2012 Brammo Empulse and Empulse R First Look - Motorcycle.com

Pete Brissette
by Pete Brissette

With fanfare akin to a movie premiere, Brammo finally took the wraps off its long awaited production-level Empulse and Empulse R models this past Tuesday, May 8, in Hollywood, Calif.

The unveiling of the Empulse happened just a couple months shy of two years from when the company initially announced the sportbike-like electric motorcycle. The hundreds in attendance Tuesday evening were able to see for the first time the electric motorcycle that Brammo says is capable of reaching 100 mph and has a potential range of more than 100 miles.

The much-anticipated 2012 Empulse R from Brammo made its public debut at a trendy nightspot in Hollywood, California. Note the carbon fiber fenders and headlight shroud, which are available only on the R model.

The Empulse is something of known quantity in terms of Brammo’s claims about the bike’s performance, its look, and final specs released just weeks ago. The news at the unveiling event was pricing and production plans.

The Empulse will retail for $16,995, while the Empulse R with its with carbon fiber fenders, headlight shroud and tail-light housing, and up-spec (fully adjustable) Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock, will sell for $18,995. The standard Empulse has seen a $3000 increase from when the Empulse 10.0 was announced two years ago.

Brammo Founder and CEO Craig Bramscher introduced the Empulse models to a crowd of hundreds.

“We think this [Empulse] is a tipping point for the company,” Brammo Founder and CEO Craig Bramscher told Motorcycle.com when we asked him what the realization of the Empulse means to the company. “We’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do. We kind of pushed it a little further, and in doing so the feedback we’re getting is amazing.”

And push they did. Bramscher explained that when the Empulse project first developed, the company expected to see the bike launch in 2014 or 2015.

Now having laid our peepers on the Empulse, we have to say we’re impressed with build quality, styling and the bike overall – that is to say impressed as much as is possible without having ridden it. Although the new Empulse at first glance looks identical to the prototype revealed in 2010, the 2012 bike has a narrower tail section. Additionally, the radiator has migrated from the lower headstock area to bottom front of the battery pack, just behind the front wheel.

The Empulse now has a narrower, more refined tail section than the first iteration of the bike announced in 2010.

During the event Bramscher said the R model would enter production first with limited availability in June 2012 and in volume by the third quarter of 2012. The Empulse will be available in the first quarter of 2013.

To help ease sticker shock and woo buyers, Brammo has arranged consumer financing with Sheffield Financial.

Terms for the Empulse are 8.9% for 72 months at $303, 6.9% for 60 months at $334 and 3.9% for 36 months at $499. Financing payments for the R are slightly higher: 8.9% for 72 months at $339, 6.9% financing for 60 months at $373 and 3.9% for 36 months at $558.

In addition to the 100 mph/100-mile range achievements, the Empulse also boasts the first clutch and transmission on a production-level electric motorcycle. Bramscher explained that having a gearbox – a six-speed in the Empulses – not only allows riders the benefit of familiarity, it also improves the electric motor’s performance by keeping the motor spinning in an optimal rpm range.

Brammo has never been shy about hiring the honeys to help promote the brand.

Brammo says the transmission also allows for stronger acceleration than a single-ratio direct-drive system can offer. The Integrated Electric Transmission (IET) also creates an engine-braking effect when decelerating. Another first for the Empulse is liquid cooling for its AC synchronous motor.

The standard Empulse lacks the R model’s carbon bits and its suspension isn’t fully adjustable, but otherwise the two models are the same at the core.

When Brammo first announced the Empulse in July 2010 it initially had three models in the chute: the Empulse 6.0, with a 6.0-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery, the Empulse 8.0 with 8.0-kWh battery, and the Empulse 10.0 with a 10-kWh battery. However, Brammo dropped the smaller-capacity battery models. Consumer feedback revealed to Brammo that riders wanted most the range and speed the 10 kilowatt-hour battery provides. It was also consumer feedback that led to the transmission.

Brammo’s proprietary and updated BPM 15/90 lithium-ion battery in the new Empluse and Empulse R has a 10.2 kWh (max) capacity. The battery can charge with either 120V Level I (like the outlets in your house) or 240V Level II J1772 charge stations.

The Empulse comes with a J1772 charging port – yet another first for an electric motorcycle. This is the same type of port that electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt use. Brammo says the battery will charge in 8 hours using the Level I, while the Level II can fully charge the battery in 3.5 hours. The battery also gets charged through regenerative braking.

In light of the Empulses’ comparatively high MSRPs (the Zero S with its optional 9.0-kWh battery and purported 100-mile range retails for $14,000) it’s not hard to imagine that many consumers will still have a hard time convincing themselves to spend that kind of coin – especially when a motorcycle like Ducati’s tech-laden, 195bhp 1199 Panigale retails for $17,995.

But Bramscher told Motorcycle.com he’s convinced consumers exist for an e-bike like the Empulse, and says Brammo will work to educate people about the long-term cost-savings benefits from a vehicle that costs only pennies a day to operate.

Asked about Brammo’s not-too-distant future product plans, Bramscher said he expects the company will have a product for every segment, save for the touring market. The sheer weight and size of most touring motorcycles is one hurdle to overcome, but the other obvious issue is the long-distance mileage most touring riders enjoy. Technology to allow an electric motorcycle to run 200 miles at a stretch is likely years away.

On Brammo’s racing front we’re happy to report Brammo racer and 2011 TTXGP North American Champion Steve Atlas was in attendance and recovering well from a nasty crash he suffered during practice for the first round of the 2012 TTXGP series held last weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

We’ll know more about the Empulse’s true performance once we get our hands on a test unit, but until then everything about the 100 mph-electric motorcycle looks promising.

Atlas said he expects to compete again this year. And Bramscher said that plans remain on track for the Empulse TTX race bike program that allows racers a turnkey setup to compete in the 2013 TTXGP series.

Coming To TownBrammo likely chose to unveil the Empulse in Tinsel Town in order to impress and create the perception the new e-bike was making a glamorous debut. But it wasn’t lost on me that Hollywood is the place where so many legitimately talented acts come, as Brammo did, to make the proverbial big time.

The many travel opps afforded me by this global business of motorcycles often give me the chance to sniff out local colors and flavors. And music is always a great tie-in to motorcycling. One of those talented acts in town the same night as Brammo was The In From Out of Towners.

Performing just a couple blocks from where the Empulse unveiling took place, the dynamically folksy/bluesy duo of Mitch Grainger and Rosa Pullman, aka The In From Out of Towners, charged up patrons of the Piano Bar as Grainger’s salty blues harmonica and Pullman’s super soulful, ivories-accompanied singing, spilled on to the street.

The pair has been together as iFOOT – as fans like to refer to them – for less than a year, but between them they share decades of music playing. Of the interesting band name, some quick background gives meaning: Grainger is a native of Sydney, while Pullman is from New York, both from out of town now living in L.A.

Grainger, 37, was discovered at age 16 by AC/DC co-founder Malcom Young, has one album (Love & Demons) to his credit, numerous performances in the U.S., Japan and Europe and a forthcoming solo album. Grainger, an accomplished guitarist, counts blues greats such as Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter Jacobs, and Eric Clapton among those that initially inspired his music.

Pullman began playing piano as a child and hales from musically inclined parents that, as she says, gave her a love for the blues as well as bluegrass sounds, which manifest in her work on the acoustic guitar. In 2011 Pullman released a limited-edition EP (Dusty Road) that includes her song work prior to co-forming The In From Out of Towners; Grainger performed on many of the EP’s recordings and co-wrote as well.

Grainger and Pullman are notably cohesive, both musically and lyrically. The fluidity with which they play their Roots-style rhythms belies the band’s short incubation period but speaks to their years of combined experience.

The In From Out of Towners’ music is an amalgam of similarly styled music, with Grainger’s harmonica presence at times reminiscent of Neil Young’s work on Harvest Moon and Pullman’s soothing-yet-endearingly-raspy-at-times vocal style clearly carrying hints of folk, the blues, country ballad and bluegrass. But they cover this breadth of styles well: bluesy for sure but also a little bit country, and little bit rock-and-roll, too.

-- Pete Brissette

The In From Out of Towners currently hold down Sunday nights at the Piano Bar in Hollywood.

Take a listen for yourself:
iFoot on FaceBook

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All Things Electric Motorcycles on Motorcycle.com

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