Brammo Empulse: the electric motorcycle has finally arrived

Dailies, Galleries, Reviews -


Electric motorcycles: slow, boring, short ranges, expensive. When I flew up to Oregon last week to ride the Brammo Empulse I expected a good bike. A practical commuter, an efficient appliance, maybe something a little bit fun. But, what I got was something entirely different. As you can see, this is a very serious motorcycle.

Photos: Maddox Visual

My first experience with Brammo was back in 2009 when they were visiting New York to get media types onboard the then-new Enertia. Craig, the CEO, seemed like a smart guy and the bike — friendly-looking, fitted with actual motorcycle components and capable of exceeding its modest performance claims — was pretty neat. But, it was still scooter slow and only capable of 30 or 40 miles on a full charge. Electric motorcycles: much promise, little reality.

Since then, I’ve seen the Brammo guys at shows and races, talked with them a bunch about their TTXGP racing program and watched as people I knew from mainstream motorcycling began to be drawn to the company. During that time, my enthusiasm for electrics waned as their much-hyped benefits failed to materialize during a virtually stagnant iteration process. That disappointment reached a new low when trying to live with only a Zero DS for a couple weeks a few months ago turned into trying to bum rides off friends so I could actually get places. You saw that disappointment in that RideApart episode. Electric motorcycles: no thanks.

The BRD RedShift SM was a fleeting glimpse of promise, but still resolutely a one-off prototype. Electric motorcycles: still in the future.

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Now, cut from me telling people that an ugly Piaggio scooter is a better machine than a $14,000 battery bike to last Thursday, just before lunch in the mountains above Ashland. After taking a few passes around a particularly nice corner, I pulled over, pulled off my helmet and, with a huge smile on my face, let fly a long string of expletives concluded by something along the lines of, “this thing is awesome!” Brian, the bike’s deadpan designer, looked cautiously relieved. Eric Bostrom, the factory’s new racer who was along for the ride seemed to agree. He described the handling as, “better than the race bike.” And, revealed that following me through this corner was the first time he’d ever felt confident enough on the road to get his knee down.

This photo capture’s Eric Bostrom’s first-ever knee down on the road.

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. Brammo claims a top speed of over 100mph and a maximum range in excess of 100 miles. During my two-day ride, I saw 105mph on the speedometer and we got 75 miles out of a full battery in a mix of suburban and rural riding that included plenty of stop signs, traffic lights and a long stretch of divided highway with a posted speed limit of 55mph. Brammo claims 77 miles in mixed city/highway testing.

I hit a top speed of 70mph during that range test ride and cruised around at 5-10mph over the speed limit with no effort to maximize efficiency.

Using the SAE electric motorcycle standard testing, Brammo claims 121 miles in the city cycle (average speed 19mph, figure in lots of sitting at stoplights and that’s a realistic pace) and 50 miles in the highway cycle, which means a 70mph sustained speed. Eric and I saw 50 miles out of the 9.3kWh battery pack when riding at a very fast, knee down and full throttle pace with speeds exceeding 100mph.

Recharge from empty takes 8 hours on a standard 110v outlet or 3.5 hours using the J1772 Level 2 quick charger that’s now becoming an electric vehicle standard. It’s the same type that’s used by cars like the Nissan Leaf, meaning you’ll be able to use the same quickcharge stations they do. Just grab the pistol grip and plug it in where the gas cap normally is, no fussing around underneath the bike. On that Level 2 charger, every 10 minutes of charging adds 5 miles of range.

The company’s favorite watering hole, Brammo installed two Level 2 quick chargers at the Green Springs Inn so they could top up mid-ride. Those chargers cost just $600 a piece and the Inn housed them in a neat old timey gas pump. Gasoline: so old fashioned.

It’s handling, not range or top speed that’s the name of the game with the Empulse though. Brammo benchmarked the Triumph Street Triple — a bike that’s practical on everyday commutes, but a blast to ride in the canyons too — endowing the $18,995 Empulse R (the only model I rode) with similar geometry, dimensions and ergonomics, but higher-quality, fully-adjustable suspension and lighweight forged aluminum Marchesini wheels.

Knowing that and seeing that huge aluminum beam frame, plus the normal sportsbike-sized rubber (180/55-17 rear, 120/70-17 front), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Empulse can go around a corner. But holy shit was I surprised that it’s better at doing so than that Street Triple.

Why? Brammo’s able to achieve some pretty extreme mass centralization with its electric drivetrain, squishing the batteries between the frame rails into a tight bundle around the ideal center of gravity. The motor and transmission are very small, contributing to that centralization.

You know mass centralization is good because of Honda’s significant push to inform people that the CBR range is a little bit like its MotoGP bike. But Brammo is able to achieve something even HRC isn’t, totally eliminating reciprocal inertia and the noise, vibration and harshness that comes with ICE propulsion. All those pistons whirring up and down at insanely high speeds have a way of blunting a bike’s turning speed. All those tiny explosions and their subsequent noise and vibration have a way of getting in the way of communication from the tires, suspension and brakes. Electric motorcycles: taking 100 years of motorcycle development to the next level.

The Empulse is simply a more pure experience than any gasoline-powered bike could ever be. It steers incredibly quickly, flicking into a corner or through a chicane like a much lighter, much more aggressive bike. Think supermoto fast, but unlike one of those bikes, it’s absolutely stable once you’re leaned over. Doesn’t matter what you do it it in a corner — brake, accelerate, bounce around, drag the peg, hit a rock — it just stays absolutely planted.

This is what had Eric wishing his race bike handled like this. He blamed the RR’s swingarm pivot location for upsetting the rear suspension under acceleration. The road-going Empulse has no such problem.

Where the 470lbs Empulse falls behind the 416lbs Street Triple is obviously in acceleration. Its liquid-cooled electric motor develops 54bhp and 46.5lb/ft to the Triumph’s 105bhp and 50lb/ft. With the Empulse accelerating in a straight line, think SV or Ninja 650 carrying a passenger.

Still, that’s enough acceleration to maintain a very serious pace on a twisty road. Riding the Empulse head-to-head with a Street Triple on the way from Brammo HQ to the Green Springs Inn, it was the Triumph that had to work very hard just to keep up. The Empulse’s basic pace, the speed at which it just naturally flows down a road, is equivalent to trying very hard on the Street Triple. Which one’s faster from A to B is simply reliant on the Triumph rider’s willingness to hit very high speeds on the straights. Electric motorcycles: corners are where it’s at.

In addition to the handling, the other big surprise with the Empulse is how effective the gearbox is. There’s a bunch of trickery inside to get it to work with the electric motor that I don’t really understand, but in action it’s dead simple, working almost exactly like a conventional bike’s six-speed manual. The only real point of weirdness is that you can let the clutch out in gear while at a dead stop; electric motors don’t spin unless you’re twisting the throttle.

That clutch is fairly heavy and the shift movement itself a bit clunky. Just like an ICE bike you can close the throttle a little bit and grab the next gear up without using the clutch, but as the day got hotter, I resorted to using it anyways anytime I wasn’t accelerating terribly hard as it just made shifting easier.

The Empulse’s motor revs out to a 9,000rpm redline and makes both peak power and peak efficiency at 7,000rpm. That’s a neat trick, because no matter if you want to accelerate hard or maximize range, all you need to do is keep revs between 6 and 8,000. The motor spins up very smoothly, sounding like the world’s meanest RC car, so there’s a row of LED shift lights along the top of the clocks that flash when you’re over 8k. I missed them a fair few times and the motor’s rev-limiter is very soft, all you notice is that the bike’s stopped accelerating.

With the need to chase a powerband, using the throttle, clutch and shift lever to do so, a much-needed level of man/machine interaction that’s been missing from electric motorcycles is recaptured by the Empulse. Riding along chasing a famous racer, dragging knees and pegs and climbing all over the bike, listening to the motor spin up and down sounding like a TIE Fighter there’s now nothing missing from the experience of riding an electric motorcycle. The Empulse is absolutely as involving as its ICE predecessors, adding a level of feel they could never have.

Riding along following Brian on the Triumph, Eric hangs back to ride next to me for a second. “Damn that thing’s annoying, huh?” Both he and I were happier on the Empulse, it simply feels like a more evolved motorcycle, no caveats needed. Electric motorcycles: finally here.

Galleries remain a little buggy as the site undergoes changes. If you can’t click in directly, use this link, there’s lots of nice pics to check out:

  • Jon B.

    We were both in Oregon, on motorbikes, dealing with the heat on Thursday. I know what my experience was like, so whats it like being on a bike that doesn’t emit heat—or does it? Noticeably less fatigue?

    • Wes Siler

      The lack of heat coming off the bike is a big advantage. It was 107 in the shade. Stopping for photos then doing relatively low speed passes over and over and over evens things out though.

  • Charlie

    Great piece, good news. Tons of progress in a short period of time. I ordered an Enertia+ and keep trying to figure out if and when the bike will be delivered. Looks like the Empulse has taken precedence. Patience is a virtue

  • Charlie

    I can’t decide if it looks good. Certainly from some angles. Does it look as good as it functions?

    • Wes Siler

      I never really looked at it, too busy riding.

      • Charlie

        That’s praise in itself. The detailing looks strong. I’ve never seen any in person, but the Zero’s look like the weakest of bunch. The BRD’s look great. I feel like you can actually get a decent e-bike now and not just a novelty. First adopter concessions are dropping fast

      • pinkyracer

        yeah, seriously. It’ll look so good in my GARAGE or under my butt because that will mean I finally own an electric sportbike!!! there’s even a 110 outlet right where I park in my new place. I need to find out how easy it is to use both connectors…

        • protomech

          The 110 cable is just a separate cable that plugs into the J1772 inlet. Presumably there’s a place to stash the cable on the bike. If you’re using a J1772 charging station then you would just leave the cable stowed and plug the EVSE cable into the inlet.

    • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

      The front’s a bit bland, hard to tell it apart from a Gladius, but I dig the side-one view. Unique, purposeful, clearly not a standard motorcycle. Use your fingers to cover the rear fender and mirrors and it looks pretty boss imo.

      • Scott-jay

        Swinging arm & its axle adjusters don’t sync with rest of bike’s tech-mod styling.
        Transformer-styled headlights aren’t OK, across the board.

        Cheering for electric motos, but there’s no lust to own.

    • richard gozinya

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens if/when people like Roland Sands or Richard Pollack get their hands on one.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Personally, I think it looks awesome. I think Brammo’s designer did a great job of merging the KTM-like folded-origami look with the Street Triple streetfighter style.

      But then again, it would look more awesome if the faux tank and the bottom fairing utilized the Team Icon Brammo livery along with an acid-green frame and wheels.

  • Brammofan

    So, um, sounds like you kinda liked it. The collective sigh of relief in Ashland is rustling the leaves here in Kansas City. Of course, I can’t tell if they’re relieved that you like it, or that you kept the rubber side down. Either way, this ride report was worth the wait.

    • Wes Siler

      Nah, hated the thing, couldn’t wait to get off.

      • Troy R

        I fully appreciate Wes’ review, from someone who is NOT “drinking the kool-aid”. As an electronics nerd, I most certainly am, and I’m digging it hard.

  • DavidMG

    Where’s the video?

  • Coreyvwc

    Sounds like a whole lot fun but I am wondering about a few things. What’s the story behind the ridiculous low maximum RPM redline? My cheap ass Dremel rotary tool will spin at 20,000 RPM all day long. Also, the laughable 1980′s $10 master brake cylinder on a $19k motorcycle. Really?

    • protomech

      RPM isn’t an optimization target for the motor; but rather a broad and strong power band and high efficiency in the RPMs you’re going to use.

      Your dremel tool probably doesn’t make 46 ft-lb of torque either. It was built for a different purpose.

  • Roman

    I’m glad Brammo was able to pull it off. The arrogance of the Zero guys at New York Motorcycle show about Brammo’s “vaporware” was actually pretty off-putting. Plus the riding experience sounds awesome. HFL has been on the electric beat from day one, good to see y’all getting your just rewards.

  • Ben W

    I’m glad you enjoyed the ride and look forward to future iterations. It’s still going to be quite a few years for me to get on board. Bravo, Brammo.

  • Racetrack Style

    Great to hear about the handling, especially since the weight is relatively high.

    I wonder if a funny front-end like the RADD can be mounted to an e-bike’s battery housing to reduce chassis weight?

  • ike6116

    I wonder, would the praise be as glowing if you reviewed it the same way you did the Zero. Im willing to bet it wouldn’t be.

    • protomech

      Perhaps not – the range is better than the Zero, and the charging is much faster with a J1772 supply, but range and charging are still fundamental characteristics of the EV platform. Trying to ride either bike farther than its single charge range won’t be fun.

      The biggest difference between the two is this:

      The Zero is a good EV, and also a motorcycle.
      The Empulse is a good motorcycle, and also an EV.

      And that’s perhaps as it should be – the Empulse is significantly more expensive, it must (and does) offer something above the Zero to justify its pricetag.

      It also points in the direction the electrics are going – the Empulse is more expensive, but it’s also a new generation of electric bikes. Zero has gradually iterated over time – the 2012 bikes are a half step in this direction (NCM battery chemistry, brushless motor, modern controller) but failed to go all the way.

      The Empulse, however long it may have taken to come out, is the first modern production electric.. but by no means the last.

  • wwalkersd

    It sounds wonderful, and we certainly need electric transportation to combat climate change! But it really needs an improvement in battery technology to give it twice the range with same (or less) battery space/weight (and I’ve read some news stories that would seem to indicate that might not be far off). Because what we have here is a great sportbike that only has enough range to be a commuter. I don’t know about you, but when I go out for a ride for fun, it’s pretty rare for that ride to be under 100 miles. Hell, my “commute” ride is 65 miles round-trip up and down a mountain, with no possibility for charging at the destination. It sounds like the Empulse might just barely make it if I stay out of the throttle.

    • protomech

      It’s not all things to all people .. yet. As you say they rapidly improve.

      3-4 years ago we had production electrics with 60+ mph top speeds and 25-35 real world mile ranges.

  • Tyler

    Electric vehicles are going to be coming into mainstream slowly in the next while. Electric motorcycles seems like a pretty good fit – most people don’t want to take them for big trips anyway (to work, or around town), so the limited range isn’t a deal breaker.

    I’m interested to see what the next few years holds for electric bikes. I’m not in the market for one now, but I’m not against buying one in the future.

    I do wish they sold one of these with the fairings like the RR. That thing is quite nice looking.

  • rohorn

    I noticed that the Brammo racer, as of Summer 2012, doesn’t have a clutch lever or shift lever – will that change?

    • protomech

      I believe Brammo intends to race the production-based Empulse TTX bike (with IET multi-speed transmission) alongside the Empulse RR race bike (which uses a single speed high-power parker motor).

      The Empulse powertrain design is an evolution of the Enertia TTR racebike (IOM TTXGP 2009). It will be interesting to see if the IET motor moves to the racebike or the parker motor moves to the streetbike over time – after all, they have somewhat different needs.

  • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

    Very cool, but man $19k is a lot of money.

  • JMcMahon


    In the past electric bikes have had a very muted throttle response from a stop. The thinking being that a gentle acceleration would conserve battery and be more user friendly to new riders. Does this bike retain that design ethos? Has it been watered down to pander to new riders or has Brammo finally delivered the electron snorting tire burner that we (probably most just me) have been waiting for?

  • msaul

    For practicality’s sake; what would insurance be on a bike like this? I’m thinking not cheap considering the number of dealers, available parts, etc.? Perhaps making the deal $$$ if a low-side requires a shipment back to brammo.

    In that line of thinking; what maintenance is req’d?

    • Jesse

      Maintenance, yes.

      I remember when the earth was flat and I raced mean RC trucks on tiny motocross tracks, the constant fiddling with brushes and springs and comm cleanings &tc.

      Now, I’m assuming they are using a brushless motor, but any insight into what it takes to keep this awesome feeling going for the same 30k that’s on my CBR would be grand.

      Also, how’d you love that Airmada, or are you not allowed to talk about it until Icon makes the announcement?

      • protomech

        Brushless motors *should* be maintenance free.

        Maintenance probably consists of tires, brakes, cleaning and lubing the chain. Maybe change the fork oil and transmission oil every couple ten thousand miles.

    • Brammofan

      My 2010 Brammo Enertia costs me about $120 a year in insurance in Missouri. It’s less than 1/2 the cost of the Empulse. And maintenance is as protomech says – minimal.

      • pinkyracer

        yeah, maintenance is so minimal they have a guy. Kinda like the Maytag guy, Dave travels the country fixing Brammo’s. Although a big part of the reason for them putting a proper dealer network in place is to make his life a little easier.

  • the_doctor

    Yeah, but will it catch fire in the Trader Joe’s parking lot?

    • aristurtle

      Yeah, stick with good old non-flammable gasoline!

  • webbiker

    Heavier, slower, more expensive than ICE and still sporting a ridiculous range. And yet AGAIN it’s hailed as the future and a pure miracle.

    Still waiting the future to be BETTER than what we allready have. And I fully expect to be able to make actual motorcycle trips with a motorcycle that costs 19€. Oh wait, I expect to be able to do it regardless of the price or source of power. Otherwise no deal.

    • Troy R

      yeah, it’s easy to miss the whole power-delivery and handling section of the review.

      Even at the early adopter price, assume you ride it to it’s fullest potential for 80k miles. You will save ~$8k in gasoline at today’s rate.

      No oil changes, no valve adjustments, just tires and brake pads.

      I’m not saying it’s cheap or economical in any way right now, and the range/charge time is not ideal, but you can see the writing on the walls.

    • richard gozinya

      Of course they’re not entirely on par with ICE’s, but then, they haven’t had anywhere near the time and money put into development, the infrastructure, or the government support.

      As for where they are now, well, there was a time where horses were much more convenient transportation than cars were. When trains were a better way to travel than planes, and on and on. Progress takes time.

      All that said, they’re closer than you think. Consider that this bike goes as far as it does on 9.3kWh. Compare that with a single gallon of gasoline having around 35kWh. How far can your bike go with less than 1/3 of a gallon in the tank?

      • webbiker

        Indeed. But the whole point is this. Why all the fuss when it’s less suited for the actual act of motorcycling than allmost anyhting thats out there? Comparing kilowats is just number spinning and blowing smoke upon the fact that the bike is less capable of things usually expected of a motorcycle than allmost anything that has been released 10 years ago.

        Personally I get by with very little hp and top speed, but the range for example is something that would not be
        acceptable in any way if someone came up with a new 19€ ice bike. I don’t see the reason to see the bike as a modern marvel when it doesn’t do anyhing marvelous in the real world.

        I have nothing against alternative ways of powering a motorbike, but I do expect more, not less. Progress is about making things better, not just different.

        • Roman

          I don’t think you understand how this whole “progress” thing works. You don’t snap your fingers and have an ICE beating electric bike overnight. The amount of progress these bikes have made over the past couple years is nothing short of astonishing. Panigale wasn’t built overnight.

          • webbiker

            As a paying customer, why would I be interested in how much development time they have had or how far they’ve come when the end product is sub par.

            If I go to a restaurant and get bad food, the acceptable explanations are not “we have come a long way, we used to be worse” or “we havent had time to come up with good food”.

            As an engineering excersise these contraptions are interesting, but as usable motorcycles not.

            • Sean MacDonald (the other Sean)

              because that restaurant isnt providing breakthrough’s in new technology. if the restaurant was working on a meal that could cure cancer or a pill that could provide all the nutrients you needed for a day, you wouldnt whine if it tasted like shit at first.

              the moral of this story isnt that everyone needs to buy one, but that the tech is getting there

        • protomech

          “the fact that the bike is less capable of things usually expected of a motorcycle than allmost anything that has been released 10 years ago.”

          Yes, there’s a tradeoff in range. An electric bike is not an everybike. For commuting, errands, and short pleasure trips, it works very well.

          Electrics are poorly suited for touring, and probably will be for some time yet. If that’s the primary use for your motorcycles, or you only are interested in owning a single bike, then they’re not ready.

          For everyone else.. they’re getting better every day.

          I’m going up to the Tail of the Dragon in a month or so with some friends. They’re bringing their gas bikes. In a truck. I’m bringing my Zero. Same (gas) truck.

          • Jesse

            Could you capture some fly by video of your Zero on the Dragon? I ( and I imagine others) would love to hear and be enamored by the audio shifting tie-fighter sounds.

        • stempere

          My late corsaro veloce, when rode in a spirited way, could sometimes get to reserve after ~180km (110 miles), and it’s never been an issue.

          The real problem is not range, it’s charging time. If you could pop in a station and swap charged batteries in minutes or charge yours in minutes there wouldn’t be so much talk about the range.

          Right now having to charge means the trip is over for the day. You can charge overnight, but not in the time required to (for instance) have lunch, or at least not anywhere near a full charge (and that’s assuming you have the ability to charge there).

          Nonetheless, that thing looks pretty awesome, now i just have to wait for it to come to france. It would be pretty awesome to have it in a garage, parked next to my ’82 carburated honda.

        • wwalkersd

          There are different kinds of “better”. Zero emissions is better. Thanks to global warming, either fossil fuels go away, or we do (OK, I exaggerate slightly, it’s probably not 100% in either case, but it’s dire). Bikes like this, combined with renewable energy, might mean that gearheads like us get to keep riding.

          As I posted above, I would really need this thing to have at least 50% more range, and preferably 100%. But they’ve managed to reach the point of having an excellent motorcycle with limited range, which is far better than any production electric bike has managed so far. Yes, it’s still a product for early adopters, just like the Fisker Karma or Tesla. Range will improve. I hope charge times will improve, but I’m not optimistic there. You can only pump so many kilowatts throught the wiring. We’re also disadvantaged in the US by having chosen a lower voltage (110/115/120, what every you want to call it) for much of our infrastructure.

    • Gene

      You know, buckwheat… read something about the early days of ICE, like “Early Motorcycles: Construction, Operation, and Repair” and get back to me about cotton-wick carburetors, bicycle-style transmissions in the rear wheel, slipping leather belts, and no suspension to speak of. Electric bikes are far beyond that level already.

      It’s no less the future than LCD monitors. They took time to develop to the point where suddenly a CRT monitor is something to notice.

      This bike would do fine to replace my SV-650. It wouldn’t replace my FJR, but if my SV got stolen, I’d have no problems buying an Empulse and using it to get to work/lunch/dinner.

      • webbiker

        My point exactly. LCD monitors for example took over when they became BETTER than the alternatives.

        Did get your point about early motorcycles though. I did not assume e-bikes to start from zero, did you?

        • richard gozinya

          But there’s better than LCD already, such as LED backlit monitors. Why haven’t they taken over?

    • Campisi

      Man, if I paid nineteen euros for a bike I wouldn’t expect the thing to roll across the garage floor.

  • KR Tong

    Quality write up—Focused completely on the existential quality of the ride and none of the politics around EV’s—Like Anthony Bourdain going to Iraq and managing to keep the conversation about the food.

    • Wes Siler

      Thanks, we’ve discussed the whole ‘leccy bike thing more than any other publication. I don’t feel the need to rehash the same arguments over and over and over.

      • Tyler

        What do you mean the dead horse doesn’t need a beating? ;)

  • Mitch

    Who do I throw money at for a Steve Rapp replica Airmada helmet? DO WANT

    • protomech

      Steve Atlas?

      • Mitch

        Er, yeah Atlas

        Had Rapp on the brain

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Wes, Did ICON supply the helmet to you specifically for this shoot?

      • Wes Siler

        Yep. It’s a new model coming out that I’m not supposed to talk about yet. That’s a production color scheme.

        • Mitch

          ahhhh I knew it. Unless they sent Steve’s to Wes, they made more than one, if they’re making more than one…

          • iconmotosports

            We are releasing the Airmada Hi-Viz Stack helmet — and the rest of our new fall products this Friday.

            • protomech

              Looking forward to it.

            • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

              Cool beans! Any chance Brammo will release the Icon/Brammo team colors for the Empulse?

            • Jesse

              That is all.

            • KR Tong

              Sidenote: I just want to say it was a huge relief to see the Icon 1000 lineup. Lipstick colors for the girls, and browns, tans and raw earth tones for the guys. That’s how it should be. I thought I’d be stuck with dark-knight/power ranger gear forever. Hopefully companies that make race suits are paying attention.

              The black and day-glow is a good look too.

  • JTB

    NC700 seating and useability+Brammo Empulse drivetrain=perfect daily rider for commuting and city bike.

  • Paul

    Nice write up – thanks. Any comment on the brakes Wes?

    • Wes Siler

      They’re Brembo radials. The same ones that come on bikes like the Aprilia Tuono V4 and Ducati Multistrada 1200. Good brakes.

      • Paul

        thanks Wes.

  • Joel

    Okay, I just want to dredge up an old complaint about that Zero review. From what I remember, the problems were

    1) it’s slow—okay, so’s my Suzuki

    2) It runs out of batteries…if you drive more than 60 miles—for those of us that don’t live in SoCal, and have more modest demands on a motorcycle 60 miles is plenty for commuting and incidentals

    3) The tires suck—so do the ones on my Suzuki

    I know you had a similar enumerated list in your article, but really, a lot of us live in those types of situations.

    Basically, while not a drop in replacement for a crotch rocket, I think you were way too hard on that Zero. What if you compare it to 250 street bikes, and TW200s that lots of people are totally stoked on?

    On top of that, you throw in a little life cycle cost analysis, and the Zero DS gets a lot more attractive (especially considering most sub$5k bikes are only expected to go 20k in their entire life vs. the 200k mi lifespan of the Zero battery pack). Based on the initial price/lifespan alone, that’s 10 ICE bikes per Zero. Then throw in all the maintenance and gas you don’t have to buy for the Zero.

    Basically my review would have been; if you’re looking for a bike that can scoot around town, and do a little off-roading (with the proper tire upgrade), than the zero is your bike. Throw on top of that that it’s about 1/3 the price of all the ICE bikes you’d have to buy to cover the lifespan of the Zero, and has the added benefit of being silent off road so you can ride all the bootleg trails, and I think you’ve got a winner –not a

    • Wes Siler

      You’re not going off-road on that Zero with its throttle mapping/power delivery. Bad news bears.

      Neither are you going to have much fun riding it and $14k sounds like a lot for a TW200 equivalent.

      • protomech

        You should have tried the S with the IRC road tires. DS sounds like it was really let down by the el cheapo stock tires.

        • Wes Siler

          It was really let down by every single component on it. It’s literally night and day between the Empulse and Zero’s current range.

          • wwalkersd

            So, Wes, does this mean we should ignore any of the nice things you said about the Zero during your extended test?

  • T Diver

    Yes but more importantly, how does it wheelie?

    • Wes Siler

      Neither Eric or I could convince it to. I’m sure someone a little more talented will be able to pull it off though.

      • Sean Smith

        Pull in clutch, twist right grip, let out clutch. Works like a charm on anything without traction control.

        • fasterfaster

          That’s because you’re using the inertia of the spinning/whirring/moving engine components to momentarily create more torque than the engine is capable of at steady state (even at peak). Electric drivetrains have a small fraction of that inertia – the torque is the torque and it’s either enough to lift the front or it isn’t (barring hard weight transfer and use of road features).

          That said, in first gear this thing should have monstrous rear wheel torque.

          • pinkyracer

            mmmmmm… I love it when you speak Engineer to me. tell me about how circle wheelies work…

    • protomech

      Posted by Brian Wismann on twitter:

  • protomech

    If it’s geared for 30 mph in 1st gear then it should have around 900 ft-lb of torque at the rear wheel.

    With a 200 lb rider centered between the wheels it will need around 800 ft-lb from a stop for a pure power wheelie (no clutch dump required).

  • RagdollOp

    There are some issues that never are addressed when talking about electric vehicles. If everyone switched to electric what happens to the price of electricity? What about battery life and disposal? The power grids in certain areas of the country already have problems supporting usage, so what happens when everyone is charging their vehicles at night? What happens during long power outages?

    • Sean Smith

      We’re all fucked and no one ever has any fun again.

      • T Diver

        We invade whatever country has the most electricification buried under it’s soil. We throw the used batteries in the recycling bin and let the homeless collect them. Problem solved.

        • Wes Siler

          T Diver for president. Those batteries won’t be trying to get any abortions after being illegitimately raped will they?

          • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

            LOL x2!!!

          • Gene

            I just *snerked* so hard I’m going to need nasal surgery.

            • RagdollOp

              Hey, I am not hating on electric vehicles. I am just asking some questions that I never see addressed. Why all the hate?

              • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

                I think you do have legit Qs. I myself don’t have answers. But T Diver and Wes’s posts, which really had nothing to do with your post, were just too damn funny.

                Where I live primarily, a few evenings each summer when the weather is brutally hot and humid, we experience significant brownouts when the city’s residents come home from work and crank their ACs. Imagine if a bunch of these folks also plugged in their high-current EV chargers all at the same time too.

              • pinkyracer

                actually, at the EV conference I was at today, some speaker pointed out that EV’s can be used as generators during power outages. Sure, you’re not gonna drive/ride it very far when it’s powering your home, but still. Kind of a neat trick.

    • wwalkersd

      First, everybody isn’t going to switch to electric overnight. We have time to improve the electric grid and/or install more local generation. But currently, most systems have excess capacity in late night hours, which is when most electric vehicles would be charged (time-of-use metering encourages this). Since they’re simply taking up otherwise-idle capacity, electric rates need not necessarily rise at all (due to charging electric vehicles, that is). That may or may not change as we replace more fossil generation with renewable sources.

      Batteries do have limited life. So do internal combustion engines. Lithium-ion batteries are easily recyclable.

      During long power outages, gas stations can’t pump gas, either.

      These issues have been addressed many, many times before. Thus the snark you see in the other replies.

      The future will be different than the present. Get used to it.

    • KR Tong

      This needs someone far more educated on the matter than me but i’ve read a fair number of great books about the history of electricity and the power grid and here’s a short list of conclusions that I’m too lazy to support at this time.

      -Today the power grid wouldn’t be able to support a million electric vehicles. It barely supports air conditioning units in the summer. You just have to look at India for an example of living with an insufficient power grid. There would be daily rolling blackouts. Every hour the grid was operable it would be a “peak hour.” Electricity would then be far more expensive; People would likely need to keep inefficient backup generators.

      -Because of this, electric vehicles today are a solution for one man. It’s not a solution for every man. It’s all about scalability.

      -You need millions of cars to have thousands of fueling stations. This means that charging stations will be few and far between. They’ll be as numerous as airports, and like airports they’ll attract large swaths of users at any given time. The question you gotta ask then is how scalable is that old-timey gas pump that charges a couple bikes at a time? What if you need to charge ten bikes? What about fifty?

      -Because of this we would need to renovate the entire power grid, OR produce electricity independent of the grid. I always like the idea of living without coal plants so I prefer the latter. Ideally you could do this with solar or a windmill, but the ironic use of a large combustion engine to power an EV charging station would still produce power more efficiently than the smaller engine in an ICE vehicle. Nothing is ever going to be as efficient as a centralized power-grid with big power plants—insofar as it can support our total usage.

      -EV Companies COULD get into the business of producing solar panels and bundle their vehicles with them. To me this makes a lot of sense. You’re already spending $18-$30k on an EV, what’s another $18-30k for your own power plant? Alternatively companies could ask customers to invest in solar/wind-powered charging stations. Either way these seem like strategies that benefit the customer and the producer as BOTH sides require a more robust infrastructure to survive.

      -Now if you do want MILLIONS of electric vehicles on the road you would need to upgrade the entire power grid, from the circuit breakers in your home to billion dollar renovations of existing power plants and everything in between. You would need to make new power plants far bigger in scale than anything we have today. The good news is that while it’s initially costly, every time power plants get bigger electricity becomes cheaper.

      -There are other factors too. As the climate becomes hotter, electrical demands will become greater which means peak hours and electricity costs will continue to increase with or without EV’s. Also, as history has proven, society just looks at every increase in electrical output as an opportunity to plug more useless shit into walls. The need to increase power output will only ever stop when we run out of things to make power out of.

      For now, brammo’s bike is great. It’s a good one man’s solution and it’s being sold as a one man’s solution. Its not a problem until our neighbors want one too.

      • Roman

        Great post, couple of follow-ups. Not an electrical engineer and haven’t read books on the topic beyond articles in general publications, so I hope I don’t sound too ignorant.

        - Isn’t a major problem with the American electrical infrastructure is that the infrastructure itself is pretty inefficient at transmitting the electricity over distance (from power source to consumer).

        - Looking at my electric bill, I consumed 782kWh last month (hottest July on record). So if the battery capacity is 9.3 kWh and let’s say that’s good for 80 miles and I drive on average 1000 miles a month, that’s an additional 116 kWh a month (which is $17.6 at current rates, btw). So considering I average around 400 kWh a month, this would mean that adding an electric bike as my primary mode of transportation wouldn’t even bring me into “very hot month” territory. This back of the envelope stuff, but still.

        - Renewables. How scalable do you think it is? Just curious. Say there was a carbon tax tomorrow and suddenly renewable energy started to make financial sense, how quickly do we get to the point where it’s a substantial slice of our energy portfolio (40-50 percent). What about rare earth metals? When do we start exhausting those?

        Just a couple thoughts off the top of my head. I’m basically a greenie and happily pay a couple extra bucks a month for wind energy, live in a walkable neighborhood etc. So to see motorcycles heading in this same direction, while still being mega fun and even arguably better than ICE in some respects is really, really exciting.

        • RagdollOp

          I live in Oklahoma that is a big CNG (compressed natural gas) state and I am getting ready to buy a CNG cargo van. The reason is that there are pumps all over the state and right now it is around $1.30 per gallon of gas equivalent at the pump and $0.80 from a home fuel station. This varies across the state but is about the average. Basically, I can drive a v8 cargo van all week to work and it cost the same as my motorcycle in fuel. It is a clean burning fuel that is domestic with an infrastructure already in place. If you have natural gas at your home you can get a home fueling station and major fueling chains are starting to install pumps. It also works with current gas engines. I think it is a great interim fuel source to make the transition to other forms of energy.
          I know that CNG is big in south america and in other parts of the country and they even have cng motorcycles and scooters. The technology is getting better for storage as well. New tanks are coming out this year that manufacturers claim will increase capacity by 40% for the same size. I think it will be a real possibility to start seeing CNG motorcycles in the states.

          • Roman

            I have a big problem with the natural gas industry, especially the way they’ve gone about getting the fracking operations up and running in my home state. That’s a different topic for a different day though.

        • protomech

          The power grid is around 93% efficient in transferring energy (plant to wall socket).

          Don’t forget charging losses – charging is typically 85-90% efficient, so you’re looking at ~135 kWh.

          Renewables are tough. GE is cranking out wind turbines as fast as they can. Most solar is made in China. Production can be ramped up, but it does require significant raw material inputs. We have already tapped the majority of the feasible hydro locations.

          The harder part is controlling the grid – wind and solar are nice when they work (and very often one works when the other doesn’t), but you need enough nameplate backing power for when they are not operational. The current grid doesn’t work well with local generation.

      • protomech

        The switch to electric isn’t going to happen all at once – Pres. Obama’s desired 1M electric vehicles on the road by 2015 isn’t even remotely on track. There are a couple hundred million vehicles on the road each day; even if 1M EVs sell per year, or 10M/year, it will take some time to make a significant impact on grid usage.

        (figure 12k miles/year, 300 Wh/mile car, 125 Wh/mile bike, 90% EVs sold are cars) ..

        I put 1000 miles/month on my Zero. My utility bills (average 600 kWh/month) have gone up about 20% ($10).

        As more people switch to electricity for transportation (and especially as higher power charging becomes common), there will be strong incentives to support time offset charging. TBD whether this will be centrally managed or randomized + locally aware. Centrally managed gets a lot of people’s teeth on edge, but it could be incentivized (together with V2G) to bring the charging cost down to near zero.

        If grid load is more predictable, then the price of electricity could actually go down. If we have more evenly spread around-the-clock grid usage then we can install more baseload power (like nuclear), which runs 24/7 and is cheaper. Peaking power is very expensive.

        You’re correct that if we magically switched every vehicle on the road today to electric that the grid would crumble. In reality, the grid can and will grow with as demand for EVs grows.

        Similarly, 10 or 50 EVs that converge at one charging station is a problematic but (for now) unusual scenario. Almost all charging today is done at home or at work – charging stations in the wild have a fairly low utility factor. As the total number of EVs doubles, triples, etc this may become more of a problem if the charging network does not also grow with them.

        • KR Tong

          I wouldnt even say its problematic. Solutions are boundless. If anyone needs more books to read:

          David Nye, Electrifying America
          David Nye, Consuming Power
          Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of power
          Forest Mcdonald, Insull
          Samuel Insull, The memoirs of samuel insull.

          A couple more books about electricitys effect on women and society,

          Ruth Shwartz, More Work For Mother
          Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Disenchanted Night

  • pinkyracer

    $600 for a charging station? funny, everyone who spoke about installing them at the EV Symposium I went to today said $3,000-$5,000 is average installation cost for the first one, and can cost a lot more depending on how much concrete you have to rip up to lay the lines. They may have paid $600 for the unit, but who paid to install it?

  • Roman

    Btw, the Icon helmet has dropped. I like!

    Though I think I prefer the white on black version, might be my next lid:

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