The Electric Ducati Motorcycle Won’t Race MotoGP in Silence

MotoGP is often held as the apex of motorcycle racing, which also means it’s at the forefront of bike technology. And with its MotoE World Cup, that includes electric motorcycles. Specifically, at least in the future, Ducati electric motorcycles. This might sound odd, given that Ducati doesn’t have any electric bikes unless you count e-bikes. But that’s about to change because its MotoE machine is now a running motorcycle. And based on the footage Ducati just released, it doesn’t run silently.

Ducati’s electric MotoE motorcycle isn’t just a sketch anymore

Although MotoGP encompasses several classes of motorcycle racing, the term also refers to the highest-echelon race. Moto2 and Moto3 are right below it. And standing next to all three is the MotoE World Cup. But while each manufacturer participating in the high-tier MotoGP race brings their own stuff, the other classes are single-make series. For example, Triumph is currently the Moto2 supplier. And in October 2021, Ducati announced that it would take over for Energica as MotoE’s electric motorcycle supplier in 2023.

As noted earlier, this was a bit strange since Ducati didn’t have any production electric motorcycles at the time. And as of this writing, it still doesn’t. However, what was originally just a sketch morphed into a functional prototype codenamed ‘V21L’ just two months later.

For safety purposes, Ducati initially limited its electric motorcycle prototype’s output to 70% of its potential maximum. But even so, Ducati’s test rider Michele Pirro found the riding experience not too far off from his actual racing motorcycle. He specifically pointed to the bike’s overall ergonomics and throttle calibration as “very similar to those of a MotoGP bike.” And the only thing that made it truly different—apart from the power output—was the lack of noise.

However, it’s now been four months since Ducati started tweaking its electric motorcycle prototype. And I think someone on the R&D team rectified Pirro’s noise issue.

If you think all electric motorcycles are silent, you need to hear Ducati’s MotoE bike

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As of this writing, Ducati hasn’t released any of the V21L’s specs. However, Cycle World claims carbon fiber makes up “the bulk of the bike.” Also, the electric motorcycle’s batteries are likely part of the monocoque-style chassis. Also, it likely has a liquid-cooled motor and electronics package. And it appears the steering head and swingarm pivot are exchangeable to adjust the V21L’s geometry for different tracks and/or riding styles.

Based on the testing images Ducati released, though, we do know the MotoE bike has Ohlins shocks, Brembo brakes, and a chain drive. And as you can hear from the above video, Ducati hasn’t forgotten to give its electric motorcycle a voice.

Admittedly, the V21L is quiet compared to a conventional MotoGP motorcycle. But like the LiveWire One, it’s not completely silent. Its turbine-like whine actually reminds of the One’s sound, though the Ducati bike has a bit more jet engine mixed in. So, while the MotoE crowd likely won’t need earplugs, the race won’t be a recreation of John Cage’s 4’33” with motorcycles.

The side view of a red 2021 Ducati Panigale V4 at Auto Shanghai 2021
2021 Ducati Panigale V4 side | Zhe Ji/Getty Images

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It’s worth noting that the Ducati MotoE electric motorcycle doesn’t look quite like its gas-powered MotoGP motorcycle. However, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Panigale road bike family, Bennetts says. Could that mean a street-legal V21L is on the way?

Well, it’s complicated. Ducati says the V21L itself won’t become a street-legal electric motorcycle. However, it also calls the bike “the start of the Ducati electric era.” Plus, developing a new electric powertrain and platform just for racing purposes, while cool, isn’t the most logical financial decision. So, Ducati likely plans to take the lessons learned from MotoE to develop an electric road bike—eventually.

Regardless, Ducati isn’t done tweaking the V21L. But it looks like the electric bike will have all the pedigree and performance Ducatisti expect from their beloved brand.

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