Electric motorcycles appear to be on the steep part of the development curve these days. The latest model comes from Brammo, the small Oregon company that produced the Enertia a few years back. The company’s newest offering is called the Empulse and the electric motorcycle is a big step forward offering a top speed of over 100 miles per hour, and a range of up to 100 miles. And perhaps best of all, the increased performance comes at a reduced price.
We haven’t had a chance to ride the new bike yet (it’s just being debuted to the public today), but judging by the pictures, the Empulse looks more like a real motorcycle than just about any other electric offering out there. Where the Enertia was more of the 125cc kind of bike with a lighter weight not exactly optimized for freeway cruising, the Empulse is more of a 750cc type of bike with a full-size frame and tires that is easily capable of freeway speeds or canyon carving.
Brammo founder and CEO Craig Bramscher says the evolution of its product line followed its development of the technology. The Enertia was a chance to develop the battery and power system as well as the safety of building a motorcycle. But the Empulse was developed around the company’s racing efforts at last year’s TTxGP on the Isle of Man.
“[What] We were trying to do is find that perfect balance of power to weight, and handling,” Bramscher says of the racing heritage behind the Empulse. “Because at the end of the day, motorcycle fun is about handling and, of course, performance.”
To keep the weight to a minimum, Brammo ended up developing its own batteries for its racing bike. Bramscher says the lightweight batteries helped the company meet its goal of reaching 100 miles per hour for the race. Like any good motorsports program, the battery and powertrain technology developed for the racing team has found its way into the production bike.
Three models of the Empulse will be available for delivery starting in 2011 and you will be able to purchase the motorcycle at participating Best Buy stores. The motorcycles are simply differentiated by their battery packs, and therefore range. With a 6.0-kilowatt-hour battery, the imaginatively named Empulse 6.0 has a range of 60 miles. Slide the decimal point over on the 8.0 and 10.0 and you can convert the battery size to range on the other two models as well.
“Range anxiety” was one of the biggest concerns just about every electric vehicle maker is facing. Bramscher points out when the red light appears on a gas gauge, there’s usually no problem finding a gas station. But finding a place where you can charge an electric motorcycle is a bit more complicated.
“There was clearly a demand for more range” Bramscher says of potential customers he talked with. “The Enertia wasn’t designed for long distances on the freeway.”
Brammo is keeping things simple when it comes time to recharge. With a plug in socket where the gas tank cap would normally be, an Empulse rider only needs to find a normal 110 outlet to charge the bike. Of course it can’t be filled as quickly as its gasoline cousins, but you knew that before you bought an electric motorcycle anyhow.
Topping off the tank on the Brammo Empulse
Each bike is powered by a 50-horsepower motor with 59 lb-ft of torque based on early production testing. With a weight of 390 pounds (I suppose dry weight is irrelevant here), the Empulse comes in about the same as other motorcycles such as the Ducati Monster 696. The electric bike doesn’t quite have the same power yet, but at least we’re talking about enough power to get into trouble.
With a price tag starting at $10,000 for the 6.0 model, the Monster comparison keeps going. But it looks like the batteries aren’t cheap. If you want the 100-mile range, the price jumps to $14,000. The good news for potential customers is that with tax incentives, the price could drop dramatically. Brammo claims the Empulse 10.0 could cost as little as $7,000 in some states.