(First Published 2014)

Many people like myself couldn’t help but wonder whether to take the electric bike scene seriously. But since the advent of the TTXGP showed a number of manufacturers were pulling on their boots and delivering commercially viable bikes that looked okay and actually performed remarkably well – we’ve all had to reel our petrol heads in a bit.

The home-made lead-acid bikes populating YouTube gave this sector a bad name but new technology has allowed Brammo, from Oregon in the USA, and a few others to become the game-changers just as Tesla have done with the car market.

Yes, this is a serious bike. Pitched at the 500cc market it features everything that its petrol-based contemporaries have. Good looks, a lightweight frame, strong Marzocchi forks, excellent Brembo brakes and respectable rubber for the road.

It’ll deliver more than pizza

In terms of performance it delivers on all counts. The water cooled motor pumps out a reasonable 54bhp but its flat torque curve delivering an almost constant 90Nm (66ft/lb) through a 6 speed box makes it extremely sparky at the lights.

Its top speed of 110mph is respectable enough and those previously mentioned tyres (120 front, 180 rear) ensure complete confidence in high speed corners.

The Brammo punches well above its weight in performance and handling.

Ah, but…

Okay, I hear you say, there are the usual electric fears. Range, recharge times, price; everyone knows the story. But Brammo knows it’s weaknesses and has done its utmost to conquer them. 

The bike has a range of 80-100 miles on a charge, okay it’s no tourer but with most bikers usage being the blast to work this is more than adequate allowing a decent spin at the weekend. 

It has an on-board 3Kw charger allowing it to go from 20-80% charge in under 2 hours. In parts of the US charging stations are now commonplace and the UK is following swiftly with a nationwide installation program. 

The batteries are good for 100,000 miles so that should see you through a good 10 years I guess.

But what about the dollars?

And price, well yep, you’ve got them there, the bikes retail at about £13,000 brand new. But hold on a minute, take into account the fact that the bike returns the electric equivalent of 438mpg, (yes four hundred and thirty eight miles per gallon) at today’s pump prices, plus the advantage of zero road tax, that’s one helluva cost saving.

Brammo also knows that’s not cheap for a bike, so they do offer a number of lease/contract plans if you’d rather buy on the never never.

The manufacturer has the benefit of being located right next door to the world’s biggest electric vehicle market. California is going electric crazy, offering all sorts of incentives to get gas fumes off the road, and its only a matter of time before the rest of the world follows suit, I’d bet a pretty big cheeseburger on it.

It’s early days

And yes – this might not be the perfect electric bike… yet… but it sure goes a long way towards the goal. Brammo has addressed many of the problems encountered by their predecessors with excellent engineering and good common sense to produce a mighty fine machine which is a sound alternative for those who’d wish to go electric.

But for me, there is one crucial thing they cannot fix… the bike is silent.

Update 1

Jan 2015:
Since the time of writing, Brammo of Oregon has been bought by Victory Motorcycles, therefore securing a stronger future for the Empulse R. With minor modifications the bike is probably still the strongest contender in the electric bike market. 

Update 2

July 2018:
Sadly, Victory (aka Polaris Industries) has shelved their bike operations and sold the electric vehicle tech to the truck engine manufacturer Cummins. There’s no plans for Cummins to continue with bike production and everything now is going into commercial vehicle development. 

It’s the end of a very short era, but we’ll be chinking a pint to the guys in Oregon who pushed electric bikes a few rungs up the ladder.  

Gone but not forgotten.

Ed