Deep Thoughts: by ttxgpfan

Eric Bostrom testing the 2013 Empulse TTX
From Brammo’s smugmug account

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 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.

3 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts: by ttxgpfan

  1. I recall in one of the many adaptations of Wes Siler’s Empulse ride report he mentioned that thermal cutback did occur. Bear in mind when he rode the bike that temps were in the 105-110 F range, and they were riding the bikes hard.

    I haven’t seen a thermal cutback indicator on the Zero in a good long while too .. like since November or so : )

    I see no reason to ditch the Empulse name or the chassis. Huge name recognition built up by Brammo’s racing efforts. It’s a fantastic chassis by all accounts, just needs more power (and less weight).

    IGBT controllers are not intrinsically prohibitively expensive; or at least the Mitsubishi MiEV and the Nissan Leaf both use IGBT motor controllers (for motors in the 50-100 kW range), and certainly neither company is paying $8-10k for Reinhart controllers. Both of those cars are sold in much higher volumes than the Empulse is currently, but Empulse sales will improve as the dealer network is rolled out and as prices drop. Either way, Brammo could probably get a 60 kW motor in the Empulse but more will need a stronger controller.

    In another year I believe we will have the Energica, a Size 6 Zero S, possibly Lightning’s mid-range bike, and the Empulse all competing in the electric sportbike space. I don’t think Brammo will make significant changes to the Empulse for 2014, as the Empulse may not even show up in Europe until next year; it will still hold up very well, but it will not lead in acceleration or top speed as it does this year.

  2. That’s what I was saying, they will keep the Empulse, and as it is now as far as the motor, controller, batteries, and frame. But I don’t think the next bike will be an Empulse. However, it seems to me they have made such big improvements on the basic package of the Empulse while developing the TTX package, I would be surprised if they didn’t make updates to it for 2014. But these changes would be suspension and controller maps, and maybe some other things as well. And if the Europeans don’t get their Empulse’s until next year then they’d get the updated bike, So no worries. Assuming that what Brian says is true the Empulse RR is basis for the next gen bike, and they have gone even further with that bike, then there is another bike coming. If they can release a bike that takes the most popular sport bike segment head on performance wise, I think they would be foolish not too. But I think the will Keep the Empulse moniker on the current bike’s performance level, and the literbike chaser/slayer will have a new name, instead of being another Empulse, as that would get confusing.

    Hmm, seems like I vaguely remember that. Thanks for bringing that up. Those 2012 Zeros had their necks rung during last year’s TTXGP season, and Kenyon reported the was no over heating, so that doesn’t surprise me. 2013 is putting out twice the power though,

    OK, but how big are the controllers in the Leaf and IMEV? I think that is some of the problem, as they have to be just as powerful and fit in a motorcycle. I haven’t been following the price of Reinhart controller. But the last I knew they were $25,000 a pop. Seems like I need to find out what’s going on. Come to think of it the Lighting would be a lot more expensive if that is the controller they are using in the production bikes.

    As far as power, I feel the Empulse will stay in it’s current power segment, but Brammo will need 100kW as an absolute minimum, and closer to a 120kW to even try to tackle the liter bike segment.

    Yeah a Size 6 Zero S, Energica, Empulse TTX, and Lightning’s anything would be great. But, unless eCRP sends a bike over to the US for someone to race, we will never see anything but American eSS bikes racing each other. If the TTXGP’s eSS series does make it to European countries will probably see Brammos and Zeros taking the Energica on, but unless Lightning has blown up in 2014, I don’t see anyone importing one to race. If they have a proactive dealer, then that might change.

  3. If brammo is really wants to lead they will put James Parker’s RADD suspension on their next bike. I beleave that elmotos have no need for fork feedback because they do not have engine vibration to overcome. It is all about knowing what the front tire is doing.

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