Ok, I can’t resist any longer.
[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.