Brammo Empulse R: £15,350 | 54bhp@4500rpm | 66lb-ft | Liquid-cooled electric motor
Tested by: John Milbank Photos: Joe Dick
If you have an irrational hatred of electric vehicles, you’d best stop reading, because this might upset you: Electric bikes are here to stay, and they’re getting more fun with every new machine. Currently the world’s fastest production electric bike, with a claimed top speed of 110mph, the Brammo Empulse R draws on the technology developed for the Brammo race bike, which has seen a podium finish in the electric class at the Isle of Man TT
The Brammo uses a water-cooled permanent magnet AC motor, developing 54bhp at 4500rpm. Unusually for electric motorcycles, the Empulse has a six-speed gearbox. Besides allowing the motor to deliver a more efficient performance at all speeds, it also gives the ability to use a smaller, and cheaper motor. The coolant and gearbox oil are the only fluids in the bike, and while the ‘box takes a little longer to warm up than on a ‘normal’ machine (there’s no combustion to warm the transmission oil) this is fairly normal system, though neutral is between 2nd and 3rd (you don’t really need 1st). There’s no need to pull the clutch in before pulling away, and like most bikes, it’s only really needed for downshifts, with clutchless upshifts easy if you just wind off the power for a fraction of a second.
Power is supplied by seven battery ‘modules’ to deliver a total of 104V and 9.3kWh. Each module contains 36 Lithium-ion nickel-cobalt manganese cells. Each of these packs contains its own temperature sensor, plus an over- and under-charge circuit. The cases are aluminium, acting as heatsinks, and offering protection in the event of a crash – it certainly seems no more dangerous than sitting with 16 litres of highly explosive fluid between your legs.
The Brammo Empulse R has an E-beam aluminium frame built by Accossato in Italy (a manufacturer of small-capacity off-road machines in the 70s and 80s, and now offering a range of engineering and welding services), along with a tubular steel sub-frame and swing arm. The bike’s carried on fully adjustable 43mm Marzocchi forks, and an equally tweakable Sachs monoshock.
Four-pot Brembo calipers bite on a pair of 310mm front discs, with a dual-piston Brembo unit on a single rear disk.
The 213kg of weight is carried well, making for a compact and nimble bike. The electronic dash has a large analogue rev-counter, with a digital display showing speed; gear position; energy consumption; battery status; estimated range and system status.
With a claimed city range of 128 miles (the increased braking in town helps regenerate power); 58 miles on the open road and 80 miles combined, a fair proportion of the cost of the bike could be recouped in fuel savings. The Empulse R has a built-in 3kW charger, so the machine can be easily charged from any household socket with the included cable. A full charge will take about four hours, which would cost £1.36 according to my electricity bill. With a gallon of fuel costing £5.99, at a range of 80 miles that works out at about the equivalent cost of bike delivering 352mpg.
The built in charger makes the Brammo very versatile and easy to charge anywhere, but it does mean that you can’t speed up the process with a higher powered 7kW public charging point: worth keeping in mind if you have to pay by the hour when using one.
Servicing costs should be low, with very little on the bike to maintain besides the transmission oil (which needs replacing every 3000 miles or 6 months), and motor coolant (18,000 miles or 3 years). The bike comes with a two-year warranty, but with five years/50,000 miles on the battery. While a 10-30% loss of capacity is to be expected within this period, it’s still a reassuring addition, and by the time it expires, battery technology is almost certain to have developed, with an associated drop in cost. To get the best out of your battery, the owner’s manual recommends giving a complete charge and discharge cycle every three months, and leaving the charger connected overnight as much as possible to balance the cells (a process that should use little energy, but only starts after the battery is 99% charged).
The UK importers – goingreen.co.uk – say that riding days and test rides are easily available, with the company even offering to bring the machine to you to try if you’re interested.
So what’s it like to ride?
Testing the bike at the Dunsfold ‘Top Gear’ test track, I’ve never felt so confident on a motorcycle in such a short time. The incredibly smooth throttle makes it easy to wind on the power, and within three corners I had my knee down.
The riding position is perfect for commuting: easy to flick about but still very comfortable, with a relaxed position to the pegs. If you push the bike harder, the rear brake lever can touch down (according to my Pirelli Diablo Super Biker app, it was at 43.3° of lean), but it tucks away easily, and the bike is a long way from being upset.
The straights weren’t particularly long on the test-track, so I was unable to get to the claimed 110mph. My smartphone app recorded a maximum of 89.9mph, and while I could easily have gone well past this on a 600cc sportsbike, up to normal road speeds the Brammo will be more than happy dicing with petrol-powered bikes and cars.
The only difference I found between riding this, and a very smooth petrol bike, is that I kept dropping down too many gears. By the end of my ride I’d realised that much of the track could be handled with the bike left in fifth and sixth gear: exiting the corners in a higher gear would certainly have seen me achieve a higher top speed, as I’d often look down and realise the motor had reached its maximum revs, so was no longer accelerating. Not being able to hear the engine becoming stressed made it difficult to judge when to change gear, but it’s something that will become much easier after a few miles.
The Brammo Empulse R has no pretence of being a touring bike – it’s aimed at commuters looking for an enjoyable ride to work and at the weekend. As such, with its excellent handling and great performance up to legal speeds, it’s easy to see a market because, well… it’s bloody good fun.
Engine: Liquid-cooled permanent magnet motor
Power: 54bhp (40kW) @ 4500rpm
Torque: 66lb-ft (90Nm)
Kerb weight: 213kg
Seat height: 80cm
Battery capacity: 9300kWh