Like any proud papa, Jean-Pierre Legris, Lito Green Machine’s founder and president, enjoys talking about his kids. The name Lito is, in fact, a combination of the names of his children, Eli and Teo. In this case, however, we’re discussing the Sora (Japanese for “sky”), Lito’s first production motorcycle from the company’s industrial park address across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada.
I use the term “production motorcycle” in the loosest sense, as the Lito Green Machine company is comprised of just five people. Five emotionally, financially, dedicated-to-the-cause people – the quintessential ingredients to any start-up. In sharp contrast to the BRP production complex I also visited while in Quebec, Lito’s facility is devoid of automated assembly lines pushing hundreds of models out the door every day. Each Sora is hand-assembled from a pallet of specially designed parts, and chances are Legris has been directly involved with the assembly of each Sora sold thus far.
The bike Lito is producing is unlike those of other electric motorcycle companies. Where Zero and Brammo are working hard at constructing mass-produced electric motorcycles affordable to the masses (think Model T), and Energica and Lightning are focused on defeating ICE-powered superbikes (no matter what the cost), Lito’s Sora is more of a neo-art deco design that’s neither the fastest or slowest electric motorcycle nor the most or least expensive one, either. Legris describes the Sora as a wonderfully designed, beautifully crafted motorcycle that just happens to be electric.
With bodywork constructed from carbon fiber, and a frame and swingarm of 6061-T6 aluminum, the Sora, at 573 claimed pounds, still suffers a weight problem common to all electric motorcycles (damn those heavy batteries). Comparatively, Energica’s Ego weighs in at 584 pounds, but the Sora’s no race bike, so let’s match it to another, ICE-appropriate roadster such as Moto Guzzi’s Griso, which tips the scales at 556 wet pounds, only 17 less than the Sora. The Griso is certainly no lightweight, but this puts the Sora in a more appropriate perspective.
Continuing with the Griso/Sora examination, we find that the Sora, at 59.0 inches, is two less than the Griso’s 61 inches between tire contact patches. The Sora also boasts a steeper steering rake of 25.0º vs Griso’s 26.3°. Considering these figures, and having recently ridden the Griso in our Retro Roadster Comparo, I can honestly say the Sora is quicker to turn in than the Griso, but the Sora lacks a little bit of smoothness when transitioning from upright to leaned over.
My guess is, it’s the positioning of weight in the Sora’s chassis (a little top heavy, maybe?), but the Sora gets the cornering job done. If so inclined, you can lean the Sora far enough to dispose of footpeg feelers and begin grinding away at the sidestand (Lito is working on a more retracted sidestand design).
Acceleration from the 12-kWh lithium-polymer batteries and liquid-cooled three-phase AC induction motor is brisk, but not overwhelming. Claiming 66.4 lb-ft of torque, the Sora is moving 8.63 pounds of mass per lb-ft of torque. The Zero SR ZF12.5 with 458 pounds and a claimed 106 lb-ft of torque halves the Sora’s number to 4.32 pounds of mass per lb-ft of torque. The Griso is marginally better than the Sora moving 7.59 pounds of mass per lb-ft of torque.
To simulate smooth clutch engagement, it’s the task of the motor controller to appropriately meter out power in accordance to what’s being ordered at the twistgrip. The Sora performs this task nearly flawlessly, with a small but noticeable delay between request and deliverance. While negligible in a straight line, it’s the few milliseconds waiting for power to drive out of a corner when the delay is apparent. The Sora features a CVT transmission for attaining a higher top speed without sacrificing acceleration. Maybe the delay can be found here, as this is the first electric bike with a transmission (other than Brammo’s traditional six-speed gearbox) that we’ve ridden. Gotta admit, bottom-end grunt is strong, and Lito claims a 118 mph top speed.
We’ve become accustomed to Ride Modes on ICE-powered motorcycles, and although the Sora is electric, it too offers Ride Modes. Three of them, actually. Along with Performance and Normal, Lito also gives you a Safe Range mode that will calculate the distance left to your chosen destination and keep enough power in reserve for you to get there (within reason, of course).
Located on the right side of the faux fuel tank is a touchscreen where battery use, Ride Mode selection and a GPS screen can be viewed and accessed. The GPS currently does not provide turn-by-turn instruction, but Legris says they are working feverishly to adopt this technology and will have it available on 2015 models, as well as being retro-upgradable to 2014 models. When finished, a Sora owner will be able to Bluetooth his phone and/or helmet communication device to the Sora’s electronic interface.
Unique and novel to the Sora is the electrically adjustable seat. From 29.5 inches to 33.5 inches, and anywhere in between, the Sora’s seat can, by way of a left handlebar-mounted switch, be set to suit personal preferences or riding conditions. Were the Sora able to travel long distances on a single charge, this technology would be immensely helpful. But even with a claimed range of only 124 city miles and 70 freeway miles, a rider can adjust the seat lower and use the bike as wind protection, then raise the seat around town for an elevated view.
Current model year Soras are powered by a liquid-cooled 3-phase AC induction motor. Charge time with 110-volt outlets is approximately nine hours from 0 to 100%. Next year’s 2015 model Soras are being upgraded to liquid-cooled controllers and battery chargers. The new models will be available with a choice of J1772 adaptors for 110-volt or 220-volt outlets (or both). Choosing the 220-volt adaptor reduces charge time from 9 to approximately 3.5 hours.
At $49k the Sora is far from inexpensive, but, as mentioned earlier, it’s neither a race bike nor a Model T. We see the Sora as a unique offering unlike anything else available in the realm of electric motorcycles. It’s a bike for the Jay Leno types who already have a garage full of ICE-powered machines for various occasions. The Sora befitting the occasion to cruise around on a uniquely styled electric bike that other Jay Leno types don’t already own.
Jeremy Shapson, one of the Lito five in charge of marketing and customer relations, will be in Florida during mid-October and in California during November with a Sora available for demo rides. Motorcyclists interested in seeing and possibly riding the Sora should contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 514-979-7427.
Electric motorcycles have opened the door to innovators such as Lito, Zero, Brammo, Energica, et al. Like the turn the previous century, where motorcycle innovators were defining two-wheel transportation, start-up companies such as Lito are exploring what electric motorcycles can be. Expect another exciting model to accompany the Sora in the near future.
|2014 Lito Sora Specifications|
|Motor Type||Liquid-cooled 3-phase AC induction|
|Battery Type||12-kWh (nominal) lithium-polymer battery modules with integrated Battery Management System, on-board charger, J1772 compatible|
|Controller||Lito software, integrated computer, regenerative braking, 3 control modes (performance, normal, safe range)|
|Front Suspension||Fully adjustable 43mm inverted cartridge fork|
|Rear Suspension||Fully adjustable Elka shock|
|Front Brakes||Dual semi-floating 310mm discs with radial-mount 4-piston calipers|
|Rear Brakes||Single 250mm disc with 2-piston caliper|
|Seat Height||29.5 inches to 33.5 inches|
|Curb Weight||573 lbs|
|Colors||Black, White and Maroon. Custom colors for extra cost.|