As the world turns, dominus vobiscum, it seems we have made quite a bit of progress on the electric bike front over the last ten years, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. Of this trio, only one of which is still standing, the longest range was but 40 miles and the toppest speed only 67 mph. Now, the latest Zero can do way better than that, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is in play (I don’t think anybody saw that coming ten years ago), Tesla became the most valuable US automaker ever last January – and who knows what Polaris has in store for Brammo, which it acquired in 2015? Herein, the dearly departed 2010 MO crew tries to get a grip on current affairs.
The history book (or Wikipedia page, if that’s your thing) on electric motorcycles is rather slim, especially compared to its internal combustion counterparts, but what you’ll find is a myriad of ideas and concepts. Such is the beauty of a technology in its infancy. The section on electric racing motorcycles is even thinner. If you discount the inaugural MotoE championship running alongside MotoGP this year, the biggest stage for electric racing motorcycles has been the Isle of Man TT Zero race, wherein each entry tries to complete one full lap around the 37-mile course as fast as possible. Well, it was until the event was put on hold for at least two years. The machines you would have found at the TT Zero are full of ideas and concepts to win the race, but the one constant is the fact the batteries dominate the vehicle’s overall design. It’s understandable, considering you need a lot of battery to travel nearly 40 miles at 150-plus miles per hour.
Over in the car world, the Formula E series has gained massive interest from manufacturers. The all-electric racing series is the pinnacle of electric sport on four wheels, and while the early days of the sport were laughable – the cars were slow and there was a mandatory car switch at mid race for range purposes (the next generation Formula E cars are reported to be able to last a whole 50-minute race) – there’s no avoiding the fact that almost every major car maker is embracing electric propulsion as part of their model range, whether its standalone electric cars, or as part of a hybrid system. And just as it’s been true about internal combustion engines, there’s no better way to improve the electric breed than by going racing.
Here at MO, we like to shake things up every now and then with our motorcycle reviews. You know – think outside the box, not get complacent, keep things fresh, etc. It inspires our creative juices, plus it just makes for a fun motorcycle ride. On occasion, the usual method for a single-bike evaluation can be a bit predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a nice romp in the hills on a fast motorcycle, but we’re often asking ourselves, “What can we do that’s different?” This time, I think we have an answer.
Maturity. For me, I look back at the point I became a mature human as the time in my life when my voice deepened, I was hungry all the time, and I was incredibly awkward talking to girls (some things never change). I’m guessing it was an awkward time for many of us, but the term “maturity” is also one I hear a lot when it comes to electric vehicles. As I noted in my long(ish)-term review of the Zero SR, my wife and I had contemplated an electric car for our daily transportation.
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.
I have heard the future. And if you listen closely to the video snippet below, you will as well. It’s the whining sound barely discernable under the commentary on the loudspeaker and the beating rotors of the helicopter. That is John McGuinness rounding the corner at Creg-ny-Baa on his way to winning today’s Isle of Man TT Zero race, at a new lap record of over 119 mph. The snippet following that is of Lee Johnston on the Victory electric prototype. Johnston claimed third place at 111.620 mph, a stellar accomplishment for the American brand that is pressing forward into segments and markets virtually unthinkable just a few months ago. Johnston had been running increasingly faster laps throughout practice as he became more familiar with the bike, and he rode his fastest lap when it mattered most.
After the January announcement that Polaris had “ acquired the electronic motorcycle business of Brammo Inc.” many, including us, wondered what the future held for both companies. Polaris has dropped the first clue with its announcement today that Victory will be racing two electric prototypes at the Isle of Man TT Zero race later this year.
Looking at the current state of American motorcycle road racing and how bleak it has become, it’s remarkable to think, just over a decade ago, our national series was widely regarded as the best in the world. Riders like Mladin, Duhamel, Gobert, Bayliss, Hayden, Spies and many others carved out a name for themselves here, piloting ferocious superbikes better than, arguably, anyone else in the world.
Brammo is in a unique position, being a small company in the ever-advancing electric motorcycle world. It has the ability to adapt quickly to change. Case in point? The 2014 Brammo Empulse R. We’ve ridden the mighty Brammo a few times over the past 18 months, and while the bike you see in these pictures might appear identical to the ones we’ve ridden before, a peek under its skin will reveal several updates.