A serious no-emissions motorcycle for the future, or just a trick, tech toy for early adopters in Singapore? The Energica EsseEsse9+ electric motorcycle is both
SINGAPORE – The internal combustion engine is to a motorcycle, the beating heart of the machine, far more so than a car. Replace petrol with a battery, and an engine with a whirring electric motor, and does the device still work as a motorcycle as we know it, and does it work like it should in Singapore?
Singapore’s first performance electric motorcycle Energica debuted in early July – and CarBuyer had the scoop on that of course – and we test it now to find out.
As explained in that news story, the EsseEsse9+ (for sanity’s sake I’ll call it the ‘SS’ from now on) is the conventionally-styled choice of the three-bike Energica range, the other two models being the supernaked Ribelle, and faired sports bike the Ego+.
In 2010 we tested an electric scooter on the roads in Singapore and it scared us shy of the idea of an electric motorcycle, even for sensible purposes. 11 years later, the promise has finally come true. Like the BMW i3, which in 2014 showed us that electric motoring really had arrived, the Energica SS is a motorcycle whose performance and range can hack it in real world Singapore.
The entire reason why Energica is the first performance e-motorcycle here is because the rules just changed in early 2021 to allow electric motorcycles with an output of more than 10kW (13.4hp), and God (or the LTA anyway) only knows why that rule was around in the first place.
But ours is not to wonder why this being Singapore’s first proper electric motorcycle, the key question here is: What’s riding a proper electric motorcycle really like, and who should buy one?
From afar, the SS looks just like any other motorcycle. Everything’s conventional, from the round headlight, naked bike bodywork, a tubular steel frame, forks, swingarm, and chain.
While electric cars have overt styling features – see the recent Hyundai Kona Electric facelift for an example – to clue you in, only when you step closer to the bike do you realise what it is.
There’s no engine, and the dead giveaway is none of the steel origami that’s de rigueur for a modern Euro IV compliant bike. The only thing that looks like an engine is the motor, and it’s in the ‘wrong’ place, the finned metal contraption located just ahead of the swingarm.
In some ways, the Energica is type personified as a small Italian motorcycle maker. It is, after all, located in Modena, and in the same locality as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, with both Aprilia and MV Agusta a couple hours’ drive away.
The presence of high-spec components: Brembo radial brakes, a rebound-adjustable Bitubo rear shock, fully-adjustable Marzocchi front forks. CNC-machined components can be seen under the seat, on the rearsets, handlebars and triple trees, with a robust-looking fat handlebar.
Instead of Aprilia’s ‘x number of championships’ badge on the tank, there’s a decal reminding you of its status as the maker behind all of the FIM MotoE bikes.
Generally, the Energica looks well put together. But there are clues it’s relatively new to the game – the switchgear feels plasticky, and some of the details could be tidier – the ABS brake pump is tucked under the right side fairing, and visible when you ride.
As a slightly-retro styled naked, sitting on the SS is reassuring with its manageable seat height, relaxed rider triangle, and slightly sporty – though not uncomfortable – reach to the bars.
Starting it is different, though. Turning the key lights up the green Energica logo on the ‘tank’ with a start-up sound that’s very device-like. The bike won’t do anything yet – you have to press the front brake, and hold the ‘ignition’ switch momentarily, the ‘go’ indicator on the dash shows you’re ready to move.
Crack open the throttle and it’s all vaguely disturbing as the bike creeps forward with a vague whirr from the motor, the utter lack of a left-hand lever completing the familiar-yet-bizarre experience.
It’s more jarring than an electric car, because hybrids are familiar, and uber-refined sedans don’t want you to hear the engine anyway. In contrast, for motorcyclists a running engine is life, no matter the type of bike. If it ain’t vibing, you ain’t moving.
Yet here we are, no vibes, no engine puttering, just motion. It’s a strangely Zen experience, pulling up to a red light and hearing nothing but the noise of everyone else. The weird thing is, nobody, not even other motorcyclists, seem to notice at all.
But there is a noise from the motor, a high-pitched whine that’s most reminiscent of a radio-controlled car – essentially it’s the same thing after all, just that you’re the controller.
At low speeds and over bumps, which is most of Singapore’s roads now, it’s not constant. Since there’s no clutch or gearbox to moderate things, the motor note jitters and jives with the bumps, you can even hear the tyres and the chain at work too. The bike’s low-speed manuverability is decent, but nothing to shout home about. As e-scooters zip past you at the light, it makes you wonder – how’s this any better? Is the electric dream fizzling already?