If you’re a keen reader of The Vintagent’s ‘Current News’ – and why on earth wouldn’t you – you’ll remember that in February 2019 I wrote a piece about the Charging Bullet, a 1961 Royal Enfield converted to electric power by young engineer Fred Spaven. Well, almost a year later, I’m writing about another electrified Bullet, the Photon.  Electric Classic Cars is behind this new conversion: their bread and butter work is in converting classic four-wheelers to battery power. VeeDubs feature highly, as do Minis, Range Rovers and Porsches, but they’ll convert virtually anything on four wheels from the 1950s onwards…at a price. Heresy? Well maybe, but apparently some well-heeled owners like the idea of owning a genuine classic with none of the associated driving or maintenance hassles – no carburetor, no manual choke, no clutch or gears, no constant maintenance, just turn the key and go, but keep the classic style.

The Photon was created in the workshops of Electric Classic Cars of Newtown, Wales. [Peter Henshaw]
Company founder Richard Morgan isn’t a biker, but his father is, and currently rides a Yamaha Tracer.  As reliable as the Tracer is, he wanted something with even lower maintenance: “The cars we do are certainly low maintenance,” said Richard, “so I thought, let’s do a bike.”

Direct Drive

The Photon is the result, based on a brand new RE Bullet Classic without its 500cc engine and five-speed box. In their place are four 2.5kwh lithium-ion batteries from LG Chem, hidden under  3D-printed panels, which fill the void well. Most electric motorcycles, like Zero, mount the motor where a petrol bike’s gearbox would be, but Richard Morgan chose to move it to the rear wheel hub. These hub motors are usually restricted to scooters, but for the Photon, the 13Kw motor is water-cooled – coolant supplied from a front mounted radiator with twin fans and pumped into the motor’s centre. Electric Classic Cars don’t quote a torque figure, but a similar 14Kw hub motor claims ‘more than 300Nm.’ That’s not as tarmac-shredding as it sounds, because you’ve only got one gear, but it’s still a muscular rotational effort. Of course, as it’s in the hub, the motor drives direct, so there’s no chain, belt or shaft to worry about. As for the essential electronics masterminding the power delivery and charging/discharging process, they’re squeezed into what used to be the Bullet’s fuel tank. Apparently every square inch of space inside is used, which I would say amounts to a masterpiece of packaging.

Clean packaging of the battery and electrical components makes for a harmonious mix with the venerable Bullet styling. [Peter Henshaw]
Otherwise, this is very much a standard Bullet, with the same tubular steel frame (though a subframe is bolted on to help support the batteries), 35mm telescopic forks and twin rear shocks. Which means if you really want to convert it back to petrol power you could, though I imagine it wouldn’t be a five-minute job.

Big Torque

At 200kg, the Photon weighs about the same as a fueled-up Bullet 500, so it feels quite familiar as you swing aboard, especially as the view from the rider’s position is all stock. There’s no kickstart or pushbutton: turn the key, wait for the speedo to dial up and a green LED to show, twist the grip and you take off silently – in fact, the Photon is even quieter than other electric motorcycles because there’s no chain noise.

The bit in the middle is all battery: the motor is in the rear wheel, with plenty of juice for the Photon to cruise at 70mph. [Peter Henshaw]
I remember the Charging Bullet accelerated quite gently up to about 20mph, after which speed would start to build. The Photon acts the same up to 10mph, then just takes off. It’s far quicker than any Bullet – petrol or electric – and whips up to 50-55mph with alacrity. Twist the grip at 30mph on the edge of town, and it’s doing 40mph in about three seconds, fifty in another three. This isn’t superbike performance, but it’s enough to be fun. Over 55mph, acceleration is blunted a little by the barn door aerodynamics of an upright riding position, but speed just keeps on building and the test bike – a 5000-mile prototype – was still accelerating at an indicated 70mph. The bike is limited to a true seventy because holding higher speeds would blow a big hole in the range. Either way, it’ll happily hold its own on main roads, though may be a bit out of its depth on motorways.

Testing the Photon: the same weight as a standard Bullet, the same handling, but no noise at all, or vibration, oil leaks, maintenance… [Peter Henshaw]
Back on urban streets, like any electric the Photon is supremely easy to ride. No clutch, no gears, no engine noise, just a smooth, progressive and silent take up of power. The bike is well balanced at low speeds so it’s dead easy to slip up the outside of traffic queues – you just have to be sure the lead car has realized you’re there, because they won’t have heard you… The standard Bullet is about as far from a sports bike as it’s possible to be, and the Photon is much the same. That’s no bad thing: it’s a slow steerer but very stable, whether in a straight line or around bumpy corners. The non-adjustable telescopic forks aren’t exactly top spec but they do the job, as do the twin rear shocks. Michelin Sirag tyres, with a chunky tread pattern suggestive of adventure bikes, cling well.

The ideal setting: town riding. With a likely 80-mile range, plan ahead before heading into the woods, but there’s plenty to enjoy about the Photon in town, including its great styling. [Peter Henshaw]
The days of drum-braked Bullets are long gone, so the Photon has a 280mm front disc with four-pot caliper, and a 240mm rear. The front stopper felt a bit wooden, but it was strong enough for the bike’s performance and the rear was nice and progressive. Actually, there are three brakes, because the Photon also has regenerative braking, which feels like engine braking when you close the twistgrip, as well as putting a small amount of power back into the battery. What you can’t do is adjust the amount of regen, unlike say, a Zero, on which you can dial it up or down on their phone app. Talking of regen, I have fond memories of the Vectrix (remember that?) That pioneer e-scooter had a two-way twistgrip, and the further you pushed it beyond closed, the more regen and the harder engine braking you got in return. With practice you could ride through town without touching the conventional brakes, just doing everything one-handed on the grip…but I’m getting sidetracked.

Love the logo…made especially classic with the somber gold over metallic green/black paint. [Peter Henshaw]
More crucial than any of this of course, is exactly how far the Photon will go on a charge, because for all the advances in battery technology in recent years (with more capacity crammed into smaller spaces), it’s still a limiting factor. With only a short winter’s afternoon to test the Photon I didn’t have time to do a proper full-to-flat mileage test, so I asked Richard Morgan: “About 100 miles.” That sounds a tad optimistic. ECC’s test rider told me he had ridden the bike a round trip of 80 miles at 50-60mph. What we do know is that a Zero S 14.4 claims 120 miles on a standard mix of town running and 70mph cruising – it’s got 40% more battery capacity than the Photon’s 10kwh, so an 80-mile range does look achievable…all other things being equal.

Easy to manage, with excellent brakes and power. If you want classic styling for your electric commuter, the Photon nails it. [Peter Henshaw]
The Photon comes with a 7kw onboard charger and Type 1 connector, which Richard Morgan says will deliver a full charge in about 90 minutes. Again, that sounds a little optimistic, but without having seen it happen I can’t say either way. So, the Photon is still far from having a ‘petrol’ range, but you could have a pleasant couple of hours ride out, recharge over a long lunch and ride a couple of hours home. A battery level gauge is included in small digital panel set into the standard Bullet speedometer, and there’s a more accurate version under the right-hand side panel, next to the charge inlet. The Bullet must be the only new motorcycle on sale with an ammeter – on production versions of the Photon it’ll show power draw and regen charge.

Good Looker

A pleasant design aspect of  the Photon is that it looks mildly customized. Dark green paintwork (red and blue will be production options) with gold coachlining and black rims, are all quite classy. The headlight is LED and the front indicators are built into the the Bullet’s little running lights, and very neat they are too. The quilted solo seat (no dual seat option) blends in well and Richard Morgan is planning to offer matching pair of leather panniers to carry to extra batteries, boosting the range by 50%.

If a pannier battery back will increase the range 50%, then longer trips are possible, making a weekender out of a commuter. Contact the makers to inquire. [Peter Henshaw]
We haven’t discussed price yet, and that’s the difficult news, because the Photon will cost around £20,000 in the UK. There’s not much to compare it with, though Fred Spaven was charging £7000 for his conversion to a customer bike. Put another way, the Photon is about twice the price of the entry-level Zero S 7.2, and still way more than the bigger-battery 14.4. So to buy a Photon, you’ll have to really, really want one. It may find success as a niche product, sharing garage space with an electrified Porsche 911 or VW Camper. If the retro electro style appeals, it could suit someone perfectly.


Peter Henshaw is a writer in England.  His book, ‘Royal Enfield Bullet: The Complete Story’ will be published by Crowood Press shortly.