2016 Victory Empulse TT

Editor Score: 79.5%
Engine 16.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 6.25/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 7.75/10
Desirability 8.25/10
Value 6.75/10
Overall Score79.5/100

Remember the mega splash Harley-Davidson made last summer with its electric LiveWire? No one expected the usually stodgy Motor Company to veer so sharply into the future, and the stylish e-bike was prominently featured across mainstream media outlets. Never before had electric motorcycles made such a huge impression on the general public.

The LiveWire is indeed cool, but what it isn’t is a motorcycle anyone can buy – for now, it’s only a prototype, an indicator of what could one day become reality.

Conversely, the bike you see here – Victory’s new Empulse TT – is getting geared up for production and will be available in dealers sometime in the fourth quarter of 2015. Although Victory Motorcycles has skewed to a future-forward direction more than its rivals over in Milwaukee, Victory had never truly leap-frogged Harley-Davidson during its 17-year history. However, this time – at least in terms of electric motorcycle production – it’s Victory taking the lead.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire First Ride

If it looks like a Brammo Empulse R to you, that’s because it mostly is. Victory made a few updates and provided new graphics with sparkling gold metalflake in the paint.

If it looks like a Brammo Empulse R to you, that’s because it mostly is. Victory made a few updates and provided new graphics with sparkling gold metalflake in the paint.

Victory was able to strike first thanks to parent company, Polaris, which has had a business relationship with Brammo for several years, culminating this past January with Polaris acquiring Brammo’s electric motorcycle assets. Brammo will continue to operate as an electric powertrain company independent of Victory.

Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business From Brammo

The Empulse TT seen here will look familiar to e-bike aficionados, as it’s basically a mildly updated version of the Brammo Empulse R with fresh Victory graphics. The most notable changes are a lithium-ion battery pack with 10% greater capacity (now rated nominally at 10.4 kilowatt hours), a narrower rear tire, new seat material and a cush-drive setup using rubber dampers in the sprocket to ease the abrupt throttle transitions we noted in our previous testing.

2013 Brammo Empulse R vs Zero S ZF11.4 + Video

The TT is otherwise a Brammo Empulse R, which includes good stuff like an aluminum frame, Brembo brakes and a fully adjustable Marzocchi/Sachs suspension. Powering the machine is a liquid-cooled AC induction motor said to produce 54 horsepower (at 4500 rpm) and 61 lb-ft of peak torque. Its price jumps one grand to $19,999.

2014 Brammo Empulse R Review + Video

Here’s a backdrop completely unexpected from a Victory media event.

Here’s a backdrop completely unexpected from a Victory media event.

The Empulse TT is part of Victory’s new corporate philosophy that highlights American performance and muscle, and the performance angle was on display at Colorado’s High Plains Raceway, a new track about an hour east of Denver, where Victory invited us for a day of spinning laps. The 2.55-mile track is set on natural hills that give the circuit more than 300 feet of elevation change per lap, with the steepest incline a 10% grade. (Interestingly, the facility was entirely financed by the collaboration of local car and motorcycle clubs.) Yes, it was the first Victory launch held at a racetrack.

Victory Isle of Man TT Zero Racer On A Dragstrip + Video

“We define the brand now as performance and American muscle,” said Alex Hultgren, Victory’s new director of marketing, at the launch. Hultgren came over to Victory following 14 years at Ford. The performance bent was supported by Victory’s participation in the Isle of Man TT last June, and that effort begat the TT portion of the Empulse’s name.

Josh Katt, the product manager of Victory’s electric business, realizes that selling a $20k electric motorcycle has many challenges. He told us Victory is looking for Tony Stark-type figures as rider candidates, Iron Man types representing a tech-savvy, status-driven, thrill-seeker who enjoys collecting interesting toys. Katt notes there are 25,000 charging stations in the USA, and some 336,000 electric vehicles have been sold in America over the past 7 or 8 years, indicating a maturing EV market and infrastructure.

Tony Stark, your motorcycle has arrived.

Tony Stark, your motorcycle has arrived.

Part of that maturation process is, I suppose, riding e-bikes on a racetrack, which was a first for me. The Empulse TT is unique in that it has a six-speed transmission instead of the single-ratio drive of practically every other EV. We’ve previously harped about the notchy action of the Italian-sourced IET gearbox and postulated that, for street use, it has three or four gears too many for the bottomless well of power produced from an electric motor. The gearbox also requires oil changes at 6k miles, which kinda goes against the low-maintenance appeal of EVs.

On the track, however, having to shift the transmission added to the engagement felt by a rider. Peak efficiency from the motor is delivered between 4500 and 6500 rpm, according to Jon Luschen, project engineer on the TT, and it was fun trying to keep an electric motor inside a specific rev range, although it’s a target unnecessary to hit precisely because the powerplant always has grunt to give.

The cush drive added to the TT has significantly damped the harsh driveline lash of the Brammo, making the Victory easier to ride smoothly.

The cush drive added to the TT has significantly damped the harsh driveline lash of the Brammo, making the Victory easier to ride smoothly.

And there’s enough power on tap to entertain even seasoned riders. Most of the track could be circulated in third gear, but an upshift to fifth was required to dig out a respectable 113 mph by the end of the track’s 2,800-foot straightaway. Initial power delivery is on the soft side, as the motor controller doesn’t transmit full power at the first twist of the twistgrip (it’s technically not a throttle). This level of response is close to ideal for street use, but experienced riders might desire a more aggressive map.

Sometimes the simplest things have major effects, and that’s the case with the switch from the Brammo’s 180/55-17 rear tire to the Victory’s 160/60 rear bun. What’s given up in terms of visual butchness is gained back in spades by dramatically more agile steering responses. The Empulse still weighs about 460 lbs, but it feels almost 70 lbs lighter just from the change in wheel/tire sizes. The only downside is that the rear hugger fender now looks overgrown for the skinnier tire.

Victory made a smart decision using a narrower rear wheel and tire, which reduces weight and takes handling from mildly reluctant to surprisingly quick.

Victory made a smart decision using a narrower rear wheel and tire, which reduces weight and takes handling from mildly reluctant to surprisingly quick.

The dual-disc front brakes are more than up to the task of slowing the Empulse, feeling really solid through braided lines and Brembo radial-mount 4-piston calipers. In fact, for street use, I’d be tempted to swap one of its 310mm rotors for a 330-mil disc and remove the second unit altogether. Doing so would drop several pounds from the front-wheel assembly and create an even nimbler sports roadster.

The twin-beam aluminum frame and stout 43mm inverted fork are beefy enough to put up with racetrack abuse, but the TT’s street intentions are put into focus when its footpegs are scraping around most of High Plain’s corners. Keep in mind that ground clearance issues on the street aren’t as prevalent, and it allows much greater lean angles than a Zero S or SR.

The Empulse TT’s upright riding position is better suited for the street than the track, but the thing was a gas – ha! – to ride at High Plains Raceway.

The Empulse TT’s upright riding position is better suited for the street than the track, but the thing was a gas – ha! – to ride at High Plains Raceway.

Victory says the Empulse’s instrumentation was updated, but it’s still basically the same set of gauges. Its large gear-position indicator is handy. However, it would’ve been nice to see the TT with some additional tuning options like the smartphone app on Zero Motorcycles that allow customizable torque output and levels of regenerative braking.

As with every electric vehicle ever made, the TT’s range is an issue. Victory claims up to 140 miles of range from its 10.4 kW/h lithium-ion battery pack, but that number would be impossible if ridden all at highway speeds. Two years ago, we ran an Empulse R (with its smaller, 9.3 kWh battery) “dry” in just 50 really, really hard miles. Running around on a racetrack is a worst-case scenario: the TT’s battery dropped from 87% to 39% after one long session (about 9 laps). Impressively, the Empulses were flogged all day on the track, and none had any issues with thermal cutback – an issue that afflicts Zero’s air-cooled motors used on a racetrack.

The Empulse TT is equipped with an onboard quick-charger (right) able to charge the battery from zero to 95% in 3.5 hours via a J1772 adaptor if it has a 240-volt power supply.

The Empulse TT is equipped with an onboard quick-charger (right) able to charge the battery from zero to 95% in 3.5 hours via a J1772 adaptor if it has a 240-volt power supply.

The Empulse TT marks a turning point in electric motorcycles, as one is finally being brought to market by a major OEM. If you recall, Brammos were once sold by Best Buy, the electronics store. Meanwhile, Harley is still figuring out what to do with its LiveWire. There are some faster e-bikes out there. However, all are significantly significantly more expensive than the Empulse, and most reside somewhere between proof-of-concept and attainability.

More significant than the current Empulse is what might lie ahead now that a well-capitalized company like Polaris/Victory and its engineering and design depth are behind its successor. We’ll bet it won’t have a six-speed transmission and will be called the Victory Charger.

+ Highs

  • LiveWire beater
  • Major OEM support
  • Refinement
– Sighs

  • Ducati levels of expensive
  • As with all EVs, range, range, range
  • Does my EV need a grabby clutch and six gears…?

2016 Victory Empulse TT Specifications
Engine Type Internal permanent magnet AC
Maximum power 54 hp (Claimed)
Maximum torque 61 lb-ft. (Claimed)
Max speed 100+ mph (Claimed)
Clutch Multi-plate hydraulic-activated wet clutch/td>
Final transmission O-ring sealed chain
Type Gearbox / Transmission 6-speed
Battery Brammo Power lithium-ion
Battery Capacity 10.4 kW-hr
Battery Voltage 103.6V/117.6V (max.)
Charge Time 2.0 hrs. (Level I: 20-80% SOC)
3.5 hrs. (Level II: 0-100% SOC)
8.0 hrs. (Level I: 0-100% SOC)
Front Suspension Adjustable 43mm inverted fork
Rear Suspension Adjustable direct-acting shock
Front Brakes Dual 310mm floating discs with four-piston radial-mount calipers from Brembo
Rear brakes Single disc with dual-piston hydraulic Brembo caliper
Dry weight 460 lb
Length 81.3”
Wheelbase 58.0”
Ground Clearance 7.3”
Rake/Trail 24°/3.8”
Seat height 31.5”
Front wheel 17” x 3.5”
Rear wheel 17” x 4.5”
Front tire Continental Sport Attack II 120-70ZR17, 58W
Rear Tire Continental Sport Attack II 160-60ZR17, 69W

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  • frankfan42

    Victory beat Harley in selling an electric motorcycle. They did it by buying Brammo and getting a head start, but they still did it.

    • schizuki

      I’m sure Harley will look at the Empulse’s sales figures and profit margin and weep copious tears.

      • frankfan42

        Maybe weep chrome plated tears !

  • Old MOron

    Interesting bike. Ergos look good. Performance specs are good enough for me.
    Then there’s the price and the range. Darn.

  • Erik

    Electric bikes should not have gears. Epic fail. It also needs a lot of polish on the design side (hideous charge port). Props for Polaris buying an electric bike company and putting it on sale quickly. But it looks like it went out too quickly, needs to back in the oven for a few months.

    • Bill Manewal

      Hey Erik – What part of 880Nm (650 ft-lbs) at the rear wheel in first gear on my Empulse R is an epic fail? 0 to 30 mph in 1.5 seconds is FUN, not fail! Just sayin’ you may want to test ride one before shoulding on it!

      • Kenneth

        What Erik (and Mr. Duke) suggest is that the 6-speed trans isn’t needed – or even desired – for an electric bike. This bike needs its own proprietary transmission, and I’m sure Victory is developing it. This bike’s range, too, in mixed hwy/city riding, is nothing to boast of.

        • Bill Manewal

          Agreed: range has little to do with the transmission. But acceleration off the line sure does, especially after changing out the rear sprocket to 42T from 38. Being a total torque freak, I loves me some holeshots! Heck, I’d even like a go on the Killcycle 0-60 in under a second. Oh yeah!


  • Bill Manewal

    Your article shows 66 ft-lbs of torque but the specs show 61. The Empulse has always had a cush drive; has Victory changed it in any way?

    • Kevin Duke

      Torque spec was my fault. Victory didn’t provide one a month ago at the launch, so I had plucked Brammo’s figure. It’s now updated. As for the cush drive, Victory engineers said it’s new.

      • roma258

        I’m sure it was hard to tell in a track setting, but did you notice any reduction in the chain lash that’s noticeable in the Brammo Empulses when rolling on from closed throttle?

        • Kevin Duke

          From a caption in this story: The cush drive added to the TT has significantly damped the harsh driveline lash of the Brammo, making the Victory easier to ride smoothly. :)

          • roma258

            D’oh! Wonder how easy it is to swap to the OG Brammo Empulse.

          • Bill Manewal

            Good question. For now, I just roll backward 6 inches at the light, and the lash is gone.

  • motorman72

    I have to admit I am really disappointed. I thought with the purchasing power of Polaris the price would be much lower. I do not understand having a gearbox as the race team doesn’t use one. It adds completely and cost. The approach that Zero has taken makes much more sense. And finally for $20k and still no faring? Really?

    • Uncommon Sense

      It is probably because the typical motorcyclist has a hard time wrapping their heads around not needing to shift gears. Look at all the fuss Honda gets about their DCT offerings. We won’t even get into all the guys that complain about ABS, traction control, etc. My guess is having the ability to shift was supposed to make the traditional biker more accepting. There is zero need for gears on an electric bike as you should have 100% torque available at all times from 0 RPM.

      Motorcycles use in the US is recreational with a heaping of compensating / showing off. This tends to reduce the need for being practical and stiffles innovation.

      • Kevin Duke

        A gearbox isn’t necessarily a bad idea for an EV, but I’d think the best compromise would be a simple high/low gear choice and the elimination of a clutch lever. The IET trans was an off-the-shelf item that Brammo employed because there were not not a lot of options.

    • Bill Manewal

      Actually the choice to include a tranny was based more on performance goals.

      Sure the race bike doesn’t need one: it has 150 HP and 400V and cost 10X as much. But for the street bike they wanted a smaller motor, 100V, performance off the line, AND sustainable 100 mph. The tranny allowed those goals. While it’s true it doesn’t need to be a 6-speed, designing and building a 2 or 3 speed would have been cost prohibitive; so they used a off-the-shelf solution, a very strong dirt bike transmission from Italy.

      What I love most about it: great for holeshots (every time without fail!), holds my bike at less than 20 mph down steep San Francisco hills, and no need for a clutch to stop and start in city traffic all day long. Also it’s kinda fun taking a 1000 cc sport bike off the line for about a half block!

      When I test drove the Zero, I told the sales rep: I expected the dash screen to say, “Please wait. Acceleration Program Loading…”

      And yes, a fairing would have been nice!

      • ‘Mike Smith

        You clearly didn’t ride the SR. It spins the wheel almost too easily.

        • Bill Manewal

          U R right Mike. I rode a 2012 back in that year, and am looking forward to another test ride on the improved model.

          • ‘Mike Smith

            I played around with a zx6r tonight. The guy was really impressed. We chatted for a moment afterwards.

            It won’t wheelie, but in a drag race, keeping the front down is a good thing. I’m sure a better rider would have taken me, but that guy couldn’t keep up.

          • Drake Wilson

            How could you possibly compare a 2012 Zero to a 2016 Anything when battery powertrain tech is developing this quickly?

          • Bill Manewal

            Stupidity, sir, sheer stupidity!

  • SRMark

    250 mile range and $12k. Then I will consider one. Looks like I will have to wait for…I’ll be dead by then. Enjoy the electric bike kiddies.

    • Campisi

      Which new gasoline bike hits those marks according to manufacturer specifications?

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        TWO KLR650s

      • SRMark

        Here are a few options. Some are used just in case you really want to go inexpensive but with a bit of style

        KLR650 50 mpg 6.1 gallons 305 mile range $6,599 new

        ST1100 40 mpg 7.0 gallons 280 mile range $4,000 used

        NC700x 70 mpg 3.7 gallons 259 mile range $7,499 new

        Vx800 50 mpg 5.2 gallons 260 mile range $2,500 used

        Buell S2 50 mpg 5.0 gallons 250 mile range $3,000 used

        CB300 71 mpg 3.4 gallons 241 CLOSE mile range $3,999 F model

        Ninja 300 68 mpg 4.5 gallons 306 mile range $5,299 ABS model

        BMW k75 50 mpg 5.2 gallons 260 mile range $3,500 used

        BMW f650GS 57 mpg 4.6 gallons 262.2 mile range $7,895 New

        • Campisi

          An inspiring list, that. Some of them even have fuel injection.

        • http://protomech.wordpress.com/ protomech

          The electrics are more variable than gas, but range is still somewhat variable depending on how you ride a gas bike.


          “At highway speeds of 65-75 mph, the KLR650 was averaging 33 mpg. When the speed was decreased to 50 mph consumption rolled back to 40 mpg.”

          Would give the KLR650 about 200 miles of highway range.

          Most of those numbers are pretty close given user reports on fuelly.com. Suzuki VX800 is closer to 40 mpg though, BMW K75 closer to 45 mpg.

          Similarly, if you’re not riding on the highway all the time then range will improve on the electrics. Realistic range on the Zero PT is probably between 90 and 120 miles, depending on how quickly you’re riding.

      • schizuki

        “Which new gasoline bike hits those marks according to manufacturer specifications?”

        Which electric motorcycles can recharge back to full range in five minutes?

    • Jonny Panic

      The Zero SR has 170 mile range for around 15K. We’re getting there, energy density seems to increase by about 10-15 percent per year.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    I think range is getting there. There are a lot of riders — especially casual hobby riders — who genuinely don’t ride more than 100 miles in a day. Commuters, too. But it’s my general feeling that the audience most likely to embrace electric doesn’t have the wallet to do so.

    I’ll be more interested to see what a Victory Charger looks like when that comes out. And if I win the lottery I’ll buy one.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      Agreed. This is a cool development. I’d certainly buy this bike with 100 mile range. That’s pretty far to commute. Price is pretty steep but a big OEM can afford a loss leader in order to build a market.

  • El Apestoso

    Rebadged Empulse, yawn. Also, permanent magnet AC induction doesn’t exist. It’s either permanent magnet, or induction, not both.

    • Kevin Duke

      Good eye! We just copied the specs provided by Victory. It’s a PMAC, not an AC induction.

    • DickRuble

      Go tell that to Victory “engineers”.

  • Uncommon Sense

    I like the performance of these bikes, but they just do nothing for me aesthetically. E bikes needs someone like Telsa to really step up the product offering and make the bikes sexy. E cars were never cool until Tesla came along with their sedan and showed you could make a nice electric car that didn’t look like a glorified golf cart.

    • K. Paul Cook

      Yep you nailed it. Give me sexy bike like the Telsa S and I’m there.

  • kawatwo

    Hey a sporty standard from Victory. Sweet. Is it too much to ask though for Victory to put an IC engine in this bike? Electric is cool and all but boy could we use more non-cruiser motorcycles with IC engines from North American manufacturers.

  • Reid

    I say put some derivative of the Pikes Peak v-twin in it.

  • Buzz

    I would think Victory would eventually switch to belt drive also.

    Who wants to hear a chain clanging away during (mostly) silent propulsion? I don’t think there will be anyone changing sprockets on this thing.

    • Bill Manewal

      Actually several of us over on brammoforum.com have done just that.

  • Jeff Moore

    As an (enthusiastic) owner of a 2013 Empulse R, this is awesome. The Empulse chassis is one of the best I’ve ever ridden, and I’m glad Polaris is taking the plunge and is now associating the Victory badge with something that is not a cruiser. If this means there might be some American-made gas-powered naked sportbikes coming soon, I might buy one of those as well.

    Also the 160 rear is a welcome addition — it’s already a common modification amongst those who choose to race or track their Empulses.

    My only criticism of the release of this bike: ABS! For the love of god, where is the ABS?

  • Daniel Chavez

    I believe this to be a step in the right direction but it seems counter intuitive to have an Electric mode of transportation which still uses….oil. I was under the impression that machines like this were being created so as to no longer require fossils. Great try. Hopefully the future brings with it a better bike which uses less natural resources.

    • schizuki

      All-electric bikes still use fossil fuel. Wind and solar will never be practical for large-scale electricity production, and the same folks who have a hard-on for electric vehicles tend to oppose hydro dams and nuke plants. That leaves coal and natural gas to reliably generate electricity.

      So, an all-electric bike still gets 65% of its electricity from fossil fuel.

      • Buzz

        It might be better to ask Chavez where he thinks all the stuff to produce the battery came from. Isn’t mining using “natural resources?”

        I guess in libtard world, batteries are made from unicorn tears.

  • Steve C

    I would love to have an E bike, but the price……….

  • Blue

    Super futuristic. Check it out in their video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO_9Q6jzCjo

  • Stuki

    Next up, the E-Chief. Which, to mimic it’s non-E stablemate, can get away with a Tesla size and weight (and price) battery pack, making it suitable for a cruise to Sturgis…..

  • K. Paul Cook

    It’s the future gentleman. Bought my Tesla stock after watching a video on how the Tesla S is manufactured just after I watched a video on how a Corvette is made. The Tesla Model S is hot seller in the Seattle market. Tesla 3 is on its way. The Zero SR has gotten good reviews. It is single speed and pretty good range. If Zero or Victory make a pretty sport bike like the Mugen TT race bike with a $15,000 price tag, 150 mile hard riding range, under 11 sec in the quarter mile and 0-60 in in 3 sec and then I’m selling the Ninja.

    • Buzz

      And the battery doubles as a backup for the electric shock therapy you’ve been receiving.

  • cold_surfer

    Rode one at daytona bike week 2016. it’s purely spiritual on a twisty section – no vibration or noise. Has a dreamlike sensation because I’m just so used to the gas engine. I loved it and was ready to buy – but 20K is crazy money for a bag-less sport-commuter. I did like the clutch and gears. many (newer riders, many young retired) people in line were happy about the 3rd gear (one size fits all), but I love the pull using gears. running up the chain, 2nd/3rd gears are a euphoric rush like similar to a 600 sport bike. 3 cheers for Victory. I want one badly.

    • c w

      No state incentives in your area? Fed if nothing else, no?

      If I was a dealer, I would be willing to help out a serious buyer with a bag solution.

  • brendadarley24

    Creative commentary . I was enlightened by the facts – Does anyone know if my assistant could possibly obtain a fillable MA DoR MVU-29 example to use ?

  • Andre Luk

    Greetings ! my assistant pulled a sample permit search version with this link “https://goo.gl/Slv9dC“.