After becoming the first media outlet to ride the Brammo Empulse R, Hell For Leather has announced that the electric motorcycle has finally arrived. The enthusiast website has, in the past, had its way with other battery-powered bikes, but they either were not yet available for sale or, if they were, they failed to impress. Not so with the Empulse.

Comparing it to the Triumph Street Triple that Brammo used as a benchmark for its naked streetfighter, HFL concluded that the Empulse is actually a better machine. With half the horsepower, slightly less torque and more weight, it's not quicker, faster nor does it offer better range than the gasser. By better they mean that it offers a more pure riding experience. Considering the source, that is high praise, indeed.

Over two days of cruising around Ashland, OR, the Empulse impressed the journalist with its superior handling. Similar to the Mission R, the optimal packaging of batteries and mechanicals of the Empulse make it quite flickable and, with help from top-shelf suspension components, super solid in the turns.

Unlike the Mission Motors machine – and most electric motorcycles – the Empulse has a 6-speed transmission and that was just fine by the HFL jockey. Although he found the clutch somewhat heavy and the shift movement a tad clunky, it did involve the rider in a rewarding way.

Of course, we can't communicate everything about this first ride in quite the way the actual participants did, so head on over and read for yourself how eyes are being opened to the potential of the electric drive experience.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      Spec
      • 1 Month Ago
      6 speed transmission? Is that just there to give the enthusiast some thing to do? I can see a transmission being somewhat useful but a 6-speed one?
        Spiffster
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Spec
        AND, if you dont want to deal with the transmission, you dont have to with the Empulse... just throw it in your preferred gear and forget about the clutch and shift lever indefinitely. No stalls and engine lugging that would happen with an ICE bike.
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Spec
        It is for both the enthusiast AND to increase efficiency. Since peak efficiency and peak power are both at the 7000 RPMs on the Empulse, having it at 7000 rpms as much as possible adds to range and speed. could they have a 4 speed or 5 speed shifty? sure. But... for the enthusiast, they are used to 6 speeds. and if you want to smoke the tire and also go 100 mph, well that is hard and expensive to do with a single speed. easier (not easy, but easier :) ) and tons cheaper with a shifty to have that low speed power and top end speed. It does add complexity and cost over a single speed. But adds those things motorcycle people often want...
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Spec
        BTW, in the ebike world, mid-drive systems ( where you can use the bicycle's gearing ) are starting to take off in popularity compared to direct drive. Direct drive has always won due to it's simplicity, but it's big and heavy. mid-drive systems have been winning hill climb competitions for a while.
        PR
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Spec
        To add on to what Gavin said, all that is true. Plus a clutch gives you the ability to do wheelies, and you might want to have the choice of a couple of gears for that. There is also a very good technical reason why to choose a 6-speed over something like the 2-speed that Tesla tried. When you shift gears, what you are doing is forcing everything in front of the clutch to now turn at the same speed as everything behind the clutch. Just like in a gas engine, that means the RPM's of the electric motor now need to match the new gear ratio. The instant that the clutch re-engages, there is a moment of inertia where the force of the RPM's being matched is passed through the entire drivetrain. The larger the difference between gear ratios, the larger the moment of inertia. This force has to be dissipated somewhere. With a narrow difference between gear ratios, this force can be spread around to the motor mounts, the transmission mounts, some clutch slip, and the RPM's of the motor dropping (or rising). With this narrow gear ratio difference, everything happens relatively smoothly. But if you try to change too much of a gear ratio in one shift, there is too much force to spread around. The motor won't change RPM fast enough, so something else has to give. In the Tesla, it was the motor/transmission mounts that gave out. If you are in a RWD gas car doing 60 and you throw your stick into 2nd gear and dump the clutch, it will be rear wheel traction that gives, and you will lock up the rear tires. None of this is good when you are on a motorcycle. You want nice smooth shifts, and no big disruptions in the drivetrain. Especially when you are leaning off the bike around a corner..... On the Brammo Empulse, that translates into 4th gear being around the same as their city bike's fixed gear that is good to about 60-65 MPH. Then they have 2 gears above that in order to get to the top reported speed of 105 MPH. And 3 gears below that for better low-speed acceleration. They might have been able to get away with a 5 or 4 speed. But they also are using this exact same drivetrain for an offroad motorcycle, where they will need more gears to pull steeper grades. Having more gears means more options to match uphill power needed to speed desired. Brammo also has partnered with Polaris, and is teasing putting this same drivetrain into a 4-wheeler, where more gears will help for towing/dragging, and heavy loads, and uphill/downhill, etc. Another use of multiple gears is using the gear selection to adjust regenerative braking the same way that choosing a lower gear in a truck gives more compression braking. Although I'm not sure if this will work that way on the Empulse. ---------- Crap, now Marco Polo is going to accuse me of being a drivetrain engineer for Italian company S.M.R.E.!!! I've got too damn many jobs!
          PR
          • 1 Month Ago
          @PR
          BipDBo, I think you answered you own question about the forces when shifting when you described how the automatic transmission works: "It simply kills torque, disengages, matches rpm to new ratio, re-engages, and then reapplies torque. " While an electric motor certainly does spin freely when there is no power being applied to the motor, they actually provide MORE torque resistance to the driveshaft when still powered than a gas engine. When you are up-shifting manually using the clutch, there is nothing cutting torque to the motor, especially when you are speed shifting. So everything I said instantly comes back into play. The other variable that we simply don't know yet is the weight of the flywheel. The flywheel effect will also come into play. I'm actually more afraid that hard shifts will cause accidental wheelies, compared to being worried that popping the clutch won't work to pull a wheelie. The torque band is amazingly flat, where on a motorcycle it drops off significantly with lower rpm. I'm expecting to get more torque when I'm not expecting it compared to a gasser. The throttle "mapping" software is a big variable that is yet unknown too.
          BipDBo
          • 1 Month Ago
          @PR
          @PR "When you are up-shifting manually using the clutch, there is nothing cutting torque to the motor, especially when you are speed shifting. So everything I said instantly comes back into play." The device that cuts the torque when shifting is called the throttle. If you've got a high torque engine and you're trying to shift without letting off of the throttle, your broken gears or loss of control is your own fault. When I was a teenager, I drove a 1985 Dodge Daytona trubo Z. Every now and then I would stop light race someone and use this full throttle "speed shifting" technique. One day, doing this, I completely stripped the splines on the axle where it connected to the transmission housing at the differential. If one can bust parts a car boasting a whopping 142 hp, one can do it on pretty much anything.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Month Ago
          @PR
          @PR, Ah, I understand,..you mean you are a 'jack of all trades', but 'master of none' ! (irresistible ;)
          PR
          • 1 Month Ago
          @PR
          Marco, You could say that, but it would only apply to all the imaginary jobs that you and your buddies dream about me having. Keep dreaming that you actually know anything about my life, jackass.
          BipDBo
          • 1 Month Ago
          @PR
          All well and good, but the electric motor carries significantly less rtational kinetic energy than an ice engine. It operates at a lower rpm and has a much lower rotational mass. Therefore, clutch dumping and shifting between wide ratio gaps will be much less dramatic. I wouldn't expect to lift the front tire very easily by dumping the clutch. The electric motor has much closer to a flat power curve, so there's much less performance benefit to shifting. I'd say that having some ratios is probably an advantage over fixed gear, but 6 speeds is probably excessive. One cool thing about electric motors is that a computer can very closely control rpm and torque output. "Zeroshift" and "Oerlikon Graziano" have each developed EV transmissions that shift gears nearly instantaneously without even using a clutch. It simply kills torque, disengages, matches rpm to new ratio, re-engages, and then reapplies torque. The entire package is much lighter and simpler. These companies seem to think that 3 or 4 speeds is optimal for EVs. Unfortunately, I think that Zeroshift is going through bankruptcy. The design concept seems solid, nonetheless, so I expect to see this kind of transmission in EVs of all kinds in the future. http://www.eurotuner.com/news/eurp_1008_zeroshift_clutchless_speed_transmission/ http://ev.sae.org/article/10669
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Spec
        Lol spec.. What you need a multi speed transmission for is hills and offroad situations. Gears work as a torque multiplier / divider on an electric motor just as well as they do on an internal combustion engine. This means that you can use a smaller motor to get an equivalent hill climbing power as a bigger motor. That can cut the cost of the batteries ( you can use lower output / higher capacity types of batteries ), ends up reducing the size of the motor ( this cuts costs too - neodymium ain't cheap ), and well... it's just cool to shift an electric drive system! To get the same hill climbing power as a transmission that's shifted to a 2:1 gear ratio, you need double the motor, a bigger controller, and batteries that can put out more power. We will see transmissions in electric drive systems eventually. Single speed / direct drive is easier and works pretty well, but you can definitely cut costs and increase efficiency with a transmission.
      Spiffster
      • 1 Month Ago
      A great read... Now we just need to get them into customer (my) hands, which I imagine will be happening soon! :-)
      jsco
      • 1 Month Ago
      i think by "has arrived" they mean "is still vaporware." the only customer-facing things brammo has done in the past year are raising prices and pushing back delivery dates.
        Spiffster
        • 1 Month Ago
        @jsco
        By "has arrived" they mean currently in production. How is the Empulse vaporware? We're looking at a full review of a production version Empulse... In the past year they have added a 6-speed, passenger seat, J1772 level 1 & 2 charging, and a more realistic MSRP.
          jsco
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Spiffster
          ok. but can you buy one? no. can you buy an enertia plus? no. can you buy ANY brammo motorcycle? i think they have a few green enertias left in stock. i preordered an enertia plus 18 months ago back when they were going to be $9k and ship in fall 2011. now it's fall 2012, the price is up to $11k, and they haven't even started calling in preorder deposits yet. my comment stands.
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