How to make an electric motorcycle: Energica’s inside story


The first Italian company of high-performance electric bikes, plus the sole supplier to the MotoE championship since 2019, Energica, has been electrifying motorcycles for over a decade already, and while Harley-Davidson are the only mainstream manufacturer to have ventured into the life of two-wheeled electrification, the others are lagging behind. Despite no other recognised motorcycle brand showing their EV wares, many other early adopters have taken the production-ready mantel alongside Energica, though all except Zero are playing in scooter market with Super Soco, NIU and Sunra among them. OK, so BMW, Yamaha, Piaggio/Vespa and Peugeot all have an offering of electric scooters too, but it’s only Energica and Zero who have playing in the full-scale production EV game with products costing north of £20k.

But how does one start an EV motorcycle specialist? In what order do you develop a bike ready for the market? Where would you sell it, and to whom? What’s your price point? Do you opt for range over weight?

On the face of it, haters are still hating, but they’ve probably not ridden, or driven, an EV. There’ll always be some part of the equation that doesn’t suit every rider – it’ll be too expensive, the range won’t be long enough, the charge time will take too long, or the weight will be an issue. Thing is, the rate of development from the powertrain to the ergonomics is sensational – just think about your life 10 years ago… it’s not that long, is it? And now think about how quickly electric cars have flooded the roads. I spent the day with two members of Energica’s leadership team and asked them about the development curve, how they manage a new EV project, and what they have up their sleeves including a large-scale operation to assist with EV companies around the world, not necessarily motorcycle ones. From a brand with three road-going production models on the original platform: Ego, Eva and Ribelle, the firm recently introduced a fourth model but one that uses a brand-new chassis, motor, battery, invertor, and purpose – the ‘Green Tourer’ known as Experia. NB: the below interview was recorded before Experia was announced.


How to build an electric bike
The first Italian company of high-performance electric bikes, plus the sole supplier to the MotoE championship, Energica, tell BikeSocial’s Michael Mann about their past, present and future.


Here is a word-for-word transcript of the above video:

BikeSocial (BS): Let’s start with the history of the business…

Giampiero Testoni (GT), Chief Technical Officer: let’s say we started in 2010 with the first electric motorcycles. We were also dealing with racing petrol bikes until 2009 but then in 2010 we were asked to join the new world championship – the TTX GP – it was quite a novelty but there had just been the TT Zero in the Isle of Man. First, we were a little scared about that but then we said, ‘why not?’. This is when we started looking at electric, we enjoyed doing the first prototypes and we went racing in 2010 and we started winning all the races so we realised what we managed in 4-5 months development - we designed the whole motorcycle, the battery pack and we bought the motor and controller – but we put it together in a very short time and we won the championship. So, from there, we started to look at a road-legal bike, in 2011 we did a mock-up for the EICMA show in Milan which was well welcomed by the public. From there we decided to look at a real high-performing, road-legal electric motorcycle. In 2012, it took 8-9 months to build the first running prototype and we invited journalists to have a tour of the bike and to enjoy a road test. It was very, very positive so we decided to invest in the product and began the industrialisation phase. We arrive in 2014 we started selling the first EGO, the sport bike. Then in 2015/16, we started with the other two models based on the same platform. So, this is a short, compressed history of what we have done from the beginning.


Energica - How to start an electric motorcycle company_01

Mann tested the prototype Energica Ego way back in 2014


BS: The batteries and motor technology of the three models have evolved but how do you know when you need something faster, stronger, or more durable?

GT: Let’s say that when we started the project, it was a very early stage in the electric community so even having availability of good lithium-ion batteries was very hard. In the meantime, we started growing a name, a brand, and people started knowing us, so we had more availability to different components. We did more homework, we found new suppliers and during the last five/six years we did a big, big step. We started with a full development in-house of all the electronics of the motorcycle with 10-15 firmware updates per year, so rolling, rolling, rolling with cruise control and traction control, all the things we added over the years. But the first big step was with the battery pack which increased from 11.7kWH to 18.9, so something like 50% more, in less space and with less weight. This was very important step first of all for the range of the motorcycle – people always ask more; if you offer 100, they want to do 150. If you give them 150, they want to do 200, and so on! So, we reached a level where we had a very good range depending on the use of course.

And the second big step was motor and invertor. In the last two years we’ve done a partnership with Mavel – an Italian company that specialises in high performing electric motors and controllers, and we co-designed a motor called EMC with its own invertor gaining a weight saving of 15kg with the same performance but much better efficiency. So the technology has changed from internal permanent magnets to a technology that now all the automotive industry is going because of less magnets is less cost and it’s safer because if you have some issues in the control, a short circuit will lock the wheel, but this one will freewheel so it’s a safety feature. And compactness, we have reduced the dimensions, the weight and most of all the inertia so when entering the corners and when braking you have a much more agile motorcycle.


BS: You have different settings for your ‘engine’ braking, does that regenerate some of the power?

GT: This is something that we decided from the very beginning. Most of the EV industry tries to give you one or two maps that changes both the riding mode and the regenerative mode. We decided to keep this not together, so having four riding modes and four regen modes so this gives you a very huge variety of how you want to ride it. And on the regenerative side, with the high level the motor acts as a generator so the energy flows back into the motor. Of course, we have a limit compared to four wheels, because the traction is only on the rear wheel so you cannot have such huge engine braking because you’d lock the rear wheel. We also did a patent on this system to avoid the locking of the rear wheel during the regenerative phase. So, on this side, we did some very fine-tuning of everything that is possible for first of all, the very best riding experience, and secondly for the efficiency.  Of course, we cannot think of huge amounts of energy recovery during the regenerative phase but even a small amount makes a difference.


BS: When you’re developing the battery and motor, do you then consider redesigning the ergonomics?

GT: Of course, we did a huge investment in testing and developing the system we have now, we call it the platform that is mainly frame, swingarm, all the structure of the vehicle. The first step is to adapt, the second step is small modifications. When we reach a point when we need a huge modification, it’s worth it to do a complete new platform otherwise it will be a patch to modify and it’s not worth because sometimes it’s good to draw a line and do a complete new chapter which is what we feel is happening.


BS: The three current bikes you have globally use the same battery, swingarm, motor, don’t they?

GT: Yes, correct. Different electronics, settings, ergonomics, and plastics but the core is in common. We want to remain in the premium segment, a niche segment. The EV market is quite small right now, the motorcycle EV market is smaller because some people that can ride a bike can’t afford an electric bike, something that is little more expensive than the top models of the petrol bikes but it’s let’s say the community that is able to ride a performing motorcycle, that has the right age for driving it, it is much more restrictive compared to the four wheels, so we really want to keep this niche and it’s where we’re good at. Italians normally are not usually good at doing huge numbers! We want to work on the feelings, the emotions, on giving a product that is something the customer is proud of. Wherever he goes, everyone stares at the bike and giving a ‘wow’, it’s the ‘wow effect’ we like to call it.


The outgoing EMCE motor (on its side), updated for 2021 but already superseded by the PMASynRN as used in the 2022 Experia model.


BS: On of the main arguments against electric motorcycles is the noise, something you call the ‘roar’, but how do you go about creating the noise?

GT: Almost all motorcyclists, we know that you need some sound when riding. As I said previously it’s an emotion bike, so you need to be involved in the riding. People say you don’t have clutch, you don’t have noise, don’t have gearshifts… we think that all these things are positive, so we worked on straight cut gears – so gear reduction. We don’t have shifting gears, with straight cut gears we give the sound to the motorcycle that is something like Star Wars, something futuristic that gives this feeling that can be heard by pedestrians. Of course, if you go at very low speed then you won’t make any noise but at that point you still have possibility to brake. If you go at higher speed then people feel it’s a different sound so you catch more attention because people are used to engine sound but are not really used to this kind of sound so it even catches your attention more.


BS: You spoke about the foundations of the company being in racing which has come full circle because you are now in the fourth season of being the sole manufacturer for the MotoE World Cup – what have you learnt from it that will translate into the production bikes?

GT: Several things we’ve learned, first of all we have racing heritage, so we wanted to go back to racing as soon as there was a high-level championship. When DORNA asked us to be part of this, we couldn’t say ‘no’, if we want to be the top end motorcycle and we are not part of the racing… well, it’s something we have to do. If we didn’t start, then maybe nobody would have had the courage to start it. We are proud of what we have done, and we were brave also for what we have done. We have learned mainly is that racing is of course completely different to road-legal bikes. On some side it’s easier because it’s a closed environment, everything is controlled, the riders are all professional. So, on that side, we feel that doing a road-legal bike is more difficult with all the homologations thinking that the most strange thing can be done with a motorcycle but on a race track it is something that normally doesn’t happen. But at the same time, the development, the speed, the timing that you have is something that you cannot move, so if the race is on Sunday you cannot say ‘sorry I’m late, let’s do it on Monday’. You have to be ready for that race, for that day. We have always be used to racing, so speed in development has always been in our DNA but high level, international, sole manufacturer, it’s not easy. We’re all in; it can either go very, very well or it goes very, very bad. We think that it has been a very challenging thing to do but a very nice thing we have done. We have learned a lot of lessons, we have developed a lot of things, for example, the battery we have now arrives directly from the technology in MotoE.

We did the first season, we tested so much during the racing environment which is much more stressful than the road environment and this gave us the possibility to speed up the development and so the industrialisation phase was shortened because most of the validation was derived from our track experience. We came with the new motor first on the road bikes and this year we have it in MotoE which is quite a nonsense because normally you develop the new things in racing and then you bring them on the road bikes!


Energica - How to start an electric motorcycle company_17

MotoE race action from Le Mans, May 2022


BS: You’re coming to an end of your contract with DORNA, does that allow you to concentrate on other segments and more technology and development? What’s next on your agenda?

GT: Let’s say that we are very, very active. The contract with DORNA (ending) doesn’t mean that we will stop racing. We are evaluating different things we have on the table, but this is something that we cannot talk about. But at the same time, yes, we will continue to develop road legal bikes, we are developing a new business unit inside the company that is called ‘Energica Inside’ that is dealing with development of power trains for electrification of other segments, for example it could be marine segment, air, car, other motorcycles – three-wheelers, four-wheelers, whatever needs to be electrified we have just put in place this new business unit that will support on the engineering phase and then on the production side for everyone who is searching for an electric power train going from battery to invertor to motor and all the vehicle control units. So, let’s say that our projects are huge, our desk is full of different projects and we will have to select some of them. We will have new racing, new Energica Inside and new road projects.


BS: With Energica Inside, will we see the components sold as a package to other manufacturers?

GT: This is the scope. We have had a partnership with Delotto on the 48-volt systems, so let’s say for the urban mobility that can go from kick scooters, electric scooter, mopeds, small scooters up to 15-10kW/48-volts so low voltage, and then we will take all the experience we have in high voltage bringing our powertrains and giving a service to whoever is needing it. So yes, the scope is to have batteries, motors and invertors for other segments. We will be the system developer but we will not be the OEM, so we will support the OEM to bring the full electrified boat, car, motorcycle, or whatever, on the road or on the lake!


BS: When you are creating an electric motorcycle, where do you start? If you had a blank piece of paper and pen, what’s the first thing you think about; is it the target market, the price point, the motor?

GT: Let’s say that we have the input from marketing and sale, so what the market I asking. When we started with the Ego, it had to have the ‘wow’ effect, so it has to be a supersport bike, something that nobody would dare to do. It was very, very challenging. Right now, we have a market and that is growing, the customer is much more ready than 6/7 years, so the customer now knows what he really needs. This is good for us because people start to know what the technology is.

So, starting from the marketing and adapting to what is feasible because sometime marketing asks for something that is beyond the limit! Then there’s Sales as well so we try to adapt it to what is really feasible. We do a specification of the whole vehicle that includes price, range, weight and performance as the four milestones that everyone at the table has to agree on. And after that we design the battery pack, the power train (motor and invertor), and then based on the kind of vehicle we are willing to do, we design the frame around it. This is normally the schematics because let’s say what is driving the development is mostly the battery; the battery is developing so fast - it’s like our cell phones - after one year it looks old. The technology here is much closer to consumer electronics, based on that we have to be up to speed, of course we cannot have a bike that is ‘old’ after one year. If the life cycle of a normal motorcycle is 5 – 8 years this would be shorter because the technology is developing so fast. Now we are in the upward curve of development which will reach a point when it will stabilise and be flatter and then it will be much closer to the technology of normal motorcycles.


BS: With the current price of oil, is this now your time to build you momentum?

GT: Honestly, even with a lower price of oil, the momentum is already there. The motorcycle market is driven by the automotive industry, normally there is five years after the automotive market. They now have the full electric trend, it is what we believed from the beginning – full electric is the way to go. This is what we decided in 2011. Fast-charging is a must, all our motorcycles have fast-charging. It’s the only way to make it useable because if you have to wait for a few hours to have it charged, then it’s no more riding a motorcycle because you can only place you can go is the range that your motorcycle has. The technology driven on that side is giving the moment, we know that now is the right moment to push as much as possible on the accelerator and that’s why we also decided to put in place the Energica Inside business unit, because everyone will go electric. Now or later. In the motorcycle market they will have to.


BS: We have seen many mainstream manufacturers talking about their electric future so in 10 years’ time, will Energica be a market leader?

GT: Let’s say that numbers wise, no. Because we will still remain in a niche market with smaller numbers compared to BMW or Honda, or something like that. We have all the experience they still have to build, or they have to catch-up. The experience is something you have to build with time, you cannot jump that learning curve. We have experienced so many things in the last 10 years with racing, road, racing again, extreme conditions, and this is something that no one can buy. Even switching from four-wheels to two-wheels, the requests are completely different. Experience for us is important for us to keep at the highest level. Everyone is coming, so we always have to be one step ahead.


Energica - How to start an electric motorcycle company_15

Giacomo Leone, Sales & Marketing Director, Energica (r)


BS: Why is there the five-year gap between electric motorcycles and electric cars? How beneficial is it to you?

Giacomo Leone (GL): I 100% agree with Giampiero, cars are so far ahead with technical development but also natural development and customer base. We were the first, no big manufacturers except Harley-Davidson are opening to electric two-wheelers so we still have a few years of advantage in comparison to our competitors. Of course, we don’t have such a big network at present. We have more-or-less 85 dealers between Europe, Middle East and Far East, and 15 dealers in the US, so we have around 110 dealers world-wide, but they are concentrated on the Western side of Europe; the most part in Germany then we have dealers in Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, and UK is having a great development. And also Eastern Europe is just starting now, Scandinavian countries they are really increasing their volumes in a fast way because they are ready for electric. They were most ready for electrical four-wheelers. The problem for the Scandinavian countries is that their season is so short and the market is not so big. We have higher market share in the five: UK, Italy, Germany, France and Spain.


BS: Where is your biggest current market, and you biggest opportunity?

GL: The biggest market at present is US, and within that it’s California. Because they are more ready, they have Tesla, they have a good mentality especially in California, and of course it’s so big: more than 300 million inhabitants!

In Europe, the first market is Germany followed by smaller markets like The Netherlands and Switzerland but in recent years, last year and this year, UK is making a big step ahead. And also, France, Italy, Spain and Scandinavian countries are growing. We think and we are quite sure Germany, and the UK will lead the market, the volumes in the next two years.

In the Far East, we had a good explore last year in Taiwan and we sold 40 bikes for the new importer. We are also having a nice growth in Australia, starting this year. We hope that Japan will follow soon. All of them have a good mentality, a good infrastructure, some of them are incentive, and purchasing ability. These are the four pillars of our success.


BS: What is the influence of Marketing and Sales on creating a new bike in this building?

GL: We are (involved from the beginning). It’s not difficult to understand which are the segments of the market that have to be approached by us; in Europe, the best seller is the BMW GS. In the next future we will follow this path of growing our range into different segments that are new ones in which the market of standard bikes is growing, never forgetting our base, our sporty bikes with an Italian soul, an Italian design, and the wish to be the best in terms of performance, design, and quality of the products.


BS: Of course, it’s a premium product but would you ever consider bringing an alternative product to the market that would be more achievable for everybody that would also offer growth in terms of volume?

GL: Yes, we are thinking about these kinds of products because in that landscape in which we want to be present in more segments, of course. We are thinking to develop a new platform always keeping the same Italian soul, design, quality of components, quality of manufacturing. I’m sure that in a maximum of two years we will develop a new platform with bikes that will have a wider appeal of potential customers.


Energica - How to start an electric motorcycle company_14

Mann tries the MotoE bike for size


BS: How do you combat the negativity surrounding price, range, charging times?

GL: It’s always more difficult than with a car to find the compromise. With a car, it it’s 2 tonnes or 2.2 tonnes heavy, it’s more-or-less the same. For us, it’s more difficult to find the compromise between weight, performance, dimensions and range, but technology will support us, and mentality will change. And cars will help us to think differently in respect of what we were thinking in the past. Now for a bike like this [Eva and Esse Esse 9 sit next to us during the interview] you can have up to 400km of range in the city and 250-280 on normal roads so it’s enough, but the next steps will only be possible with the change of technology inside the batteries. Until we have this technology we can play with the dimensions of battery depending on what the bike is made for; if the bike is made for racing then I don’t care about range but I want to have a bike that is light and ready to be used on a nice road. For a touring bike then who cares about the weight and dimensions, you care more about range.

The future will bring us news, but we will differentiate the bikes depending on the use.


BS: Energica is only 10 years old so the five-year gap between EV cars and EV bikes is half your history, imagine Harley-Davidson at 10 years old and see how far they’ve come, but in terms of volumes of EV bikes on the road, there’s clearly an appetite but in five years’ time how many more EV bikes will we see?

GL: Cars are really helping us in terms of mentality but also the infrastructure. The bike market is not big enough to influence government to invest money on infrastructure, cars are helping us. So, because cars are five years ahead of us that’s really helping us. We will fully see what happens in the cars in the last five years – Tesla was unique 5-6 years ago, and Renault and Nissan was following the path of electrification. After five years every big brand has not one model, but a small range of vehicles that are electric of electrified. We might see the same in the two-wheelers market and this will help us spread this electric wave into the public.


BS: Once petrol goes, electric is of course already here but have you given any consideration to alternative power?

GL: Not at present, for cars it’s a little easier because the compromise is easier to find. For bikes, we don’t see anything except electric vehicles with battery engine. With technology that will grow faster than now, so in 5-10 years we could have technology completely different to what we have now. Of course, cars will be ahead and we will follow but we don’t see anything except electricity and we will follow this path for sure.


BS: How has the MotoE exercise helped you as a brand from a marketing perspective?

GL: It helped us a lot in an indirect way, we didn’t have the success in terms of visibility that we hoped we could have. In an indirect way, every customer knows that a bike is reliable because if they play in MotoE, if DORNA chose Energica - such a small company with so few people – that has had great reliability in a racing way, so stressing the bike for a few days but with 110% of the possibility of the bike, so even the bikes that will go on sale or in production will have the same reliability. So, it’s supported us a lot. When we exit MotoE we will keep the mentality of our potential customers, they were the first in MotoE so the bikes were reliable, and they will be reliable even now. So, it was really useful then, and it will be really useful in the future.


Energica - How to start an electric motorcycle company_18

Mann rides the new Energica Experia



It's been a fascinating insight to see where Energica are focusing their resources, how they’re expanding the business based on the levels of expertise they’ve collectively gained over the last 10 years which, as both Giampiero and Giacomo alluded to. They’re already one step ahead in this fast-paced world – it seems as though every week there’s an official or speculated updated from a brand who are investing their R&D into electrifying their two-wheeled offering. And like it or not, we’ll all be riding electric motorcycles in the very near future. I’m sold on it already - I own an electric car, my wife runs a part-electric car, I’ve ridden several electric bikes over the last 8 years, and I’m intrigued as to where the technological development heads over the next 5-10 years because by then, a) we’ll look back at the models available right now and laugh at their weight and range, and b) manufacturers will be on their final round of ‘new platforms’ that incorporate an internal combustion engine.

Then, for anyone who’s around in 40 years’ time, we can tell the grandchildren about how we used to ride noisy, smelly bikes… and it was glorious while it lasted!


NB: this interview was recorded before the Energica Experia was announced and which I’ve subsequently ridden and reviewed. The transition from the latest generation motor and battery to the new one used in the Experia is vast, which further stokes my interest in how the technology will evolve.