2011 Brammo Empulse Preview

A paradigm shift in e-bike performance and price


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Hold onto your hats! Here comes what could be the most viable series of electric sportbikes to date.

Crediting his company’s use of newly-designed proprietary batteries yielding significantly increased energy density, Brammo’s founder Craig Bramscher announced today that its “game changing” 100 mph-plus “Empulse” streetfighter will be more than evolutionary, and is in his view, “revolutionary.”

The solo-rider machine is projected for customer delivery during the first quarter of 2011, and will come in three 88.8-volt (nominal) iterations. The Empulse 6.0, with its 6.0-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery will provide an estimated 60-mile range, the Empulse 8.0, with 8.0-kWh battery will serve up 80 miles, and the Empulse 10.0 will – you guessed it – deliver that magic 100-mile range on a single charge to its 10.0-kWh battery.

Loaded with batteries, un-shrouded by plastic bodywork, the Empulse prototype stands ready to whet the appetite of Brammo enthusiasts while hoping also to win new coverts who want more than just a short-range commuter.

All three versions of the Empulse “trio” will share the same 56.25-inch wheelbase rolling platform. A liquid-cooled, brushless AC motor powers the range, putting out an estimated 50 hp and 59 ft-lbs torque.

The bikes’ power, speed, and range estimates are based on performance now being offered by a running prototype (pictured and in video).

The three production versions have estimated curb weights of 370 lbs for the 6.0, 390 lbs for the 8.0, and 410 lbs for the 10.0, Bramscher said. The higher-performance bikes will weigh more because they will carry more fuel – that is, more battery power – and they are to be priced in order of performance at $9,995, $11,995, and $13,995.

To give some perspective to the Empulse, the much heavier and far more costly Lightning TTXGP racer currently leading the series utilizes 11.0 kWh batteries, although its AC Induction motor is much more powerful. The 6- to 10-kWh span of the street-going Empulse series is otherwise within range of most purpose-built electric racebikes, and could fill the bill for people Brammo says are ready and waiting.

According to Bramscher, the Empulse series was developed in response to feedback from Brammo’s small but growing core of raving fans.

The guardrail notwithstanding, it doesn’t look like this rider wants to lean too hard and possibly throw away this prototype.

“We have had hundreds of folks ride the Enertia, and the overall view is ‘Love it,’ but about 70% of the test riders have said, ‘More miles’ and about 30% said ‘More speed,’ Bramscher told us via e-mail. “So the Empulse is the result of listening to customers. They wanted 60-mile average range, so we are giving them that, but also 80-mile and 100-mile, so if our surveys and feedback are an indicator, we now move from a cool idea whose time is coming, to a Great (sic) idea whose time is NOW!”

Bramscher has already made millions in past business ventures and is not known to over-hype his products. Although we have not seen or ridden the Empulse, if what he says is true, it may very well send other aspiring electric sportbike makers back to their CAD programs.

To this speculation, Bramscher only said: “I have no idea what they are working on, but this should be a fun few years! Our biggest challenge is not if we can do it, but if we can pull off this much value and this much cutting edge for this little money. I am betting the ranch we can.”

Energy Density

The key to the Empulse is increased power-to-battery-weight. Whereas Brammo’s 324-lb, $7,995 Enertia may only travel 40 miles with its 3.2-kWh Valence-branded batteries, the Empulse utilizes “Brammo Power™ batteries of our own breakthrough design,” Bramscher said while declining to name the vendor and saying he does not know if they will be used in any other EVs.

Does this angle make it look kind like an e-version of an MV Agusta Brutale?

“These are much higher energy density than the Enertia Powercycle,” Bramscher says, adding that lessons learned from Brammo’s racebike that took third place in the Pro class at the inaugural Isle of Man TTXGP in 2009 are being applied to the production machine.

“This bike is definitely influenced by last year’s bike, where many of the innovations were born,” Bramscher says.

Range

If there is any area where hype might be suggested by critics of electric motorcycles, it’s in the area of how far an e-bike can go on a charge.

To be fair, e-bike range estimates are similar to the way estimates are given by manufacturers of gasoline-powered bikes when they claim EPA economy figures based on sedate speeds. For example, a literbike’s mileage isn’t estimated for when it’s traveling 186 mph. In like manner, e-bikes only deliver peak range at speeds well under their maximum.

But to further clarify what is realistic to anticipate from the Empulse, we asked Bramscher to elaborate on its projected travel distance per charge.

“These are average riding ranges under normal use with an average sized rider,” Bramscher said, presumably referring to the Empulse 10.0, “We have seen big swings in range based on conditions, so you might see 80-mile range and you might see 150-mile range, depending on riding.”

Tidy architecture makes this thing look quite sporty. There’s no provision for a passenger however. Weights range from 370 to 410 lbs, and – contrary to the traditional gas-powered paradigm – the heavier the model, the higher the performance.

However, the Empulse is to be a sportbike. Won’t riders want to ride from home, hit some twisties, and get back? Under a free throttle hand, we asked what can we expect?

“Come see an Empulse race at Laguna Seca to see how far they can go at WOT!” Bramscher said of the Brammo Empulse RR to be raced July 24 in the FIM e-Power competition at the 2010 Red Bull Grand Prix, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “We will do a bunch of rides and record the data and reveal to the public, but this smashes the range anxiety barrier!”

Specs

Having no transmission in the Empulse – and none known to be in the works by Brammo for the time being – its single-speed powertrain will be simple but not unsophisticated.

Sophisticated and trademarked batteries and battery management system send power to a sizable sprocket on this mono-geared bike.

In addition to proprietary batteries and a more powerful motor than used in the Enertia, the Empulse will be the first liquid-cooled production electric motorcycle. And if a few “firsts” are not enough, a Brammo press release boasts the Empulse will see “the first application of Brammo’s innovative Brammo Digital Drivetrain™ … and Brammo Power™ vehicle management system.”

These exhaustively complex electronics will push a rolling chassis that – like the Enertia’s – will be high quality and utilizing known good-quality components, but not absolutely top-shelf like components spec’d for other proposed electric sportbikes, including the exorbitantly priced Mission One Superbike and the pricey Roehr eSuperbikeRR.

The Empule’s alloy perimeter frame will be suspended by an inverted fork, which Bramscher declined to name for the production version, and a monoshock – possibly an Elka nitrogen-charged unit, as this brand is already used on the Enertia and seen on the prototype as well.

Wheel and tire sizes are also unspecified, but will likely be 17-inchers shod with sufficiently wide sport rubber – possibly Avon brand – as found on the Enertia, and hinted at by the sticker on the prototype.

Brakes are to be Brembo front and rear – not the Nissin units shown on the prototype –and likely will have braided stainless-steel lines like the Enertia has.

A small radiator signals the world’s first water-cooled production electric motorcycle.

As can be seen, many parts are made just for this bike thanks to sufficient funding from venture capital plus Bramscher’s own investment.

We have no details on the cooling system other than the rather small radiator pictured is said to be sufficient, and traditional water/coolant mixture will flow from a water pump to the motor and possibly other electrical components.

Bramscher said the naked streetfighter look was chosen as a response to customer requests, adding that later models could be faired. ABS is also an option the company could offer some time in the future.
 
The bike is limited by the motor controller, so it is unable to wheelie, Bramscher said, but otherwise has more than enough power to do it – enterprising e-hotrodders, take note. 

From design to delivery

Bramscher said the Empulse was conceived and developed in approximately “one year, part time, five months full time,” and it will take several more months to homologate for the street, complete required “paperwork,” and select final component specifications.

An artist’s sketch is very similar to the running prototype.

Brammo is accepting orders as of today and has plans to sell through dealers across the U.S., in the U.K., and Asia, Bramscher said – and is putting out invitations for more qualified dealers to sign on.

Customer orders will be filled first-come, first-served, and Brammo will ask for a refundable deposit once a customer’s Empulse is within 90 days of delivery.

Conclusion

His carbon fiber fender leading the way, the Empulse prototype rider just about gets a knee down – something Brammos until now weren't known to encourage.

While other electric “superbikes” might be capable of higher speeds (and have yet to reach production form), the 100-mph-plus Empulse looks like a positive bargain by comparison, being priced thousands less than any known competitor.

Frankly, it could be said that “high performance” and “electric” have previously been mutually exclusive terms, except for elite creations catering to those with deep-pockets and desire to satisfy an itch that nothing else can scratch.

And to be even more blunt, we have found it a bit tough to understand how uber-expensive emerging technology would be pitched to the elite, when all too soon, it could become obsolete.

As we’ve stated before, e-bike viability for the rest of us depends on increasing battery energy density, and the smart use thereof – a fact Brammo seems to fully understand.

Its potential viability could become even more apparent when cost of ownership and maintenance are compared between e-bikes vs. petrol-powered bikes.

No cast-alloy kickstand is on this one-off, as can be found on the Enertia, but plenty of Brammo-branded and other high-quality pieces adorn Brammo’s first sportbike.

Given also that government incentives could salve the sting from the Empulse’s higher-than-gasoline-powered bikes prices – we think it could indeed be “game changing” if it lives up to its billing.

Bramscher says in bold terms that this bike will be revelatory. When we told him we can't wait to try it, he replied, "It is just amazing. Cannot wait for you to either!"

First off, we’ll be curious to see how much faster than 100 mph it will go. If we can hop on the pre-production prototype, we will, and either way, we’ll let you know what’s what as soon as we possibly can.

Related Reading
2010 Brammo Enertia Review
Brammo’s Enertia Electric Bike Off to Washington
Electric Motorcycles Primer
2010 Native S Review
2010 Zero S and DS Review
TTXGP Disappointed with Film

View all Photos | VideosPHOTOS & VIDEOS

2011 Brammo Empulse IMG_1713
2011 Brammo Empulse IMG_1713
2011 Brammo Empulse Motorcycle.com
2011 Brammo Empulse Motorcycle.com
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2011 Brammo Empulse IMG_2428_final
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2011 Brammo Empulse IMG_2376_final
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