Lightning strikes twice: American electric firm takes aim at Energica with plans for new plug-in adventure bike

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American electric firm Lightning appear to be working on a new off-road-focussed plug-in adventure bike.

Exposed in design pictures registered in China, the new machine looks set to go toe to toe with the Italian-made Energica Experia, which stole the march on battery-powered adventure bikes back in May.

The filing has been made by Lightning founder and chief executive officer Richard Hatfield, who is also listed as the bike’s designer, and took place at the China National Intellectual Property Administration, which is not that surprising when you realise that Lightning has a factory in China.

Lightning Dakar right side

Accompanying text, translated from Chinese, describes the design not specifically as an adventure bike but as an ‘off-road motorcycle’, which immediately distinguishes it from the Experia which has road-orientated 17-inch wheels.

In addition, the word ‘Dakar’ is used – most likely just to describe the bike’s style as its adoption as a name is almost certain to be contested by BMW, who have used it on adventure bikes as far back as the 1985 R80G/S Paris-Dakar.

Lightning, if you remember, first came to prominence in 2012 by claiming an electric land speed record of 218mph with a prototype version of its first production bike, the appropriately-named, limited edition 200bhp LS-218.

Lightning Dakar front

That bike was then succeeded by the similar-looking but much more affordable (mostly due to being made in China) Lightning Strike sportster in 2019, which is still available to order from $19,998 (£16,631) and yet still boasts a claimed 120bhp, Brembo brakes and Öhlins suspension.

Going by these new design pictures, the ‘Dakar’ is largely based on the Strike with an electric motor and swingarm design that looks almost identical.

That said, the adventurer has the pivot point lined up with the centre of the motor where the Strike has it offset to a lower position, primarily to help give the adventure version more ground clearance.

Lightning Dakar top

In addition a likely longer travel single rear shock absorber is used along with longer inverted front forks while its wheels also help here by looking to be pukka off-road, alloy-rimmed wires in 21in and 18in diameters instead of the Energica’s 17in road alloys.

To create a traditional, upright, adventure bike riding position, there’s a new seat and rear subframe, beefy-looking footpegs below the motor which are almost exactly lined up with the front of the seat and wide, off-road handlebars mounted on risers which are also much higher than those of the Strike.

Finally, all-new bodywork also includes all the usual adventure bike design elements and comprises a tall, humped fuel tank, ‘beak’ style raised front mudguard, tall but narrow windscreen and substantial alloy bash plate under the motor.

Lightning Dakar left side

There’s no details yet on performance, price or availability but we’d expect a similar 120bhp output to the Strike hopefully with an extended range.

Lightning Dakar in detail

Strike twice: Core mechanicals are clearly based on Lightning’s existing 120bhp Strike, with an engine and swingarm that appear identical and a frame/subframe that’s similar.

Genuine off-roader: Unlike the more road-biased Energica Experia, new Lightning looks to have credible off-road credentials with long suspension, larger off-road wire wheels and tyres and more.

Go anywhere: Adventure style looks appear to be for more than just show and includes a rugged, full-length aluminium bash plate and what looks to be stronger, larger diameter forks.

Concept looks: As this is a design submission rather than a finished prototype we expect the styling to evolve, although the key elements, including the Strike’s twin headlights, will remain.

Electric performance: Key mechanicals are based on those of the Strike sportster so we expect around 120bhp but hopefully a range extended from that bikes 152miles and perhaps a capped top speed.

Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.