The peninsula south of San Francisco has legendary motorcycle roads in the hills above ‘Silicon Valley’, which is ground zero for global technology, and the home base to Energica’s US operations. Energica distributor Stefano Bennati is a former Maserati employee who, like the electric sportbikes he promotes and distributes from Redwood City, comes from Modena, Italy. That small commune in northern Italy is a hub for fast, exotic fun, were machines from Energica, Ferrari, Pagani, De Tomaso, and Maserati are made, making it one of the most famous places in the world for motorsports fans.
So with all this in mind, I spent a recent sunny and warm afternoon riding the new 2018 Energica Esse Esse 9 sportbike with Bennati himself through Silicon Valley’s redwoods, to have lunch at the equally legendary Alice’s Restaurant, the motorcycle hub of Skyline Boulevard. With a day in the saddle of Esse Esse 9, I’m able to give my first-hand assessment of this Ferrari of e-Bikes, from the company building all the electric racers for the FIM’s new electric Grand Prix series, the Enel MotoE World Cup.How does it look?
This an Italian product, so it must look good! A steel trellis frame, aluminum swingarm and hand-machined components, more metal than plastic parts, and solid contemporary design add up to a beautiful bike. Spokes instead of mags with a front gold rim, and rear gold hub are just part of the subtlety. Brand-name parts from Brembo, Marzocchi and Pirelli legitimize the chassis components. Onlookers are hard-pressed to believe it’s electric – until you turn the key and twist the throttle.
How does it feel?
The 31-inch high seat is narrow and long enough for comfort, and someone certainly spent time choosing handlebar rise and width. The Esse Esse 9 feels like a proper street fighter before takeoff. The machined pegs are right where they need to be, even for a 6-foot-1 rider like me.
How does it sound?
On take-off, the synchronous oil-cooled motor hums to life in a faint shrill, gaining decibels as the chain drives the 17-inch rear wheel into motion. On our ‘spirited’ ride into the quaint Northern California village of Woodside, the Esse Esse 9 was roaring like a banshee before I spotted a motorcycle cop pulling over a motorist.
How does it ride?
All proper streetfighters need to be versatile, providing performance while staying comfortable. The Esse Esse 9’s throttle control is designed with a rotary potentiometer and a safety microswitch, detects the rotation of the throttle and is activated every time the accelerator is engaged or released.
The VCU manages both the potentiometer and the switch signal to fine-tune the torque demand to the engine based on the mapping selected, while the microswitch is used as a safety feature in case of malfunction of the throttle control. Our ride was almost too smooth, forcing me to throttle lighter than normal. And at 34.5 inches wide it’s primed for California lane splitting.
How fast can it go?
Energica claims 133 ft lb of torque and 109 hp, so getting the bike up to 125 mph in Sport mode tout de suite is no problem, but that’s where the top speed limit is programmed. And of course, the higher the speed the quicker the battery charge drops, so speed demons better know where their next charge station can be found on longer rides. Several smartphone apps exist to lessen the worry.
How much does it weigh?
Compared to the 463-pound Ducati SuperSport S or the 443-pound Yamaha YZF-R1M performance-wise, the Esse Esse 9 weighs 570 pounds. The extra 100 or so pounds comes from the patented Energica lithium polymer battery, capable of 11.7kWh. Thankfully the bike has a reverse mode to assist if you get into a parking pickle.
How far on a single charge?
Energica claims 125 miles in Eco mode, or 93 miles including highway and street use. But the Esse Esse 9 offers four riding modes to use only the energy necessary under certain circumstances: Urban, Eco, Rain, and Sport, with four regenerative maps (Low, Medium, High, Off) to make wise use of the speed you’re scrubbing. The Long Period Rest function allows the maintenance and automatic balancing of the batteries during a long period of non-use.
Energica is the only electric motorcycle manufacturer to include the DC Fast Charging technology based on CCS Combo, just like what Tesla, Chevrolet and Nissan use, which means shorter charge times found at outdoor charging stations at Whole Foods and other businesses. Thirty minutes and you’re back on the street.
Compared to its high-performance cousins the Ducati SuperSport S ($14,995) and Yamaha YZF-R1M ($22,999) the Energica Esse Esse 9 is $24,940.Warranty is three years on the bike and 31,000 miles on the battery.
The future of racing is electric
For 2019, the governing body of international motorcycle racing has partnered with Dorna and Italian power company Enel to develop the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup. Energica was chosen to provide the spec bike for the 18 riders scheduled to compete in five European races, quite a coup for the company, which has competition from e-Bike manufacturers around the world…but none from Modena!