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2013 Brammo Empulse R Review: An Electric Ride For Serious Riders

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Introduction: The Goods
2013 Brammo Empulse R Electric Motorcycle Review

The 2013 Brammo Empulse R.

Photo © Basem Wasef
The electric motorcycle segment is dotted with eager players, but few are equipped with the means-- both financial and otherwise-- to make the technological breakthroughs required to be taken seriously in this emerging market. Among the elite manufacturers in this electrified microcosm are Santa Cruz, California-based Zero, and the Ashland, Oregon-based Brammo.

The latest from Brammo is the Empulse, a long-awaited EV that packs a host of advanced hardware and a price to match-- $16,995 for the standard model, and $18,995 for an "R" version, which features carbon fiber trim and uprated suspension setup with greater adjustability.

Power comes from the world's first liquid cooled electric motor, a permanent AC magnet lump that produces 40 kW (or 54 horsepower) at 8,200 rpm; torque is rated at 46.5 lb-ft. The motor is motivated by a lithium-ion battery pack running at 103.6 volts and, interestingly, hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox with a hydraulic clutch, which is an anomaly in the electric world* where automatic* transmissions usually rule. Incidentally, Brammo estimates the batteries will degrade down to 80 percent capacity after 1,500 charge/discharge cycles. Charging on a standard plug, which is possible using an included adapter, requires 8 hours; if you plug into a public charging station via the onboard receptacle, a full charge is yours in 3.5 hours-- or 5 miles of range for every 10 minutes.

From its aluminum frame to the Marzocchi forks, Sachs rear shock, Marchesini wheels, and Brembo brakes, the Brammo Empulse and Empulse R are decked out in premium hardware. But the most crucial component of any electric bike is its cruising range, and here's how the Empulse is rated: 121 miles in the city and 56 miles on the highway (since the batteries can't charge from brake regeneration at more constant speeds), for a combined estimated average of 77 miles.

How far did the Brammo go in my real world test, and how did it perform while negotiating through Southern California roads and freeways? Click "Next" to find out.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested electric bikes are usually equipped with CVTs; the error has been corrected.
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