Victory Empulse TT — A Rebadged Brammo Empulse R

07/28/2015 @ 10:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Victory-Empulse-TT

When Polaris acquired Brammo’s electric motorcycle business, and left the startup to be its electric drivetrain guru, much was talked about what would come to the electric motorcycle manufacturer. So, when a Brammo Empulse RR electric race bike showed up at the Isle of Man TT in Victory Motorcycles livery — let’s not forget the Brammo employees in Victory t-shirts — a bit of Polaris’ game was tipped.

Therefore it is perhaps without surprise that today we bring you the Victory Empulse TT, which is basically a rebadged Brammo Empulse R street bike.

There are some improvements to the Victory Empulse TT over the Brammo Empulse, namely a larger battery pack (+10% for 10.4 kWh nominal), a narrower rear tire (180 is now a 160), a new seat, and most importantly, a rubber cush drive for the rear wheel.

We won’t waste words hyping a motorcycle that has effectively already been on the market for several years, but we will point out two things: 1) Brammo Victory has improved upon an already competent design, and 2) the addition of the cush drive could change our luke-warm opinion of the Empulse R.

To put things in historical perspective, Brammo out of the gate had a better product than competitor Zero Motorcycles, the latter’s “motorcycles” almost unfit for the title.

Lately though, Zero has closed the gap greatly in terms of quality, performance, and reliability. In fact, our nod between the two would go to Zero, almost purely for the reason that it’s a direct drive.

Bikes like the Zero SR out of the box do what a gearbox on an internal combustion tries to emulate: a flat and wide power band. The gearbox on the Brammo is really a band-aid for the bike’s low-voltage (relatively speaking) drive system, which isn’t capable of the big power numbers seen on bikes like the MotoCzysz E1pc or Mission R.

The gearbox on the Victory Empulse TT is the same band-aid. It allows the Empulse TT to pull hard off the line, and yet still have a top-end for its claimed 100+ mph top speed.

It does this however by adding the complexity of shifting gears, which many motorcyclists have learned to master. This might not be a big deal, but the Brammo gearbox also created a massive amount of chain lash; and as such, small cracks of the throttle resulted in a whipping motion through the mechanics of the bike’s final drive. It was not a pleasurable experience.

Now with a rubber cush drive, we would expect that action to be greatly reduced, making the Victory Empulse TT an attractive offering again. Of course, you will still have to fork over the $19,999 MSRP — $4,000 more than the base model Zero SR, which has similar specs.

Considering that Brammo has sold roughly 800 or so units of its Empulse street bike, it will be interesting to see what the Victory name, and more importantly, the Victory dealer network can do for the machine.

Will this be the offering the augments Victory’s modern-cruiser image and rider profile, or will it be the company’s Buell — a shotgun marriage that ends in bitter divorce? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain: Victory just sent a huge shot across the bow of Harley-Davidson and its Project Livewire.

Victory-Empulse-TT-01

Victory-Empulse-TT-03

Victory-Empulse-TT-08

Victory-Empulse-TT-09

Victory-Empulse-TT-14

Victory-Empulse-TT-15

Victory-Empulse-TT-16

Victory-Empulse-TT-18

Victory-Empulse-TT-19

Victory-Empulse-TT-20

Victory-Empulse-TT-21

Victory-Empulse-TT-22

Victory-Empulse-TT-07

Source: Victory Motorcycles

  • Ur Momma

    Too bad Victory snubbed an American Winner on an electric like Mark Miller for Mr Headline, Guy Martin at IOM TT 2015.

  • I don’t know about snubbed, but Lee Johnston & William Dunlop were slated as the original riders. Guy Martin stepped in after Dunlop was injured in the Superstock practice session ahead of the TT Zero race.

  • Ur Momma

    The decision was made to go with who’d make the bigger headlines not who’s make the faster time. Guy is fast on a fast bike but Miller has hours more experience on an electric mount – not to mention a gold replica. Mr Martin has NO golden replicas…

  • Pick your argument.

    If it’s about who is fastest, then I’d take Lee Johnston, William Dunlop, and Guy Martin over Mark Miller any day of the week.

    Mark is a great guy, and if you’re a fan of his, then that’s fine. Victory doesn’t owe him a ride though, and for the money they’re spending, why shouldn’t Victory pick a Top 10 rider(s)?

  • Ur Momma

    Miller has proven on similar equipment (classic TT) he’s a contender. The EBR 1190 is not a top ten machine and never will be. And Miller will be at the Macau GP this year, Mr Martin will not: care to answer that? I love Guy Martin but his media presence often overshadows his accomplishments.

  • Campisi

    I was hoping they’d dump the IET before doing this. Brammo spent years working with an outside supplier to get that transmission together, requiring that the rider shifts gears (something electric buyers generally prefer to avoid) in order to mitigate an issue that Zero solved simply by switching to a beefier motor controller. Zero and Victory both source those motor controllers from Sevcon and run their powertrains at ~100 volts; dumping the gearbox for a direct drive and a Size 6 controller would give Victory a bike with similar power to the Zero SR, while letting the superior chassis and cooling system make up for the Empulse’s weight disadvantage.

  • Spot-on Bevin.

  • zipidachimp

    pardon my ignorance, but if the throttle in your right hand is essentially a rheostat, why would you need a transmission?

  • roma258

    I don’t know why people make such a big deal about the transmission. It’s not like you’re shifting a ton really. Second gear is good from 0-55…in other words in the city you’re basically not touching the clutch or shift lever. Big sweepers, you might pop it into third. Highway- 4th of 5th. That’s it. The benefit is you get pretty sweet drive and mellow cruising, and the involvement of rowing gears if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Buddy

    That swingarm looks like it came off a 1980’s huffy. I understand that light is right in most cases but the accouterments on this thing are pathetic. It’s strike me as a 21st century Hodaka.

  • El Apestoso

    Transmission adds weight and cost, as well as something to break. It also has mechanical losses that a direct drive would not have, meaning less power to the wheel. Or to put that another way, more power for less speed.

  • VForce

    I find it humorous that Brammo, sorry, Victory’s PR / Marketing machine is calling this bike “the bike that Tony Stark would ride”.

    maybe a jab back at HD for having the Livewire in the Avengers movie?

    Regardless I don’t think that statement is going to sell more Empulses. There are just not that many comic book superheros in the real world to buy them.

  • VRBL

    I really, really want to be a fan of electric bikes and I hope to have one in the future, especially now that they’re coming up on par with some ICE machines at the races. But $20k? I would understand the price premium, if like a Tesla, the performance could outshine similarly priced machines. The fact is that this thing’s performance still can’t compare to it’s direct higher-end ICE competitors like the Ducati Monster 1200s, KTM 1290 SuperDuke R or the BMW S1000R. All of which cost way, WAY less.

  • Mitchel Durnell

    Yeah, I think tubular design must be handled carefully; there are some Triumph and Ducati tubular swingarms that look nice, but too thin and you get that cheap look that lowest end bikes have.

  • El Apestoso

    Well that, and Tony Stark could build something way better himself. Or get his hands on a MIssion RS. Perhaps he’d go with an Energica Ego or Lightning Superbike.

    Though from what I recall of Tony Stark’s garage, he wasn’t averse to the internal combustion engine, so who knows.

  • El Apestoso

    The ones that are performing that impressively in a racing format are at the point where they’re catching up to 650 twins. And the bikes that are doing that would run you a hell of a lot more than $20k. At best, the heavily modified Zero SRs that were run at Pike’s Peak would be accessible, but that’s about it.

  • smellysam .

    It’s a small one that controls a bigger one that provides power to the engine (this is simplified to the extreme). The bigger one is the issue; rather than investing in upgraded power electronics, Brammo went for a mechanical solution.
    That does not seem very smart now, but it might have made sense when the bike was conceived.

  • smellysam .

    The torque comes in constant surges, not during 30° of every second revolution per cylinder… So they can be thinner.
    Oval sections would have looked beefier but while still keeping the weight low.

  • roma258

    Sure, and every single ICE motorcycle over the last century has had one. It’s a mature technology that has it’s pros and cons. Even the flat torque of an electric motorcycle require a gear ratio to optimize performance. The Zero S, which produces essentially the same power as the Empulse R is much softer off the line to make it viable on the highway. I agree that 6 speed is overkill though. A 3 speed gearbox would be perfect for an electric motor.

  • As I alluded to in the article, a gearbox on an electric motorcycle becomes irrelevant as the power from the motor increases. Bikes like the MotoCzysz and Mission actually don’t use the full power available at lower speeds (revs) because it would send the front wheel in the air.

    These bikes can be geared for higher top speeds, without sacrificing acceleration off-the-line, because of the fact they have too much power down low.

    MotoGP bikes are the same way, actually.

  • roma258

    That’s a fair point, except Mission and MotoCzysz are either vaporware or high priced exotica. Perhaps as the price for these components comes down and economies of scale do their a gearbox may indeed become redundant. It was a viable solution back in 2011 when the Empulse was being developed.

  • There’s always the Energica Ego, which surprised me how well done it is. But yes, it’ll take time before these sort of bikes are available at sane prices.

    For me, the Brammo gearbox killed everything good about an electric motorcycle. The cush drive might make me change my mind…I’d have to ride one. Victory doesn’t give A&R any love though, even though we’ve been on more electrics than anyone else.

  • DHZ

    The other way to get the equivalent of the transmission, but to do it without a transmission, that is electronically, is how ZEV Electric does their big bikes. The controller lets the rider vary the amps and the volts. With amps being the torque factor, and volts being the speed. A little momentary push button on the right had lets you rip up through the “gears”. There are two ZEV Electric motorcycle first of production bikes running around now with full fairings looking a bit like a Kaw ZX10. Same size battery as the Brammo. That same battery gets the ZEV LRC 12 down the road 140 miles at 55 mph trumping the 94 miles of the ZERO 12. kwh pack or the 115 miles of the 16 kwh SR Power tank. So it should do well in the motorcycle. Steel tube chassis. The letters out to followers and dealers discussing the initial model launch indicate a price under $10,000.

  • MrDefo

    I really want to support Victory. They’ve made some bold moves lately. Their Victory line of cruisers are really well made. Their Indian bikes look awesome, are well made, and are very distinct from their Victory line. They brought back the Brammo electric bike. However. I don’t like cruisers, I want an electric bike, but I don’t want to pay more for something that has a transmission when the competitor solved it without one for less money. Sorry Victory, but you haven’t made the bike I want yet.

  • Blue

    The video should be part of the story above. These things will be a lot of fun.

  • Added. Thanks!

  • VForce

    That’s a cool video. but to be fair, just about any motorcycle would be that much fun if I had an entire city to use as my personal racetrack.

  • Both the Zero SR and the Brammo Empulse / Victory Empulse TT use a Sevcon Size 6 and a ~103V battery. They’re a great comparison for that reason!

    Brammo chose a smaller 40 kW liquid-cooled motor combined with IET. Zero chose a larger 50 kW direct-drive air-cooled motor.

    The liquid cooling system and IET are partly responsible for the 55 pound weight penalty the Brammo pays over the base Zero SR, and that hurts the maximum acceleration. Despite significantly more wheel torque in 1st gear, the Empulse will probably shift into 2nd at 35 mph. Time spent shifting is time not spent accelerating, and then it’s over between the two. The Zero SR is about a half second faster to 60 mph and a full second faster through the quarter mile.

    However, IET has one more advantage. Continuous high-power operation – sustained blasts on the highway at 90-100 mph or especially on the racetrack – overwhelm the Zero SR’s passive cooling system. This is made worse by the fact that at high RPMs the motor is being operated in “field-weakening” mode, which carries an efficiency penalty .. or in other words, produces more heat for a given power requirement.

    The difference at 90 mph between (making numbers up) 88% efficiency (DD) and 92% efficiency (IET) is not large, in terms of battery pack draw or range .. only a few percent. However, the difference between 12% lost as heat and 8% lost as heat is pretty huge .. the direct-drive system will generate substantially more heat. That’s a big part of why the Empulse can sustain 100+ mph (until the battery is exhausted) and the Zero can hold 90+ mph for only a short period – maybe a couple of miles – before it reduces power to reduce heat generation (Zero says 85 mph sustained on flat ground). The liquid-cooling system doesn’t hurt either.

    Even on the track, though, it’s not that simple. The Zero racers typically use a forced ram air system (and open up the sealed motor) to help move some heat out, which helps … and you’re not always holding the bike pinned at 100+ mph.

    Consider this: at Willow Springs race 1 (Zero vs Brammo), the Zeros went 1-2-3 for the podium. For race 2 after a crash on-track led to an early restart, the Brammo bikes took spots 1 and 3.
    http://emotoracing.com/willow-springs-emotoracing-race-reports-2015/

    And on the street, I can count on one hand (and have a few fingers left over) the number of times I’ve held 100+ mph for more than a mile or so on my previous gas bike. That simply wasn’t my riding style .. IET has nothing for me. Give me a big motor and fewer things to break and I’m happy.

  • “every single ICE motorcycle has had one”

    The first cars looked like horse carriages too … hence the moniker horseless carriage. It’s simply what people were familiar with, both consumers and designers.

    “mature technology”

    The Empulse has been recalled once for transmission problems. And various owners have reported leaks. Transmissions in theory are fairly mature, but the implementations frequently have early teething issues.

    The Zero S also has a smaller motor controller than the Empulse. No question that IET helps at the same power output. The Zero SR has the same motor controller as the Empulse; it’s a better comparison of the actual IET tradeoffs (small motor + IET vs large motor + direct drive).

  • Campisi

    Is top-end heat generation on the Victory (gotta get used to the new nomenclature) better mitigated because the fluid cooling system counteracts it, or because the IET allows the motor to stay out of the RPM range within which field weakening occurs?

  • Good question, I don’t know!

    The absolute amount of heat generated is still much less than a gas bike, but the electric motor (magnets) require a much lower temperature (~200F).

    Some of the Zero racers have also experimented with liquid cooling systems. Or instead, the sealed motor can be filled with oil, which does a better job of transmitting rotor heat to the exterior fins.

  • a Yamaha R7 was just sold for 21K on eBay. The choice is easy. Leave the electrics for the Silicon Valley nerds. I can see Hooli employees loving these bikes.

  • Hooli…I lol’d.