MO Interview: Stefano Benatti, Energica U.S. General Manager

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Cutting prices and growing the dealer network for Italy's electric sportbikes

On three separate occasions we’ve had opportunities to ride Energica’s entries in the electric motorcycle market. Each time we’ve come away impressed with the bikes and their underlying technology. While an Ego or an Eva could be someone’s only motorcycle, given the right circumstances, the $35,000 entry price meant their market was largely well-heeled motorcyclists looking for something unique to add to their stable. An electric bike in this class of motorcycle faces additional challenges to the more mundane range and charging time issues that all electric vehicles must surmount.

Energica Motors USArecently named Stefano Benatti the U.S. General Manager and tasked him with growing the company’s brand in the States. So, when Benatti contacted MO to say he’d be in the neighborhood, we jumped at the opportunity to meet with him and learn more about the changes at Energica. The fact that the offer included a chance to ride the present generation Ego and Eva was merely icing on the cake. The interview that follows was conducted at pull-out with a spectacular view of the San Gabriel Mountains after a spirited ride up the Angeles Crest on Energica’s current offerings (pun intended).

2015 Energica Ego Review – First Ride

2015 Energica Ego Second-Ride Review + Video

2016 Energica Eva First Ride

MO: How long have you been in your General Manager position at Energica?

SB: Only five months, but the roadmap was very tough. We’re opening our new dealer network for improved brand awareness in the U.S. It’s just a huge job. Of course, now we are in the early stages for the U.S.

MO: You only have four dealers, right now?

SB: We have three. We add one, maybe, at the end of the day, but for now, I have to say three. I’m waiting for a reply from San Francisco. So, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Others are already in the pipeline. We started with the first three which were in contact with us from last year. Now that I’m here, I’m scouting for dealers.

We’d like to work with top brand dealers be cause our motorcycle has technical performance of 0-60-mph in 2.8 seconds, 155 mph maximum speed, the only electric motorcycle capable of fast charge, and it is a commercial product which is fully homologated. It is not a custom bike.

So, we would like to work with the right dealers which may have the right audience, the right customers. Because this is not a mass-production bike, we know it is not something around $10,000… it is a little bit higher. However, thanks to the production – we started last year in Europe – we have just reduced the price $5,000 from $34,000 to $29,000. It is much better.

MO: That’s a farily big difference.

SB: At $29,000, we are close to the same price of a hot motorbike, if you compare a Ducati, for example. This is $29,000, plus it is electric. And let me say, acceleration is amazing. We are not playing. The trellis frame like Ducati, Pirelli tires, Brembo brakes, the dashboard is a computer. It has a Bluetooth connection to an app. The fast charge. Everything is on board. You have the transformer and the cooling fan under your seat. You don’t need to have anything in your backpack.

The maintenance is very easy. The maintenance in an e-vehicle is almost nothing. The battery is warranted by us for three years. If after two years, you are happy and would like to keep the bike, I will extend the warranty on the battery up to five years. Nobody in a motorcycle gives a five-year warranty. We fully trust it. Otherwise, if after two years, you would like to pick a new model, I give you back a 50% discount of what you paid now from the next one, plus $6,600 in your account. It is the same policy that Tesla did. It allows the customer to ride always the latest and greatest.

MO: What kind of maintenance does Energica require?

SB: We change the gear oil at 500 miles to make sure it is clean. The maintenance after that, of course, you have to take care of the chain. You have to take care of the brakes. This is a bike. But for the battery, there is nothing to do. We suggest you do at least one charge with a slow charger to balance the cells of the battery. You should do this once every year or once every 5,000 miles.

MO: There have been some changes to the Evo and Ego since we last saw them.

SB: We got the Euro 4 homologation and the homologation for the U.S. This gave us more testing data from the dyno and a real testing environment. We have improved the performance a little bit. For example, the torque for the [Ego] is 150 lb-ft. Before it was 144 lb-ft. The main features are the same.

The Ego has a new fairing with an Italian flag. For the Eva, we have a new set of bags so the bikes will look more touring style. We have a bag for the tank and a windshield that looks more like an enduro or Multistrada.

Energica is presently the only electric motorcycle manufacturer to have signed on to the CharIN E.V. standard.

MO: What else has Energica been doing?

SB: This year, we participated in an environmental event in China with [California’s] Governor Brown to promote our green attitude. Then we joined CharIN, the standard of Volkswagen and Porsche, the same standard of the automotive industry. We have the only bike that you can charge at ChargePoint and EV Go charging stations.

Energica Joins The CharIN E.V. Association

Then we did a test ride in San Francisco. We participated with a Google event. We participated with another event with Tesla in Monterey, the Tesla Owners Club. It was a great endorsement for us.

Our next three events will be Long Beach IMS, also the New York IMS in December, CIS in Vegas in January, and then IMS in Chicago in February. Also EICMA in Italy in November. So, we are active.

MO: Can you give me a hint about what you’ll be showing in EICMA?

SB: In EICMA in November there will be the new third model. It will be old-school-style motorcycle, not the EsseEsse 9 we introduced last year. For sure it will share the same willingness to have a more comfortable bike. The Ego is for cornering. It is a sportbike. The Eva is a naked bike, and we would like to have something more relaxed with a higher fork in front. We are already finished, and we are testing…

MO: For homologation?

SB: That is already done. Now, we just need to fix the details for the exhibition: are we marketing this color or not, spoke wheels or not…

MO: What are your goals for Energica in the U.S.?

SB: I’d like to close the year with 10 dealers. I want 10 top-brand dealers. This is my target. Of course, customer first. We are available for test rides, for sales, but from the business point-of-view, we need to be present in the U.S. market. For example, we are working hard for promoting ourselves on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I receive a lot of requests of test rides from Facebook. If you are in Washington, or you are in Milwaukee, you are in another location – I have no dealer. So, we need to be everywhere. I need to be at least in the main locations in the U.S. I’d like to reach 10 good dealers before the end of the year.

MO: So, you’re looking at major urban centers.

SB: Yes, of course. We have L.A., but now I’m looking for Chicago and New York, Atlanta, I’d like to pick Portland and Seattle, San Diego, Boston, I’m looking for this kind of location. If any dealer is interested, I am willing to jump in and introduce myself.

Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

Join the conversation
4 of 7 comments
  • HazardtoMyself HazardtoMyself on Aug 29, 2017

    I really like the idea of electric as a commuter but I really wonder if the costs will ever come down to make it worth a try.

    Tesla has still not reported a profit. I think most people who buy the model s are not in it for gas savings or "saving the planet" but are buying the car as a status symbol. If not a tesla they would be buying a similarly priced traditional luxury car with similar features.

    Can it ever be the same with a motorcycle? Do you buy these to show off to your friends or look good in the office parking lot? Everyone knows Tesla, car guy or not. Average non riders look at bikes as a harley or not a harley. A similarly priced motorcycle in this range gets you so much more.

    There is a possible 5 year warranty on the batteries, but how long do they last and what is the replacement cost? Even with the $5000 cost reduction it would take me 15 years to break even on gas savings not taking charging costs into account. How much electricity is used to fully charge one?

    While I want these to succeed, I just don't see it right now.

    • See 1 previous
    • HazardtoMyself HazardtoMyself on Aug 30, 2017

      Zero is selling their e-bikes for 10-20k less than these. They are on the right track and costs have been coming down. I rode one about two years ago, and while fun I believed there were better bikes for the money.

      It isn't as much about the total as it is what you get for that total. If you buy an e-bike now your paying a priemum for in my opinion much less than other priemum bikes in the same style.

      It sounds like at the very least this is a third bike in the garage for you. That seems to be the market for these right now. Until they are comparable to other bikes in their price range or the costs come down more, I don't see these being the single bike in someone's garage for most people.

  • Humpydog Humpydog on Aug 30, 2017

    This all sounds vaguely familiar to me... but what great ideas.