Video: riding the Brammo Empulse

Dailies -



Back in August, I got to be the first outsider to hoon the new Brammo Empulse R. That was a big deal, because the bike is sort of a watershed moment for electrics, being the first production machine to realize the potential of the power source. It’s not just an excuse pegged to zero emissions, it’s a desirable consumer product in its own right. Now, here’s video from that two-day ride.

We originally tacked video onto our shooting schedule to see if we could come away with material for an episode of the show (returning for season two next week) or just a standalone video for HFL. In the end, only dedicating a small amount of our time to shooting video and doing so at the end of the (extremely hot) second day, meant I wasn’t altogether happy with the end product. Given our limited production budget, I passed on editing the material ourselves, but Brammo felt it was worthwhile cutting together the video you see here for its own use.

What you’re watching doesn’t represent the full potential of the bike or riders. On a day where it was 107 degrees in the shade, the heat was limiting performance of both people and product. I was completely exhausted and, after charging the bikes in the hot sun, then doing repeated photo passes at low speed, the Empulse’s controller was limiting motor performance too. No huge deal, it just cut outright power, blunting acceleration and top speed as we filmed on the hot tarmac. Performance picked back up as we cruised home at a sustained 50-60mph.

Hopefully this remains a good overview of the Empulse, I look forward to getting another chance to do the bike video justice sometime soon.

  • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

    I love that these guys make electric bikes that look like real motorcycles. And apparently ride like them, too.

  • fred vg

    While I’m no stranger to the charms of ICE’s (my daily rider is 40+ years old), I can’t wait to ride around a near silent motorcycle. Imagine if one day solar charging becomes efficient enough for these bikes to top off the charge while parked?!

    • Wes Siler

      Solar’s in no way efficient enough to do that, but high speed charging exists now and once a common standard is agreed upon, will begin to become commonly available. Look to Tesla for leadership there.

      • fred vg

        I was thinking in the (far) future, but you are probably right that there’s physical realities preventing this. Commonly available charging stations should be here soon enough. After all, charging stations are a lot easier (and cleaner) to install and maintain than fuel pumps.

        • Wes Siler

          The ubiquitous fast charge station is just over the horizon. We just need to settle on a standard, figure out how they’re going to be paid for and shit like that.

          • fred vg

            Should be easy enough to provide a smartphone app to take care of payment.

            • Wes Siler

              I mean who covers the upfront installation costs and technology developments? What’s the business model? Where’s the funding come from?

              • fred vg

                I guess that brings us back to the question of a universal standard and the economies of scale. Do you know if the various manufacturers are even talking to each other about this stuff (Zero, Brammo, …). Brammo uses the same charger as Nissan right?

              • protomech

                Both Blink and Chargepoint operate pay-access charger networks across the US and the world. (Blink claims 2335 charging stations, Chargepoint claims 9299 charging stations).

                The majority of these are J1772 240v charging stations that the Empulse can access.. a small but growing number are the 48 kW CHAdeMO DC chargers.

                Tesla’s chargers are technically superior – the Model S charges at approximately 240 highway miles per hour, vs the Nissan Leaf on CHAdeMO at 120 highway miles per hour – but further fragments the market. SAE, Tesla, and CHAdeMO have 0, 4, and 2000+ DC chargers on the ground now.

                The 2013 Zero S can charge on CHAdeMO, but it only uses approximately 25% of the maximum power in doing so. A battery that could accept a faster charge could charge at a rate of 280 highway miles per hour .. ride for an hour, charge for 15 minutes.

      • Dylan

        Sure solar isnt efficient enough yet but it could eventually be a viable option if we could ever raise the efficiency.

        I mean they were saying the same things about electric vehicles and batteries 5 years ago and now we are here

    • zero

      It’s not even necessarily a matter of efficiency. Assuming the sun is perpendicular to a point on earth(noon), and ignoring the energy absorbed or reflected by the atmosphere(~25%), the earth receives 1.36kW/m2 of energy.

      Ignoring ALL inefficiencies, namely that of the panel(10-20%), the transformer to up the voltage to a useful level(~95%), and the battery itself(~97%), it still would take a 1mx1m solar panel ~10 hours to charge the Empulse.

      Unfortunately impractical even in a perfect world…

      • fred vg

        Physics can be such a bummer.

      • Scott-jay

        Yeahbut, imagine car-port charging station with panels on the roof. 3m x 3m per machine would be close.
        Would that mean it charges in less than three hours?

        • protomech

          Good solar is 100-120 W/m^2. So that would be about 1kW to the bike, you could probably get 50-70% of a charge in a full day.

          • KR Tong

            I read that and it reminded me of when Bill Gates was talking about residential solar generation. The word he used for it was “cute,” which after he explains it makes perfect sense.

            Here’s the whole thing (6. Micro Generation)

  • Jesse

    Muther f’in’ speeder bikes. Heck yes.

    • jpenney

      This is exactly what I think every time I hear and electric bike. All of this “silent” talk is non-sense. Embrace the speeder bike sound!

    • Campisi

      Too bad the Rebels only had half-helmets on Endor.

  • Jack

    THIS IS THE SHIT I BEEN MISSING. Thanks for that Wes.

    • Scott-jay

      Yep, good on ya.
      Get an intern.

  • wwalkersd

    Oddly enough, EBoz looks faster than you nearly everywhere, Wes. ;)

    Love the bike, but I’m gonna have to wait for the coming battery breakthrough that gives it twice the range. 50 miles of playing ain’t enough. Even my commute, over fun roads, is 60 miles round-trip, with no possibility of charging at the far end. Now, don’t get me wrong. WE NEED THIS BIKE! If it will work for you, please buy it, to keep this company and industry afloat! But battery breakthroughs are undoubtedly coming for the rest of us.

    • Wes Siler

      He does indeed. Eric’s an awful lot fitter than I am, so wasn’t as fazed by two days in the extreme heat. By the time we got to filming on the second day, i was just completely spent.

    • protomech

      Brammo says they want to double capacity every two years. That seems like an (extremely) aggressive schedule, but may be possible if Envia delivers.

      In 2009 both Brammo and Zero sold bikes with ~3 kWh, ~30 miles of relaxed riding for $8-10k.

      In 2013 both Brammo and Zero will be selling bikes with ~3 to ~10 kWh, ~30-100 miles of relaxed riding (halve that for aggressive riding) for $8-19k.

      While the 2013 bikes are significantly faster and higher quality than the 2009 bikes, there are few directly comparable bikes to show how prices have dropped.

      2010 Zero S:
      4.0 kWh “max”, ~23 hp, 273 lbs, 67 mph top speed, 39 miles EPA city range, $10000

      2013 Zero XU 2.8:
      2.8 kWh “max”, 27 hp, 218 lbs, 77 mph top speed, 38 mile EPA city range, $8000

      2013 Zero XU 5.7:
      5.7 kWh “max”, 28 hp, 260 lbs, 77 mph top speed, 76 mile EPA city range, $10500

      Maybe by 2015-6 we’ll see another doubling of range at the top end..

  • Troy R

    It’s killer to see the real-life electric hoonage in motion.

    I’m really curious to hear how you like the transmission, how it works, and how it feels with an electric motor!

  • NewOldSchool

    I truly believe the electric motorcycle will be what “saves” the industry as a whole. It will enable and involve and entirely new demographic to get into riding.

    This coming from a self proclaimed Luddite like myself.

    • Dr. Gellar

      “I truly believe the electric motorcycle will be what “saves” the industry as a whole.”

      I agree…I believe that as well.

  • KR Tong

    I’d buy one if there was some way to get the price down to 10 after CA reimbursements and whatnot. Maybe if it came as a disassembled kit; It’s gotta be easier than an ICE bike to put together.

    One other thing I wonder about is when EV’s will all start using the same standard battery. It’s hard to imagine the world of electronics taking off like it did without AA and AAA batteries. That’s one of the main reasons I have a hard time imagining myself buying a bike. If in five years the batteries improve exponentially, but I would be forced to buy a whole new bike, I’d be pissed.

  • Roman

    I just can’t get over how awesome those roads are. Shit, they look smoother than my local track.

  • 10/10ths

    I work in the auto biz, and all of the auto manufacturers have agreed to a standardized quick charger. They are everywhere in Houston, Detroit, and other major cities.

    You can buy one from Best Buy.

    As to a standardized battery, each manufacturer is working VERY hard to build the best battery chemistry and on-board charging regulator to get better performance than the next guy. So, they don’t want to share with the competition.

    I talked with Chip Yates at Oshkosh in July, and he has moved from motorcycles to aircraft. He is working on an electric plane to fly across the Atlantic using mid-air charging via a tether system. DOD is investing heavily.

    The state-of-the-art today are these Lithium-Polymer batteries that we CAN buy now from folks like Shorai and others.

    Unfortunately, the physics IS the physics. As far as batteries have advanced, we are still only at the 100 mile range point with most EVs. The next big breakthrough is not the range, but in the quicker charge time.

    Folks are working hard to develop a fifteen minute charger, down from the three hour quick charge time we have now. For example, you can walk into a Ford dealership right now and buy the 2013 Ford Focus Electric. It costs $40,000. It drives like a “real” car, and can travel 100 miles per charge. It can be fully recharged from dead in only three hours with the high voltage charger. This is TWICE as fast as the Nissan Leaf which requires six hours. It’s all in the on-board charging converter. Nissan will offer a three hour charge next year when they upgrade the Leaf’s on-board charger.

    We live in interesting times. These EVs will get better and better, but we are still five years away from getting enough charging stations built nation wide to make them more than a rich man’s toy to show off their “Green Cred” at Whole Foods.

    I’ll be hanging on to my Monster for a while.


  • Ratlanta

    Imagine if they licensed the Tie Fighter sound effects.

  • mugget

    Awesome to see those bikes being ridden at a decent pace on streets!