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Brammo Enertia: Close, But No Cigar

Posted in Electric Vehicles, Motorcycle by Kurt Ernst | February 2nd, 2010 | 6 Responses |
Brammo Enertia

Brammo Enertia

I’ll come clean: I want to like electric vehicles, I really do. What’s not to like about a motor with a flat torque curve that starts at zero RPM? What’s not to like about stratospherically high redlines? What’s not to like about a vehicle with fewer moving parts that doesn’t require oil changes or coolant flushes?

Sadly, there are no electric cars in my price range, but electric bikes are another matter entirely. Take, for example the Brammo Enertia pictured above. With a list price of $7,995 and a 10% tax credit, I could own one for just under $7,200.00. Problem one is that I’d need to travel to either California or Oregon, where the Enertia is available from one of six specially authorized Best Buy stores. Not handy for a test ride when you live in Florida.

Problem two is the bike’s range and top speed. Current production models have an advertised range of 40+ miles for urban commuting, 30+ miles for suburban / rural commuting and only 20+ miles of open highway commuting before they require a four hour charge cycle. As with any electric vehicle, a lot of factors come into play when determining range. Electric vehicles generally favor stop and go traffic to achieve maximum mileage per charge; they don’t like elevation changes or sustained highway driving. Which turns out to be a good thing, since the advertised top speed is said to be around 60 miles per hour. That may be good enough for commutes on city streets and feeder roads, but it’s likely to make you a hood ornament in rush hour metropolitan highway driving.

To be fair, I haven’t ridden a Brammo Enertia, and their fit and finish appear to be top notch. I’m sure they make perfect sense for someone with a short, urban commute and no interest in weekend road trips; I just don’t know any people who fit that demographic.

2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

Kawasaki KLR 650

For a $7,200 investment, there are plenty of great commuter bikes that offer fuel economy in excess of 50 mpg. Take the Kawasaki KLR 650, for example; new, they can be purchased for under $5,000. That leaves you plenty of scratch to buy decent gear, with enough left over to ease your guilty, fossil-fuel-sucking conscience by donating heavily to the Sierra Club.

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6 Responses

  1. inthebuff says:

    20+ miles of open highway driving? And then a full 4 hour charge? Um…what’s the point?

  2. Kurt says:

    The point? You can be the first latte-swilling-urban-hipster in your transitional neighborhood to own one. Until it gets stolen, that is.

    If all you need it for is runs to Whole Market for wheat grass and acacia berry smoothies, it’ll do ya’ just fine.

  3. rob adams says:

    I know, right, kurt? Snobs… I’d much rather get 8 mpg in my mustang and drive it 45 miles away to buy a big mac.

    Studies show that the range of said motorcycle would suffice for 90% OF AMERICAS WORKFORCE COMMUTE.

    How many people do you know that commute more than 30 miles to work?

  4. Kurt says:

    Rob, you’ve got to remember that 30 miles round trip is only a 15 mile drive to the office. How many people do I know that commute more than that? Virtually everyone I know in the NYC area, for starters.

    My last commute up there was was 110 miles a day. My wife’s was 58 miles a day. Most of those were highway miles, so the Enertia wouldn’t have even gotten us close.

    Studies usually show what the sponsor wants them to show. I’m not buying that 90% of Americans could commute on an electric motorcycle that has a range of 20 miles on the highway.

  5. protomech says:

    The Enertia is close. Really close. Brammo is opening new dealerships, too; I looked a year ago, and I’d have to drive to Florida to test-ride one (I’m in Northern AL). Looked again recently, and there’s a dealer a couple hundred miles away in TN. Shot them an email wanting to schedule a test ride, and they shot one back saying there was a dealer coming to Huntsville AL real soon so I might wait. So the distribution and servicing issue may be less of one shortly.

    Regarding the range – another 2kwh of batteries would double the range, and add another $1-2k to the manufacturing cost, about 40kg, and more power. I hope they introduce a double-stack model shortly, since they dropped the price from $12k to $8k recently there’s some room above the $8k model now.

    Even with a double-stack of batteries, the range is going to be short. 80 miles urban / 60 miles suburban / 40 miles high-speed would be plenty for my 24 mile suburban commute; hell, the existing enertia would be pretty close for that, easily if I could charge at work. But even the double-stack would be useless for trips or the weekend rides we take, which would mean it would be a second motorcycle at best.

    To be a complete replacement for a gas motorcycle for me, it would need 200 mile range at highway speeds – so about an order of magnitude more energy.

  6. Kurt says:

    Protomech, I completely agree with your last comment. To be attractive to me, it would need a range of at least 200 miles at highway speed (say, 75 MPH). If I were looking to buy a bike just for commuting, there are too many good gas powered alternatives, all in lower price points.

    Know what I’d REALLY like to see? A diesel powered KLR650, like the USMC gets, at a sub $15k price point. You’d get the best of all worlds – decent performance with incredible mpg.