Brammo is no stranger to electric motorcycles, having made their commercial debut with the Brammo Enertia. Try though I might, I just didn’t understand who would actually buy an Enertia: at a list price of $7,995, it was more expensive than a lot of fuel efficient, entry level gasoline motorcycles. Worse, it had a real world, open throttle range of just 20 miles. Sure, the manufacturer claimed you could go 40 miles on a charge, but that assumed you’d be dicing light to light in rush hour traffic, which is hardly the best environment for motorcycling fun. A bike with no carrying capacity and a range shorter than most of the commutes I’ve ever had just has no place in my garage.
Enter the Brammo Empulse, a new model under development for release in 2011. With more conventional looks, better range and a whole lot more power, suddenly an electric bike is looking like a viable option. The Empulse features a water cooled electric motor that puts out 51 horsepower and 59 foot pounds of torque (at zero RPM, thanks very much), which should be sufficient to give the 390 pound bike reasonable acceleration. Hell For Leather puts it just behind the Suzuki SV650 for horsepower, but just ahead of the SV for torque: in other words, the Brammo Empulse is an electric version of one of my favorite bikes.
Three models are planned: the entry level 6.0 has battery power for a 60 mile average range and a price of $9,995; the mid level 8.0 has an 80 mile average range and a price of $11,995 and the range topping 10.0 has an estimated 100 mile range with a price tag of $13,995. That kind of coin buys you a lot of other two wheeled options, all of which are faster and potentially better handling than the Empulse. None of your other options, however, are battery powered, and none will net you federal and state tax incentives for buying an EV. If you live it the right area, buying a Empulse 10.0 won’t set you back much more than a new SV650, making it a truly viable commuter bike option.
The Empulse still isn’t the perfect electric motorcycle. Batteries take overnight to charge at 110 volts, limiting the bikes ability to go on longer trips. No one knows if the claimed ranges will be achieved, and I haven’t seem anything written about projected battery life. Still, I met the Enertia with a yawn and I’m reading about the Empulse with genuine interest, which is big progress for me. I can’t wait for an opportunity to throw my leg over one and give it a proper evaluation.