The Brammo Empulse, the Oregon-based company's latest electric motorcycle design.
Brammo Motorsports has announced the debut of its all-new Empulse electric motorcycle. Comprising a new three-model lineup, the new Empulse electric bike makes significant performance claims over its predecessor, the Enertia, most notably with its 100-mile range and 100 mph top speed. Motorcycle USA gained exclusive access to the new design at the manufacturer’s home base in Ashland, Oregon.
The models planned for the new lineup are the Empulse 6.0, Empulse 8.0 and Empulse 10.0. All three rides will be capable of 100 mph top speeds, with the number designations referring to each bike’s projected range, 60, 80 and 100 miles as well as their kWh hour energy densities. The three rides also sport different MSRPs, at a respective $9995, $11,995 and $13,995 (federal tax credits drop the price by at least a grand, even more depending on state incentives).
Headlining the new design is Brammo’s water-cooled electric powertrain, with the company claiming status as the first water-cooled electric powerplant in motorcycle production. Like the Enertia, the Empulse sources a permanent magnet AC motor, but the new unit is capable of higher voltage and current capacities, with a corresponding rise in power output. A small radiator and less than a half-gallon of engine coolant keep things running smooth in the new motor. The cooling system doesn’t need to be big, as the inherent efficiency of an electric design (Brammo claims 90%) generates very little waste heat. A traditional internal combustion engine operates at around 25-30% efficency, with the majority of energy produced as heat.
The key to the Brammo Empulse's higher performance claims comes from the improved energy densities in its battery systems, which range from 6 to 10 kWh.
The Empulse motor harnesses power from a more efficient battery pack, developed in-house and based off the firm’s Enertia TTR racebike (which competed in the inaugural Zero TTXGP). The batteries are governed by Brammo’s proprietary battery management system. The differing range between the three Empulse models is dependent on the energy density of the three battery packs, 6 kWh, 8 kWh and 10 kWh. The increased energy densities and up-spec motor are what increase performance thresholds to more palatable levels than those of the previous Enertia model.
“The Enertia has about 3 kWh hours onboard. This bike, as it’s shown here, has 8 kWh on board," explains Brammo’s Director of Product Development, Brian Wissman, when Motorcycle USA arrived to view the new Empulse. "Because of that increased energy density on board we get increased range. We can get over 100 miles out of the bike, and we also get increases in power. So these batteries, coupled with this water-cooled motor, allows the bike to easily achieve over 100 mph.”
The new 100 mph and 100-mile range stats are significant benchmarks the previous Brammo design couldn’t match, with the Enertia sporting a 45-mile range and 50 mph top speed when we tested the prototype (see our 2008 Brammo Enertia First Ride
). At the time, we said of the electric ride “Double the range and add another 30-40 mph to top speed and the Enertia transforms from short-distance commuter to a proper playbike.” It seems Brammo has done exactly that.
The Brammo Empulse electric motorcycle in action. Though we didn't get an opportunity to sample the new ride yet, we did see
and hear it running during a brief reveal near the company's Ashland, Oregon headquarters.
Says Wissman on the Empulse’s new range and top speed stats: “Talking to customers and with Brammo also being a performance-based company to begin with, we really feel like those are thresholds that we need to get over to offer a really good value to consumers.”
The improved performance does come with a significant drawback, with charge time increased to 8-10 hours for a full cycle from a traditional 110V wall plug. However, Wissman promises steps are being taken to make a faster charging option via a 240V plug. As with the Eneritia, the new Empulse will allow for easy plug-and-tune electronics, via USB inputs on the dash mount and under the seat.
Low center of gravity and mass centralization promise a light handling machine for the electric design.
While the electric powertrain grabs the headlines, the Empulse features chassis upgrades as well. Taking development cues off its original Electric TTR racebike the Empulse features an adjustable fork and rear shock. It also sports dual four-piston Nissin brakes up front. As for the frame, Brammo designed an aluminum twin-spar unit which holds the batteries. The rear swingarm pivots on the motor axis, with a direct chain drive from the motor to the rear wheel.
Claimed weight is 390 lbs, less than the curb weight of a typical Supersport, with the bike’s profile quite narrow. Wissman claims the low center of gravity and weight distribution make for a quick-turning machine: “What we found putting professional racers on this bike [Empulse], as well as the TTR bike, is these electric bikes ride lighter than they actually are. A lot of guys have compared these bikes and the Isle of Man bikes as feeling like 250 GP bikes, quite a bit lighter than 390 lbs. So we think this a benefit of the natural mass centralization and narrow frame.”
From the drawing board to showrooms. Brammo expects the new Empulse to be delivered by mid-2011.
Style-wise, the Empulse delivers a more familiar-looking motorcycle than its predecessor, the new radiator being a welcome bit of gear for the traditionalists. Brammo's proprietary frame with stacked batteries anchors the overall design, with the Empulse lacking a prominently placed engine and no exhaust at all, both features playing such a critical role in conventional two-wheeled designs. Instead the electric motor is buried beneath the seat, not a prominent feature at first glance. We'll leave the subjective styling opinions to the comment section below (and we're interested in what you think, certainly Brammo will be too). Having seen the bike in person, we can say the overall fit and finish looks improved over the previous model, in particular the switchgear and controls.
Brammo continues to reach out to motorcycle dealers for a more robust service network, but has sourced a novel distribution method with select Best Buy stores selling their bikes. “It’s a learning experience for both groups,” says Wissman of the Best Buy partnership, “but it’s been really good. Their service techs are great. They’re learning how to sell motorcycles, we’re learning how to work with a big distribution partner.”
Brammo says the Empulse will first reach the market at select dealers, with expected delivery dates in mid-2011. It will also be sold at those select Best Buy locations during 2011. Customers can place their order for the new machine online now at www.brammo.com
Located in Ashland, Oregon, Brammo Motorsports revealed its new Empulse exclusively to Motorcycle USA at the photo shoot in the hanger of nearby Brim Helicopter.
In the more immediate future, the Empulse is set to make its public debut at the Red Bull USGP at Laguna Seca, later this month. The Ashland-based company is also set to debut a racing version of the Empluse, dubbed the Empulse RR, at Laguna where it will compete in the FIM e-Power Series race. The Empulse will also make international appearances at the EICMA Milan Show in November and the Macau Grand Prix in China.
Stay tuned for future updates.
Special thanks to Brim Helicopter for hosting the Empulse photo shoot.