2013 Brammo Empulse R VS. 2013 Zero S 11.4: BS and spec sheet racing

Ok, I can’t resist any longer.

100212-2013-zero-s-08-500x356VS Empulse R

[Edited 22JAN13 and 11FEB13]

First things first, BS and smack talking.  And lets be fair Brammo started this whole thing.  In July of 2010 Brammo finally showed up to a round of the first year TTXGP racing in North America, didn’t make the race, and launched their initial prototype of the Empulse.  Vaguely promising it in a year.  It was promised to have 100 miles range, and do over 100mph for the 10kWh version.  The 6kWh version was said to have a price of $9000, I believe it was.  Add an extra $2k for each additionally larger pack.  During 2010  both companies were selling 30-40 mile ranged bikes.  The Zero S had the range and speed on the Enertia, but all reports said the brakes were less than ideal and it had the switch gear of a Chinese knock-off, maybe Korean.  The Brammo, while down on top speeds and range at least had switch gear matching it’s price, and decent brakes.  The Brammo won almost every shoot out.  Unfortunately the press that tested these bikes left with such a bad taste in their mouth they all but swore they’d not cover them again, until things were on parity.  Sales for both bikes were slow, and I believe Brammo stopped producing Enertias while working on bringing the Empulse to market.  2011 comes around and Zero expands it’s line up, adds proper brakes and .5kWh to the pack, and really updates the looks and fit and finish.  But performance is about the same, so at least your 2010 isn’t out dated.  Then May 2011 comes around, and almost a year after the release of the Empulse, Brammo announces that the bike will be delayed for another year as they are going to incorporate a 6 speed transmission from Italy’s SMRE.  Many people were not happy.  Now, but basic first grade math that puts the Empulse to be delivered by Julyish 2012.  You will read many comments about Brammo had promised the bike many times and didn’t meet them.  I think if you go through the press releases you’ll find those people are full of it.  Now, Brammo did finally show up to the races in 2011 and won a national championship from it.  I do not believe I have ever heard Brammo ever talk smack.  Brammo fans, and Shelina Moreda you bet, but no Brammo employees that I have caught.

However, it is the contention of one elmoto blogger that he and a certain Zero dealer feel that Brammo’s move to release the Empulse was a business move to devalue the Zero motorcycles and hurt their sales.  The fact that Brammo had won the all the previous comparisons but one, was on the track with a cool bike, won a national championship proving their technology, teamed with Polaris that year, and both Brammo’s and Zero’s current offerings were not a compromise most people were willing to deal with and those folks were willing to wait for something better to come along, had nothing to do with it?  The first year I started blogging having Brammo in the title would get me a lot of hits, Zero not so much which to me says Brammo’s PR guys had done a better job.  Although to be fair, I believe Brammo’s marketing budget may be considerably more; but that is speculation.  The thing that really makes me not believe too much of this is when Zero’s 2012 line hit the stores a month early they sold like hot cakes in comparison.  Zero’s 2012 line had pack sizes that more than doubled, and new A/C motors.  Real world ‘ride it like any other bike’ ranges went from 32 miles to 67, but creeping around town range could be as high as 114 miles with a top speed now over 80mph.  Several of these buyers were people who had been on the waiting list for the Empulse, but who’s needs were met by the new Zeros they could have right then.  Lets not forget the Enertia Plus, who also had to wait just as long to come to market as the Empulse.  Not long after the 2012 Zeros were released there was a story done by Motorcycle.com (an online magazine) with Zero’s VP of marketing, Scot Harden said what I felt were some very inflammatory and unnecessary things.  These, I believe, were the only smack talk I’ve heard come out of Zero.  He said that the Empulse didn’t exist and they would have an Empulse killer by the time Brammo got it into the hands of customers.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up.  To clarify, the Tesla Model S would not have been considered existing by similar logic, until it came off the line.  And Zero does not say anything about what they are working on until shortly before they will be shipping them, so they do walk the walk.  Shortly after that Hollywood Electrics (Zero’s #1 dealer) offered rebates to any people on the Empulse waiting list that if their Empulse became available before October of 2012 they would issue a not insignificant amount of money if you had bought a Zero from them in the mean time.  But Zero also revealed that next year’s bikes were going to be another huge step.  In May Brammo had a big release party for the production Empulse and Empulse R.  Only 1 pack size was available, and that was a 9.31kwh nominal/10.2kWh max pack.  The price tag went sky rocketing to $16,999 for the Empulse, and $18,999 for the Empulse R which came with upgraded Ohlin’s suspension and carbon fiber bits, and later a different and torquier motor that the regular Empulse may or may not get (make up your mind Brian).  But even though this time, promising them before the end of riding season 2012 [edit: not able to confirm when or where this was said] The first Rs did not get delivered until early December 2012.  So Hollywood Electric was right.  Zero, however, has yet to release the 2013 Zero S as it is only due to be out this month.  Brammo was wrong about when the bike would be delivered, but Zero was wrong when they said they would deliver an Empulse killer by the time the Empulse was ready.  The Empulse has been shipping for over a month now and the 2013 Zero S has yet to ship, and looks to be a solid competitor, but anything but a killer.  Now where are the bloggers and Brammo dealers shouting bloody murder because Zero hurt their Empulse sales because they promised a better yet motorcycle?  Yeah, not going to happen.

Now, the specs.  So for 2013 the entire line got twice the horse power, and the MX has grown up to be a full sized MXer.  So for 2 years in a row Zero has managed to make their previous years bikes obsolete.  Apparently there are current 2012 Zero owners pissed off on one of the forums because they would have waited if they had known the 2013s were going to be so much better.  Well, these people clearly don’t pay attention, because the information was out there, and I did warn them.  But the S with skinny bias ply tires, a better but still supermoto riding position and chassis, the same power motor (as the Empulse, 40kW), and now with only an 8ft-lb of torque advantage as compared to a 6-speed transmission taking advantage of the similar sized (but still both are relatively low powered) motor in a race bred chassis with proper radial tires, Marchesini wheels that allow you a much greater choice in tires, top notch Ohlins fully adjustable Sachs and Marzocchi suspension, carbon fiber goodies, a pack that is 1.2kWh max smaller, 9 miles less real world range (my estimate using math), 88 more lbs, and is $3004 more dollars.  Well, the regular Empulse, which may end up with almost 20 less ft-lb of torque, still has better suspension (semi-adjustable Sachs and Marzocchi) from reviews of both bikes I have read and interviewed about, and is only $1004 dollars more.  Lets face it the true sport rider is going to be way happier on the Empulse, and on the track the Empulse shouldn’t have any issues slowly creeping away from the Zero S, but the R will leave it.  I say this because I believe that for track riding the Empulses’ race bred chassis, descent/awesome suspension, and tires and gear box taking advantage of the 650 twin-eque power will give it a decided advantage.  But even Brian Wismann admitted, in a recent interview with me that has yet to be edited and put up, that the Empulse wasn’t designed to be taken to a track.  In the real world the Supermoto riding position has some very real advantages, not to mention the weight advantage.  And the tires will make less of a difference on the street.  The thing is some of the moto press who are going on about how transmissions are pointless and how single speeds are so much easier for beginners, seem to forget, or not realize, you can very much leave the Empulse in a single gear and ride it.  The bike has so much torque Motorcycle.com wondered what the other 3 gears (4-6) were for.  It’s so you can get to over 100mph, duh.  I’ve heard the same comment about EBR’s 1190RS, but that clearly had more to do with top speeds in each gear, hehe.  I suspect once Motorcycle.com gets their hands on a 2013 Zero S they will see the acceleration differences, understand better, and let us know what their preference is.  Even Motorcyclist magazine has started printing articles about electric motorcycles (and immediately pissed me off in short order, but I’m easily wound up), and recently put out an awesome review of the Empulse.  Detailed and one of the fairest and balanced reviews I think I have ever read.  Or at least so close that my biased-yet-trying-to-be-fair self can’t detect any bias.  I am going to digress for a moment.  I seriously had written Motorcyclist off as completely not worth reading or recommending for elmoto stuff, but this article seems so good to me (as far as being fair, accurate, and informative) that I have to give a bravo to Aaron Frank, the writer.  For a minute there I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to write competitive elmoto content.  I have been put back into my up-start place.  Especially after that really pissed off note I sent them.  And now back to the subject at hand, no one has done 0-60, 1/4 mile, or top speed tests yet, either.  But those types of things usually come months after a first ride article so we just have to wait.  Hopefully these guys who get paid to do this stuff will do a comparison, but I’m not holding my breath.

Aside from performance, which is really all I care about, is charger size and compatibility.  The Brammo comes with the J1772 plug where the gas tank cap usually goes, and a 3kW charger.  You can plug it into the wall at your house and it’s smart enough to not to try to pull so much juice out that it blows a fuse, or you can plug it into a level 2 charger.  At home it’ll pull less than 1.5kW (but I’m not sure the exact number at this time) out of your socket, and on a level 2 charger it’ll pull 3kW.  Now, if you are currently asking how much time that will take, you need to go to your room and think about what you just said.  However, you can buy J1772 adapters for the Zero, and you can buy a CHAdeMO adapter as well.  But whether you are plugged into a 110 socket at home, or a level 2 charging station the most you are getting is 1.3kW through the AC charger.  However, with the CHdeMO adapter you can charge at a 1C rate (I will assume 11.4kW).  If you live near a CHAdeMO station (or even a few) then the Zero has a serious advantage as far as long range riding.  But if you live near Level 2 chargers, the Brammo is the choice.  And lets not forget Zero is the first electric motorcycle company to have an app that lets you tune your bike.

For the type of bike I want the Brammo wins the spec wars hands down, no questions ask.  I won’t ever chose a Zero until they make what I deem is a proper sport bike.  But that is not saying they don’t make great bikes, because I feel they do.  They just don’t make bikes that suite my tastes, is all.  It works out though because both brands have bikes that together should talk to almost all types of riders out there.  Right now there isn’t anyone who has ridden a 2013 Empulse and a 2013 Zero S, so we will have to wait and see how they compare.  The real proof in my pudding will be the first race of the TTXGP season, and in the eSuperStock class where both brands are planning to have a good time duking it out.

36 thoughts on “2013 Brammo Empulse R VS. 2013 Zero S 11.4: BS and spec sheet racing

  1. A very important feature for people riding all year is being able to ride in cold weather. For this Brammo is the only choice because they have incorporated battery pack heating. Zero’s cannot be charged below freezing which for a lot of people will be a big dissapointment.

  2. Also, Terry has ridden both and said they were on par with each other having some minor differences here and there, he didn’t really see the point in the transmission. He can’t wait to see how the Zero performs with Hollywood Electrics performance upgrade.

    The performance upgrade :
    One thing you haven’t taken into consideration is the controllers here… The Brammo’s performance is MAXED out when you buy it, it comes stock with a Sevcon size 6 and has no room for increased performance. The Zero S however, is on Par with the Empulses power BUT only uses a Sevcon size 4.

    What does this mean in the end? It means that the Zero can be upgraded to a sevcon size 6 to have a SIGNIFICANT torque, horsepower, and top end increase, far surpassing both the regular empulse and the empulse R.

    1. Also, don’t forget that Sevcon sells a Size 8, so there are upgrade routes for the Empulse as well. But how significant is “SIGNIFICANT”? I am sure people would be very interested.

      1. That’s upgrading from a $1.2k controller to a $6k+ controller, which weighs twice as much and is about 2.5x the size. Yea it puts out twice as much power, but the Brammo motor will now be the weak point….Also you would need a HV battery pack now…not a great upgrade 😛

  3. @kingcharles1666 The 2012 bike specs indicate it can be charged down to 20F / -7C. I don’t think Zero has listed a charging temperature range for the 2013 bikes (but it’s likely that they also do not have heating resistors).

    Original price of the 6.0, 8.0, 10.0 Empulse configurations was $10k, $12k, $14k. Shorthand as both Brammo and Zero prefer $x995 .. eg Empulse R is $18995, Zero S ZF11.4 is $15995.

    Shape of the torque curve (peak and continuous), motor efficiency, and thermal performance matters so much more than just comparing the peak horsepower figures. Peak motor torque is a useless metric without also knowing gearing.

    I think we will see Zero S ZF8.5 ($14k) vs Empulse TTX (list $20k+?) on the track this year. ~335 pounds (no charger) vs ~450 pounds (no charger, tail, tail lights, etc).

    I suspect the Zero performance will be significantly held back by the motor controller, which already is the weak point for the 2012 S bikes. Now it’s being asked to handle twice the power for 2013 .. the new Zero motors may be a little more efficient than 2012, but they’re not that much more efficient. Maybe Zero will have better controller cooling.. we’ll see.

    1. Thank you for the correction on pricing.

      You bring up a point. The Empulse uses the 600 apm Sevcon, and Zero the 400 amp, as Brandon pointed out. And Brian did say in an interview at Daytina the Sevcon thought they were pusshing their controller for all it was worth. But he meant that within the suggested limits. And you can always upgrade to a size 8 if you need more room, it’s probably be a pita though. Anyway, both bike are putting out the same amount of kW which are function of voltage X amps. Clearly the Zeros are running a higher voltage, but with some of the issues with the size 4 overheating in the 2012 bikes you do have to wonder a bit. The other thing we all have forgot about is that the Brammo has a water-cooled motor. I wonder what kind of advantage that will give the Brammo when the bikes are seriously being thrashed, if any. With the more powerful racing bikes we know it is a necessity to cool the motors and batteries to get more and consistent power. At these power levels it’ll be interesting to see how well Zero’s new motor works.

    2. Thanks for providing the cutoff temperature, its better than I excpected. I still use my bike daily this time of year (down to -15C last year!), but of course not many will ride in those temperatures. However electric motorcycles are best suited for commuting and commuters tend to ride all year long (using myself as an example). Another point, cold weather riding on the Zero means performance and range drop and probably reducing your battery life. So for me (and maybe others who live in colder climate) this feature is very important.

  4. Can someone confirm that the 2013 Zero uses the Size 4 Sevcon? I was under the impression they were using the same unit as Brammo, though looking at the specs, I’m thinking the Zero might use a slightly different one because of its higher battery voltage.

    Also, Richard, the “6” in size 6 doesn’t seem to indicate amperage. It’s just a number, me thinks. Here’s the specs for the Sevcon controllers (http://www.sevcon.com/media/2104/gen4_web.pdf).

    1. Can’t find the reference now, but the information I have is that the Zeros use the same Sevcon Gen 4 Size 4 (Size 2 for XU) that they did last year. Somewhat surprising given the 50% bump in voltage, but there you go .. 2012 S/DS were 420A, 2012 XU was 250A. 2013 S/DS/MX/FX are 420A, 2013 XU is 250A.

      All G80 controllers are 116V max. G8035 (size 4) is 420A 10s boost, G8018 is 215A 10s boost. Zero has been specifying 250A controller size for a little while.. perhaps they can get more out of them than Sevcon claims.

    2. Also, I have just found that they have basically the same voltage so there goes that idea. From Brammo’s site they say that “peak continuous amps” are 270, and the highest continuous amps out of a Size 6 that works with the voltage is only 220. But at with 103.6V you only need to have 386 amps to reach the 40kW peak motor power. This leaves a lot of room in the size 6 controller as far as peak 2 minute amps, much less boost amps. But if the controller is already working hard (if I am correct here) how much high amp abuse do you really want to through at it? But now that we remember both bikes packs are within 1.6 volts of each other we realize as far as peak power, the Empulse is only probably using just over half of the available peak power, it’s the continuous amps Brian must have been talking about. So Zero owners can upgrade, Empuse owners can hack, and we can see if a liquid cooled race bred motor is up to the task better than and fresh new highly efficient air cooled motor.

      1. Peak power doesn’t quite work like that unfortunately. Two things; you can’t just multiple battery voltage by phase (motor) current to get the power output and battery voltage will most likely be below nominal at peak power due to voltage sag. Peak power from the Sevcon Size 6 is more like 660Arms* 95.2V * 0.90% / sqrt(2) = 40.2kW out. This is with cells sagging to 3.4V each (28 in series) and motor efficiency of 90% on the liquid cooled parker motor of the Empulse type R. The sqrt(2) term comes into play because you aren’t sending a flat DC current to the motor you are sending current with a sinusoidal waveform.

      2. Glad someone is keeping me in check. Ok, so the Brammo is using all of the Size 6? Then is Zero’s motor a miracle motor where they are able to get the same power out of a Size 4?

      3. I would guess that the new Zero is probably using a Size 6 as well, but I’m just speculating there. Also keep in mind the Brammo Empulse use a Parker liquid cooled motor (142mm dia, maybe 120mm long) and the Zero S uses a air cooled custom motor (maybe 200mm dia, and maybe 150mm long). The Zero motor is large so it can handle decent continuous power. Maybe 10-15kW, but the Brammo motor is probably good to do 15-20kW continuous.

      4. Best shot I can get of the Zero’s controller:

        If the heatsink is the full length of the controller then it looks shorter than a size 6.

      5. 02 October 2012 #13
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        Originally Posted by Doctorbass
        So my guess is that it’s not 34s cells config. 102/3.65v nom = 28s

        And using the Sevcon Gen4 size 4 for 420A and 102V = 42.8kW… wich is close to the anounced 44kW..



        Except the 420amp rating for the Sevcon size4 is 420 phase amps not battery amps.
        The formula for 3 phase power is voltage time current times the square root of 3 (1.73) * power factor. A size 4 can draw >500amp battery current despite its 420amp phase current limit, however, it’s really neat to see the opposite effect happening when the motor is at low speeds. You can be pulling 25amps off the battery and sending 420 amps RMS to the motor when it’s at low speeds. This is of course true for most all motor controllers, but fun to watch the numbers on a nice low resistance motor setup outputting high torque at low RPMs.

        I can’t tell you guys how much fun the FX is to ride. Effortless power wheelies from 0mph to ~50mph, top speed is as fast as I ever need in a light off-road type chassis, and battery to wear my ass out hammering all the trails I want to ride in a day before it’s close to empty. My pair of KTM’s are going up on craigslist, and I’m buying a 2013 FX. A number of other guys at work are buying them too, it’s such a hoot to ride.

      6. @N&V

        Looking at the rinehart calculations, we can sort of back-out what the Zero motor specifications must be.

        40 kW output power = sqrt(3) * (96 V dc/ sqrt(2)) * 420 A rms * PF * efficiency (say 90%).

        Pretty sure the 420A rating is rms .. Sevcon doesn’t say explicitly, though they do say A rms for the Sevcon Gen 4 Size 8. If the 420A rating is true peak current (297A rms) then it doesn’t seem like the size 4 can possibly supply a 40 kW motor.

        Power factor for the Zero motor must be around 0.9.

    1. No, I seriously doubt they will allow upgrades, other than hot maps like Shelina tested. Brandon was merely saying how easy an upgrade for more power on the Zero, and then I thought I had a reply but N&V put me in my place.

  5. I’m not sure where you get Ohlins from for the Empulse R – it has a Sachs rear shock and a Marzocchi fork on the front. I can’t see any markings to verify the fork, but it does say Sachs on my rear shock. The non-R is spec’d to have the same manufacturers (but different models).

    1. Thank you for catching this Flar. I always try to do my due diligence but miss stuff anyway. I actually thought The R was supposed to get Ohlins suspension. I must have gotten it confused with the TTX. I will make the corrections and do a bit of research to see if I can figure out where I went wrong. Thank you again.

  6. 2013 Zero specs are up:

    Zero S has a sustained top speed of 80 mph. This is almost certainly sharply limited by controller thermals.

    Also, I noticed that the motor power is listed at 40 kW, and I wonder if that’s distinct from the maximum bike power. Need to get a bike on a dyno to tell for sure, but I would bet peak > 10s power is well under 40 kW. Works great for producing good 0-60 numbers, probably works fine for street riding where you rarely need full power for long.. but I’m pretty well convinced now that the Zeros will need a controller upgrade to be competitive with the Empulse on the track .. at least as long as the race is short enough for the GP machines to put down full power.

    But who knows.

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