This is the Brammo Empulse, it's going to turn the electric/Internal
Combustion Engine paradigm on its head, forever altering the
transportation landscape in America. That's a bold statement, right?
Check this out: with tax breaks it's $500 cheaper than an SV650 and has a
superior torque-to-weight ratio. It'll reach speeds in excess of 100mph
and can travel over 100 miles between charges. Did we mention they plan
to race it at Laguna Seca? >
For the last couple of years, we've been watching electric bikes, amazed at the rate of progress. Products like the Brammo Enertia and Zero DS would make cool additions to a well-heeled enthusiast's multi-bike garage. But, one question always lingered: When will electrics be competitive with ICE bikes? The Empulse answers that question, the answer is "now."
A development of ideas originally seen on last year's Brammo Enertia TTR race bikes, the Empulse uses a liquid-cooled AC Synchronous motor as a stressed member in a huge aluminum beam frame with a tubular steal swingarm that actually pivots on the motor housing.
That motor puts out 55bhp and 59 lb-ft of torque which needs to power a bike that weighs just 390lbs ready-to-ride. That gives it a power-to-weight ratio of .141 hp/lbs and a torque-to-weight ratio of .151 lb-ft/lbs. Compare those number to the SV650's .167 hp/lbs and .109 lb-ft/lbs and you'll see that the Brammo is slightly behind on power-to-weight and slightly ahead on torque-to-weight.
But the traditional bugbear of electric vehicles hasn't necessarily been performance, but instead a very limited range. The Empulse will come with three different battery packs at three different price points:
Empulse 6.0: 6kWh, 60-mile average range, $9,995.
Empulse 8.0: 8kWh, 80-mile average range, $11,995.
Empulse 10.0: 10kWh, 100-mile average range, $13,995.
All three models are capable of achieving at least 100mph.
We spoke to Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher about those figures and how realistic they'll be for the average rider. He told us that the range figures have been calculated using an even mix of highway and city-speed riding. Stick to lower speeds and the maximum range for the 10.0 will be more like 130+ miles, cruise at high speed on the highway and expect more like 60-70 miles.
The bad news here is going to be recharge times. With the Empulse 10.0 and a 110v outlet, expect to be charging overnight. There's currently no official word on recharge times.
Because of the significant tax breaks available for electric vehicles from both state and federal governments, the end cost of the Empulse 10.0, the most expensive model in the range, could be as low as $7,000. Consult your local EV dealer to see what tax breaks are like where you live.
The exciting thing about these bikes isn't necessarily the outright performance level, but rather the price-to-energy density ratio. Batteries remain the single most expensive component of any electric motorcycle, but Brammo's found a way to significantly reduce their cost.
Compare the Empulse 6.0's 6kWh battery pack to the identically priced Zero DS's 4kWh capacity.
Bramscher is a little tight-lipped when discussing this solution, "Our development in racing had us with the highest energy density batteries we believe at TTXGP last year and that led us to develop our own batteries with chemistry to specification and our complete drivetrain solution has allowed us to carefully manage the temperature, balancing and life of the batteries. We are not going into too much detail as it is competitive advantage until it ships."
The rest of the motorcycle is surprisingly conventional. That huge extruded aluminum frame connects the swingarm pivot to the headstock and supports the batter packs. Front suspension is upside down forks holding radial Nissin brake calipers and there's a full-adjustable rear shock. Brammo chose to go for a streetfighter-inspired look with the Empulse as most riders will be using them in urban environments. While this pre-production model has clip-ons, they'll likely be optional on the production bike with taller handlebars standard.
The Empulse isn't scheduled to go on-sale until early next year, so what you see here will be changing a bit.
"That headlight is borrowed from a Yamaha MT-03, but will not be used for production as we are developing our own unit that is not ready yet, says Brammo's designer Brian Wismann. "The seat is a bit too wide and the tank a bit too narrow right now, so I'll be playing with that proportion a bit as well as we move towards production."
That swoopy seat unit is likely to be the most controversial element on the bike, adopting a vastly different look from the current sportsbike norm.
"Basically, I just wanted the design to be honest, says Wismann. "It's not the fastest thing on the road, but it is really fun to ride and is plenty fast to get yourself into trouble.
"Check out the passenger seat on every BMW S1000RR and you'll see a scuff mark cause they made the thing so high it's impossible to swing your leg over without scuffing up the seat. Since the Empulse is more in the flavor of a streetfighter or modern café racer and less so a 'race replica', I thought I'd try something a bit different."
Also likely to change is the tubular steel swingarm, which will probably go aluminum for production, and the final spec of the rear shock has yet to be decided. These tire sizes, 120/70-17 (front) and 180/55-17 (rear) will be retained, giving Empulse buyers the widest possible range of tires to choose from.
It's Brian you see riding the bike in these pictures. He says that, even with a pre-production motor putting out only 40bhp, "the bike has no problem reaching 100mph.
"The Empulse proves that electric motorcycles are viable today as an exciting alternative to internal combustion vehicles," the designer continues. "It also proves that this market can offer products at competitive price points as well rather than just $40-70,000 toys for the rich. Anyone who wants to experience a performance electric motorcycle now has a legitimate option."
Brammo plans to unveil the Empulse to the public at Laguna Seca on MotoGP weekend where a version of it will race against Michael Czysz and the MotoCzysz E1pc.