After five years of development — and winning a prestigious Red Dot Design Concept Award along the way — the Lito Green Motion Sora has been displayed and demoed at scheduled stops around the United States, and the custom bike is readying itself for prime time.
Hailing from Montreal, this relatively new entrant into the burgeoning electric market offers some unique twists on what e-bikes should be, while exhibiting some of the reasons that are holding back many riders from making those purchases.
You may not be ready for an electric motorcycle, but without the efforts that Lito and others are putting into in this field, we still might be seeing only electric bicycles. Still, there is much work ahead, and that will be most-often focused on making batteries stronger, lighter, and able to keep cool while sending many amperes to hungry motors. The batteries in the Sora, for example, weigh in at 220 pounds and Lito is now working on enhancing its motor’s existing water-cooling system to include battery cooling.
We rode the bike for about 25 miles, starting on The Snake, a famous section of tarmac west of the equally well-known Rock Store in the Santa Monica Mountains. This is a wonderful place to find out how any bike works in just over two miles. It has everything from tight, low-speed hairpin turns to short high-speed straights, and lots of hard braking action. The Sora was well mannered through this gauntlet.
The controls are typical of a sportbike, minus the clutch lever, and it doesn’t take long to acclimate to the CVT-like throttle-only operation. With no clutching, shifting or thinking about gear selection, the rider can focus on enjoying the ride and concentrating on the road.
Operation of the many modes and functions is easily accomplished on the color, glove-friendly touchscreen. Battery condition is always shown and the choices of ride modes and other important data is never more than one or two touches away.
The Sora’s seat is a comfortable saddle, cantilevered from the frame and electronically adjustable across a three-inch range. It turned out to be not only useful for riders of varying heights, but also nice to adjust during the ride to help avoid fatigue and for fun. The cabin ergonomics offer a very cruiser-like upright seating position with feet slightly forward.
When pushed to full lean, the bike retains its composure thanks to the strong chassis, 43mm inverted cartridge forks, and a linkage-assisted remote-reservoir Elka shock. Even so, the Sora does run out of clearance, scraping the kickstand on the left and footpeg on the right. This, however, should not interfere with fast cruising.
Braking duties are performed by Nissin, with dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs and radial-mounted four-piston calipers up front, and a single 250mm petal disc out back—all high-end pieces.
We were told the electronics would govern hard acceleration until around 30 mph, so as to not be overwhelming. We really did not experience any extra hit after 30, as the bike accelerated smoothly, commensurate with the relatively modestly claimed 66 ft/lbs of torque. Regeneration drag—the act of engine braking that also charges the batteries as the bike slows—is high and not adjustable.
During our ride, we pinned the throttle and twice ran the Sora up to 85 mph. Then, upon reaching an uphill section of road, the computer cut maximum power to about 35-percent. Eventually full power was restored.
Jeremy Shapson, Director of Sales for Lito, confirmed for us that it was mild overheating of the batteries and that the coming liquid cooling for the batteries will solve the problem. Look to the solution to be incorporated in production models by the end of 2014.
With about 57 horsepower at the rear wheel and 573 pounds ready to ride, this bike was conceptualized and designed as a cruiser that acquits itself well on curvy roads. One cannot really compare this to, say, the Energica Ego, which has more than twice the torque and an ergonomic layout more suitable for high-performance riding.
Rather, the Sora sits in a category similar to many others of comparable power, weight, and performance. Its range is claimed to be 60 to 120 miles, depending on how you twist the grip. Recharge time is long—nine hours — but the Sora will email you when the charge is complete. No kidding.
Some electric bike manufacturers use the manufacturing and financial resources of a parent company to springboard into building motorcycles; the Sora originated in the mind of Lito President Jean-Pierre Legris. Along with four others, Lito has the steely nerves needed to take such a risk for the future of motorcycling with their design, their technology, and their vision. Production began in February 2014, and 19 bikes have been built to date. Lito’s target is to build 45 bikes next year, with a goal of 150 per year.
The Sora has the deep-chested look common to most large electric motorcycles and that back half, replete with cast aircraft grade aluminum chassis and a single seat subframe, echoes the sexy tail end of the Confederate Hellcat. The headlight nacelle, complete with a racing stripe, is reassuringly retro.
Operation is through a key-locked door on the faux gas tank, and here you will find the charging interface and a flat spot to drop in the credit-card like key that activates the system. There is a round speedometer mounted above the handle- bars that includes trip odometers.
A touchscreen color display, which is easy to read even in bright light, is nicely molded into the upper-right corner of the tank, and it is beautifully crafted, intuitive, and easy to use. This is where all motor, battery, and computer functions are monitored and controlled.
Boot-up is fast from the on-board hard drive, and the rider can select between the Performance, Normal, or Safe Range modes. The first two modes need no explanation, but the Safe Range mode is unique and built in-house.
When selected, the onboard GPS — which is dedicated to this process and not a full functioning unit — allows the rider to scroll through locations and select a destination. The GPS computer then tells the operator whether reaching the destination is possible given the current state of the battery. If the route is possible, the computer governs the Sora’s top speed to ensure arrival—a clever and functional combination of technologies.
In the works is a line of accessories, including a pillion seat, windshield, bags, and more. As mentioned, Lito is develop- ing a liquid-cooled upgrade for the charger built into the bike. This would use 220 volts, cut the charge time in half, and improve overall cooling of the bike.
The Lito Sora is a fresh look at the electric motorcycle and how it should work. Because every manufacturer must use, basically, the same motors and batteries, there is a commonality between them and they are only differentiated from one another by overall design, setup, and amenities.
At the start of our meeting, Shapson claimed that the bike drew large crowds wherever it was parked. True to his word, within 15 minutes there must have been more than a dozen gawkers who stopped on a weekday morning along this usually quiet road to have a look. It is a striking hand-built machine with innovative technology you will not find anywhere else.
Those who write Lito a check for $49,000 will have to accept the com- promises that accompany bleeding edge technology. However, if you covet a forward-looking machine with eye- grabbing appearance, the Lito Green Motion Sora is a compelling choice.
- Helmet: AGV Corsa Velocity
- Jacket: Dainese Air Frazer Tex+Pelle
- Gloves: Dainese Full Metal RS
- Pants: Dainese Drake Air Tex
- Boots: Dainese Torque RS Out
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.
Photography by Don Williams