Energica's new bike is ‘like taking a hot bath in double cream, wearing a velvet suit’
One look at the words ‘electric’ and ‘bike’ and I can sense you switching off (no pun intended). Nothing I can say will convince you a machine like the new £25,425 Energica Esse Esse9 is a credible alternative to petrol propulsion.
I can already hear you scream: “25 grand – really!?!” I’m as cynical as the next person and even after riding the new machine on the roads close to Energica’s factory on the outskirts of Modena, I’m not 100% convinced. There’s that eye-watering price tag, the tourer-like 270kg weight, the relatively low battery range and the fact it’ll spend more time plugged in than rolling along.
But you know what? They really are getting there. And with 400 bikes planned for this year and many more being produced by rivals such as Zero, electric bikes will be a more common sight in the future.
Read MCN's Eva Esse Esse9 review here.
Just think of all those things we love most about our motorcycles: speed, freedom, fun, convenience and downright coolness. The Energica has all these things and more.
Named after the twisty, 150-mile SS9 road from Rimini to Piacenza, the Esse Esse9 has zero engine vibes, no growl- ing 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, though.
The merest flash of throttle delivers 133ftlb instantly to your hand. 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.
You miss the gravelly 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 raw- ness, or in-your-face attitude here, which will disappoint many, but you quickly enjoy the refinement. No bike I’ve ridden, road or race, is as buttery smooth. 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. I 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 out or pulling out on you.
In its modern retro guise the Esse Esse9 is the most natural-feeling of the Energica range. 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.
So, 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 and it’s 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.
Battery weight is the big killer for all electric bikes. Just pushing the 270kg around could put your back out, which is why there’s a reverse gear.
Slow speed handling is a little clumsy, but once you’re rolling it’s neutral and you can carve effortlessly through fast sweepers. Pirelli Phantom retro-style tyres work well and the weight helps stamp out the bumps.
Big 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.
Some of the Energica’s price tag is due to its premium build quality and generous standard equipment. There’s fully-adjustable Marzocchi forks and Biturbo rear shock (or Öhlins as an £2705 optional extra), a colour dash and the kind of fit and finish you’d expect from a machine made just down the road from Ferrari.
Our test lasts just over an hour and with some less than economical rid- ing, with no regeneration dialled-in, there’s around 40% of battery left.
There’s a still a way to go for usable, affordable electric bikes, but the Esse Esse9 proves that when they’re good, they’re seriously impressive.
Esse Esse9 highlights
● Based on Energica’s Ego/Eva platform
● Retro styling
● 109bhp (equivalent)
● 90-mile range (average)
● 30 minutes fast-charge to 85%
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