In its ‘modern retro’ guise the Esse Esse9 is the most natural-feeling of the Energica range. It suits being an upright naked, with its tall bars, acres of legroom and plush seat. Where the Evo and Eva can’t match its unleaded-powered sportsbike and super naked rivals, the Esse Esse9 can easily hold its head up high against 100bhp nakeds and retros.
The Energica is quick, honey-smooth, rides beautifully and has an evil, high voltage soundtrack, but its lithium power pack is its Achilles heel…that’s until battery technology takes a big leap forward in the future. Energica are hinting of a substantial evolution in the next year or so, but for now there’s limited range (it wouldn’t be able to do the whole SS9) and relatively slow charging.
Well, actually things aren’t that bad. At average speeds the Esse Esse9 will do 90-miles before the battery needs a boost and if you have access to a fast charging station at work, or nearby, you can juice its lithium power pack to 85% full in less than 30 minutes. If not, you’re looking at three to four hours charge time, depending on your home power supply.
Battery weight is the big killer for all electric bikes, even the million pound Mugen TT-winning racer and the Energica is no different. Just pushing the 270kg around could put your back out, which is why there’s a reverse gear to help you out of nose-in parking sports.
Slow speed handling is a little clumsy, but once you’re rolling it’s neutral and you can carve through fast sweeps with the best of them. Pirelli Phantom retro-style tyres keep contact with the tarmac and don’t do anything they shouldn’t and all that weight actually helps stamp out the bumps, like a two-wheeled limo.
Panigale V4-sized 330mm front discs and Brembo calipers give you all the stopping power you need, but if you want more you can crank up the engine braking control at the press of a button.
Powered by an oil-cooled, permanent magnet three-phase AC electric motor the Esse Esse9 has zero engine vibes, no growling soundtrack or gears to play with, but the Italian machine has character all of its own. Nothing can prepare you for how perfectly its 109bhp is delivered, or how fast it is. It accelerates so hard, in one continuous, relentless, screaming Batmobile whoosh, it’s impossible not to be perpetually impressed. Terminal speed is restricted to 125mph.
The merest flash of throttle delivers 133ftlb instantly to your door, like a turbo boost in an arcade game. Grabbing great handfuls of throttle between corners and gaps in traffic is addictive and the Esse Esse9 vaults forward with the kind of violence that would unseat a pillion in seconds.
You miss gravely rumble of an engine at first, but then you don’t. The Energica glides along the tarmac, almost hovering on a magnetic field, with otherworldly smoothness, like taking a hot bath in double cream wearing a velvet suit. There’s no rawness, or in-your-face attitude here, which will disappoint many, but you quickly enjoy the refinement. There’s no clatter from the suspension, bearings or brakes, just dreamy forward motion.
You can flick between four riding modes (ECO, Rain, Urban, Sport), which offer differing levels of power, but the more you have, the more you drain the battery. There’s four levels of engine braking control/battery regeneration, too. We love it in its two-stroke-aping freewheel setting, but it does nothing for battery life.
The only thing the Energica won’t do is wheelie, which detracts from the fun of a naked bike, but its long wheelbase is deliberately designed to keep both wheels on the floor, to save its powertrain. You can’t warm your hands on the engine when it’s cold, but on the flipside you’re not sitting on top of a boiling kettle in the summer. Wafting along in silence isn’t a good way to warn traffic and pedestrians you’re coming through, either and you’re always nervous of someone walking or pulling out on you.
Some of the Esse Esse9’s enthusiastic price tag is down to its premium build quality, not just its electrickery, but it’s too early to say just how reliable the motors and batteries are and there are very few Energicas actually out there in the wild.
There’s no question the Esse Esse9 is cheaper to run and tax than a petrol powered machine, but there’s no getting away from an eye-watering price tag that will put most people of going electric…for now.
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As you’d expect from a machine made just down the road from Ferrari’s Modena factory the Energica comes with a high level of equipment including Brembos fully-adjustable Marzocchi forks and Biturbo rear shock and a colour dash that’s just this side of Star Trek. You can also choose from a long list of official bolt-ons when you order, from Ohlins suspension, to anodised bar ends, forged and spoked ali wheels, carbon goodies, luggage and paddock stands.