly, anything is possible. Meanwhile, Energica has what could be a breakout new electric model on their hands, and the pre-orders are piling up.

Look for my full ride review of the Energica Experia later this fall here on Forbes.com.


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