Electric motorcycles rev up design and performance (w/photos)

Manufacturers are raising the performance bar for electric motorcycles, rapidly catching up to their gas-guzzling counterparts. Here are five battery-powered machines guaranteed to turn heads.

As an enthusiast of motorcycles (I own two) and a resident of the Bay Area, I've noticed a surge in buzz surrounding electric two-wheelers and I'm not alone. Reporting today on the recent unveiling of Red Shift, an all-electric "supermoto" from San Francisco start-up BRD Motorcycles, Jeanne Carstensen at the New York Times, writes; "With Mission Motors, also in San Francisco, and Zero Motorcycles in Santa Cruz, as well as others, the region is becoming a hub for electric motorcycle companies."

Speaking of Mission Motors, the company made history a few weeks ago at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. The company's race bike, Mission R, posted a qualifying time of 1:31.3, the fifth fastest for the weekend’s AMA Supersport race, and a track record for an electric vehicle of any kind. Motorcycle traditionalists were left scratching their heads.

As the performance of electric motorcycles closes in on their gas-guzzling counterparts, they're also becoming increasingly practical and cost-effective. The market for electric scooters and motorcycles is taking off worldwide with about a half a billion in use across the globe by 2016, estimates Pike Research.

For whatever shortfalls exist today with electric motorcycles, such as a max ranges that peak out between 60 - 100 miles and the lack of a gas engine growl, manufacturers are wasting no time compensating with designs and technology that could permanently impact both, motorcycling industry and culture.

Below is a sample of the latest electric motorcycles at various stages of development plus a $35K hybrid bicycle that must be seen to be believed: (Make | Model | Energy Storage | Horsepower | Top Speed | MSRP)

Mission Motors | Mission R | 14kWh | 141 HP | 160+ mph | N/A

[ Site | Specs | Photos]

BRD Motorcycles | Red Shift SM | 5.2kWh | 40 HP | N/A | N/A

[ Site | Specs | Photos]

Brammo | Empulse 10.0 | 10kWh | 54 HP | 100+ mph | $13,995

[ Site | Specs | Photos]

Orphiro | Orphiro | N/A | 75 mph | N/A | N/A

[ Site | Specs N/A | Photos]

Zero Motorcycles| DS | 4.4kWh | 25 HP | 67 mph | $10,495

[ Site | Specs | Photos]

M55 | Terminus | N/A |  N/A |  25 - 42 mph | $35,000

[ Site | Specs | Photos]