As long as I don’t get sued for trademark or copy right I think I’ll keep this as the title I use anytime I go off into speculation land.
First off, today’s primary focus is on Brammo. It has been my long held belief since my first interview with Brammo’s Brian Wismann that they were on a 2 to 3 year development cycle, just like the ICE manufactures are. This is juxtaposed to Zero coming out with a new version if not all new bike every year from 2010 or 2011 until now. As we have heard repeatedly from Brian, the race bike is a test bed for the next generation production bike, and I have predicted a liter bike slayer will be Brammo’s new bike by 2015 or 2016. I had thought it was going to be basically a street version of the current prototype race bike, but now I don’t think it will be. I think the chassis most certainly will, but the issue is going to be the power plant. Currently, Brammo’s RR is using an IPM (ish?) Parker motor paired with what I suspect is one of those uber type controllers that cost as much as a whole Empulse TTX ready to race. Expensive to say the least. I just don’t see that combo making it to the production line at the current costs. I still think that in 2 or three years they will be aiming squarely at the literbikes, but they may have to stick with the IET to meet the performance numbers, and even then be down on top speed. The motor will be willing, and I have every confidence the batteries will be too, but it’s the controller cost and size that is the sticking point. From owner reviews the bike is smaller than current liter bikes, so the new bike has some room to grow. But by then I am also expecting at least a 12-15kWh pack (I’m thinking 8 cells sub-packs instead of the current 7 on the Empulse R), so there may not be that much room either way. It’d also be nice if we could get a more powerful on-board charger. A DC fast charger socket is certain to be on it, and if it was built today I’m pretty sure it’d have a J1772 combo socket. Either way, instead of absolutely stomping the liter bikes in it’s first try, I think it will probably fall a bit short. At the very least 600s will easily dispatched in the power department, and probably in the handling department as well.
The thing I was most certain of is that we would not see anything but a minor update for the street going Empulse over the next few years until we got the new bike. I guess I could say the new Empulse, but I don’t think that is accurate either. But first updates. If you follow this blog and listen to the podcasts you know Brammo and Eric Bostrom have been getting a TON of speed out of the Empulse TTX, and seemingly out of now where. As good as that bike is in the handling and power delivery department, they have made it a whole lot better, besting ‘11 Empulse RR times at Thunder Hill already. With as much as Brammo is learning about their first ever sportbike, and as much as they are improving it on the track without physically changing the drivetrain components (as far as I know), I just cannot see them waiting 2 or 3 years for a major update to the Empulse. Mind you, I don’t think they will make the old bikes obsolete either. I suspect a bit of an inadvertent Tesla effect, and all changes would probably be made through software updates, and available suspension upgrades. Meaning that current owners will have access to upgrading their rides to newer specs (they already have been receiving software updates via their dealerships, or traveling Brammo reps). A few owners are already watching what Brammo does with their TTX offering. If it can be purchased as a kit allowing them to keep their street gear (i.e.: lights, etc.), then we’ll be seeing Empulse owners jumping on their e-mails getting in line for the first kits. Come to think of it, they could very well use the TTX moniker to embody the new updates. That seems to me an easy way bring the new found speed to market while ruffling the least number of feathers. But if they are finding this kind of speed on the track, then to me this means the full potential of the Empulse R is right there knocking on 600cc 4-cylinder sport bike territory, and 650cc V-Twin performance is going to be left in the dust. That’s a big jump, and I’m reaching, but man it feels a lot closer than it did just a few months ago. As far as the new bike’s name, I suspect it will be a whole new bike added to the line. You need an Empulse in the lower, powerful enough, segment, and ditching it when you introduce a liter-slayer seems like a foolish idea to me. So I see the Empulse staying on, and the new bike is added to the line. What then, will the race bike be called? Probably what ever the new bike is + RR, as you want to show off your best and coolest thing at the track. Unless it’s NASCAR or drag racing.
Can’t really talk about the street going Empulse without mentioning it’s competitor, the 2013 Zero S. I haven’t seen nor head a peep from the Moto Zero guys about the 2013 bikes. But so far they appear to be drastically losing the testing championship. This isn’t a real thing, so don’t stress. But ICE racing fans will know what I’m talking about. There is a really good MotorcycleUSA.com review of the Zero S ZF11.4 from Ctiy Bike’s Gabe Ets-Hokin (same guy who wrote the review of the Empulse for the SF rag). In it I was really surprised by his description of the Zero’s power. He placed in with the NC700 and Suzuki’s SFV650. Everything is more than adequate, but the tires outshone the suspension yet again. It is clear from reviews that the Brammo’s chassis is superior, however unless you need all out performance, the Zero’s more than does the job. But from Alan Cathcart’s review and a few people who have ridden the new Zero I really thought he would have been much more impressed with the power. And when he ran the Zero flat out, a water temp warning did eventually come on, as many have speculated. I don’t know, but with the water cooled motor and larger controller, I’ve not heard of anyone seeing a high temp warning on an Empulse. And running flat out (lots of air flow through the bike and radiator) I’m not sure you would. But also in that article Zero mentioned that there were no big jumps in technology coming for the next few years. It seems to me that what those guys did with that motor by getting that much power from that motor and small controller is nothing short of magic. But I really wonder if there is any more power to be had. How much further can they go with the air cooled axel-flux PMAC? I know there is more power to be had with the larger controller the Empulse already has. But I clearly see Brammo aiming for the liter bikes of the world. But I don’t see Zero doing the same. It looks like they have worked themselves in a corner of sorts. I’d love to see them take on BMW’s big adventure tourer eventually but they would need a lot more power. But this year’s motor surprised the me, so I’m sure I’ve anything to worry about. One place they are really close to parity already, is Motocross. They may very well concentrate on that and let the street bikes ride for a year or two with minor updates. There is a lot of publicity to be had out of Motocross.
As always, we just have to sit back and wait to see how wrong I am.