The Science of Sustainability

Brammo Unveils Powerful New All-Electric Motorcycle

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Empulse electric motorcyle

Consider these two numbers: 100 and 100, as in 100 miles-per-hour and 100 miles of driving range. Those are the two key metrics for the all-electric Brammo Empulse motorcycle that was launched in Los Angeles earlier this month.

I was thrilled to hear that Oregon-based Brammo is ready to start selling the Empulse, after writing about the promise of electric motorcycles for Home Power Magazine’s August-September 2011 issue (PDF article here). One of the key factors holding back the electric motorcycle industry is lack of product choice—as well as undeveloped sales and service channels. The Enertia, Brammo's previous product that it's been selling for a few years, is capable of a top-speed of 60 mph, and a range of 42 miles on a single charge. So, the Empulse represents a serious bump up in power and range—giving it an appeal that the Enertia lacked.

Of course, the extra power and range comes at a cost. The Empulse R, the upscale version of the new model utilizing carbon fiber, is priced at a lofty $18,995—compared to the Enertia’s $7,995 sticker price. Production for the Empulse R will take place first with limited availability in June 2012 and in volume by Q3 2012. The more modest Empulse with plastic bodywork will be available in Q1 2013 for $16,995.

Both Empulse models come with a water-cooled AC motor, integrated six-speed transmission, seating for two, regenerative braking and on board J1772 Level 2 charging capability. (That’s the same J1772 charging standard used for electric cars.)

Regardless of range, top-speed and price, electric motorcycles are a thrill. “Every opportunity we’ve had to put motorcyclists on our bikes, they come away with smiles on their faces,” said Brian Wismann, director of product development at Brammo, when I interviewed him last year.

In fact, electric motorcycles can accelerate so fast from a standstill that manufacturers have to be careful that they don’t shoot out from between the rider’s legs. At the same time, they are very quiet—providing a sensation of flying down the road. “The only thing I hear when I ride my motorcycle is the wind inside my helmet, a little bit of chain noise, and the tires on the road,” said Harry Mallin, a Kansas City-based attorney who has been riding a Brammo bike for nearly two years. “It’s much more of a visceral experience and closer to nature, compared to the rumble of a gas bike,” he said. “On an electric bike, you can hear the crickets in the summer.”

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Bradley Berman

About the Author ()

Bradley Berman is a leading writer and researcher about electric cars and green transportation. He regularly contributes driving reviews and technology articles for The New York Times, Reuters, Mother Earth News and other publications. Bradley is a contributor to Home Power magazine, where he serves as transportation editor. He also works as a research analyst of industries related to advanced technology vehicles for Pike Research, a clean technology market research firm. He serves as a consultant to eBay for its Green Driving Center, part of eBay Motors. Bradley is frequently quoted in major media outlets, such as USA Today, National Public Radio, CBS News, Christian Science Monitor, CNBC and MarketWatch. He was the founder of HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com, two influential consumer information websites about green car purchase decisions. He earned a Masters Degree in Film and Television from New York University.
  • Jblack

    WANT.

  • Gregsfc

    My biggest problem with an electric bike, other than the fact that any motorcycle is only part-time transportation where I live, is that a commuter bike like the Brammo Enertia Plus or the Zero S (ZF6) may cost up to 262-367 percent more than a new 250 cc Honda, Yamaha, or Suzuki with overall lower performance. When you go up to this Empulse model, which has better performance than a gas 250 cc, then you're in the low-end Harley range for pricing.

    I would definitely pay more to go electric and get 200-400 mpg equivalent, but starting at a 240% premium is a whole lot worse value than what electric cars provide versus gas-powered cars. With the cars, electric is a mere 30-40 percent premium.

    Comparison: Honda Rebel, Suzuki GZ250, Yamaha VStar 250 can be had from $3000 to $4200; have ranges of well over 100 miles in any scenario; and top speeds that can stay with traffic on any highway.

    Brammo Enertia Plus is $11,000 with no current tax incentives from the feds or my state. Has an advertised, 40 mile highway range (probably less); has a top speed of 62 mph (probably less); and has a battery life of 1500 charges (probably less), which would be less than 4 years for my two-charge per day use driving about half the year.

    Zero S ZF6 is $11,500; has better claimed performance with over 43 mile range @ 70 mph; cruising speed at 75 mph; and battery life advertised at 3,000 charges.

    Both companies offer lower end models, but the range and speeds are suited strictly for in town driving and won't work for much highway commute at all.

    They're going to have to either: bring up the range and speed of the low-end models to serve more than a scooter purpose or lower the price of the mid-range models for my money. This new higher end model Empulse is out of my league. I need transportation; not something to show off in.