Brammo teases Empulse electric motorcycle details ahead of May 8 unveiling
In July 2010, electric motorcycle maker Brammo enticed us with the unveiling of the Empulse, a high end electric motorcycle that was supposed to go on sale during 2011. In 2011, however, Brammo decided to change the design, delaying introduction until 2012. It's now 2012 and Brammo has announced the official unveiling of the Empulse would take place in Los Angeles on May 8, and in the meantime have posted a video talking about the motorcycle and its amazing heritage. Curiously, Brammo is expected to be racing in the TTXGP on May 4-6 near San Francisco and one wonders what this means about Brammo's participation in that race.
While at the moment the Brammo website still shows spec's dating back to the 2010 initial announcement, up-to-date specs are to be revealed next week on April 18 giving us "every opportunity to become familiar with the Empulse before seeing it for the first time on May 8th". Let's start with those original specs.
The Empulse is a street/race style electric motorcycle and in 2010 Brammo promised a 100+ miles/hr top speed, and a range of 60 miles ($9,9995), 80 miles ($11,995) or 100 miles ($13995). The three range estimates were due to selling the bike in three battery pack sizes, 6, 8 or 10 kilowatt-hours. The 2010 design used an AC Synchronous electric motor rated at 40 kilowatts, with a water cooling system. At that time Brammo had been using Valence LiFePO4 batteries in the Enertia, but promised the Empulse would use a custom designed lithium battery chemistry with higher energy density and higher performance. The Enertia+ also uses this new battery chemistry, enabling an 80 mile range on that bike while the original Enertia had only a 42 mile range.
The design change that led to the delay, was to incorporate a 6 speed transmission licensed from SMRE Engineering. That Italian engineering company developed the IET, or Integrated Electric Transmission. SMRE describes that transmission as "an extremely compact, high performance mechatronic propulsion unit that emulates the feeling and performance of a traditional internal combustion engine, with a specially developed electric motor, clutch and gear shift, and software that enables electric vehicles to accelerate hard from the line up to a high top speed, something that is just not possible to achieve with a single-ratio electric motorcycle."
Electric motorcycles differ from gasoline powered bikes in one specific way: engine braking. Gas powered motorcycles have a manual transmission, and just as drivers of manual transmission cars often use the engine to slow the car, so too do motorcycle riders. Slowing down is often just a matter of rolling back on the throttle, with more rapid deceleration requiring the mechanical brakes. Electric motorcycles tend to not even have a transmission, and unless the bike has regenerative braking in its design rolling back on the throttle just lets the bike coast. This means electric motorcycle riders operate their bikes a little differently than they do a gas bike, instead of relying on engine braking they're hitting the mechanical brake more often.
In some corners Brammo's plan to incorporate the IET 6-speed transmission is controversial. Electric vehicles generally do not require transmissions in the first place, unlike gasoline powered vehicles. This is because electric motors have a much wider usable power band than do gasoline engines, allowing electric vehicles to reach high speeds without requiring a transmission. A transmission can help an electric vehicle stay in its optimum efficiency and make better use of the power, but is a 6 speed transmission necessary? Two or three gear ratios should be sufficient, and 6 gear ratios may be excessive.
What we see in the video below is Brammo's telling of the company history that led to the Empulse.
The company raced an early prototype, then called the Enertia TTR, on the Isle of Man in 2009 at the inaugural TTXGP race, and the video shows many scenes from that race. In 2010 the Empulse prototype bike was to have been raced in the e-Power electric motorcycle race at Laguna Seca in July, but a snafu (Brian Wisman was heard to say "I broke it") converted the bike into a pretty, but inert, statue in the Brammo booth during the race. In 2011, Brammo returned to the track and raced throughout the 2011 TTXGP North American season, and again this is mentioned in the video with many scenes coming from those races.