.

The Electric Superbike – The End of the Beginning

The electric motorcycle is dead! Some say it was destined to fail, being nothing more than an illusion that scammed investors out of millions. Electric motorcycle advocates pin hopes on promised models from mainstream brands.  For most industry insiders it’s increasingly obvious as the years progress and electric motorcycle startups fail : amateur hour is over.

Like all revolutions it began optimistically.  Back in 2009 the media and industry alike were gripped by electric vehicle fever. The inaugural all-electric TTX GP race at the Isle of Man set the motorcycle industry buzzing, while breakthroughs such as the Tesla electric car plus the millions of low-speed electric scooters being sold in Asia spurred venture capital to pour billions into electric vehicle technology.  Studies were published saying that hundreds of millions of electric vehicles would be on the road within five years.

That was the time that Brammo and Mission Motors first appeared.  Along with dozens of tiny startups, these two American companies presented all-electric motorcycles that promised to start the plug-in motorcycle revolution. Unlike the typical home-built conversions of most starups, Brammo and Mission launched Silicon Valley style, professionally executed media events with beautiful websites and good-looking, full function prototypes.

Brammo took the mass market approach with the Enertia, a handsome commuter bike sold through electronics retailer Best Buy. On the premium end, Mission unveiled what the company called the world’s first electric superbike – capable of 150 mph (240 km/h) and a range per charge of 150 miles (240km).  Both were labelled “the Tesla of two wheels”.

Brammo Enertia was light, simple and designed to appeal to the urban commuter
2009 Brammo Enertia was light, simple and designed to appeal to the technology-savvy urban commuter

Fast forward to today, and the media are writing obituaries for Mission Motorcycles, which filed for bankruptcy, while also posting cover features of the “new” Victory Empulse R, a rebadged Brammo Empulse. Brammo, absorbed into the Polaris Industries empire last year, joins Mission as just another corpse in the heap of motorcycle brands that died attempting to kickstart the electric revolution.

A Victory in name only. Polaris comes to the rescue of Brammo and takes over Empulse production
A Victory in name only. Polaris comes to the rescue of Brammo and takes over Empulse production

The Silicon Valley problem

The high-profile failures of Brammo and Mission, two well-funded companies led by professional business people with serious credentials, were only the latest in a long string of electric motorcycle casualties. Other brands like Roehr, Vectrix, New Vectrix, Quantya, Voxan, Muench, Mavizen and dozens of others quietly vanished when sales didn’t materialize, or in most cases they weren’t able to actually produce what they promised.

A few startups from that early fertile period, Lightning Motors, Energica, and ALTA Motors (née BRD Redshift) live on, the first two actually delivering road legal motorcycles to customers as promised, if a little late; the latter gaining new rounds of funding and promising deliveries of series production models this year.

All of which leaves one company standing tall.

Zero Motorcycles from Scotts Valley, California. It not only survived through the hell of the great recession, passing the road legal certification process, recalls, outgrowing its founder, and overcoming the challenge of building a working factory, it came out the other end a stronger, scaled up and fully fledged motorcycle manufacturer. Zero, and Zero alone can claim to be an electric motorcycle company, one that is readily available via a solid dealer network, with after-sales care, and one presenting a bright future of robust growth.

From electrified mountain bike to full-fledged motorcycle in 8 difficult years. 2015 model SR features 290km range and ABS brakes
From electrified mountain bike to full-fledged motorcycle in 8 difficult years. 2015 model SR features 290km range and ABS brakes

Like everyone, Zero Motorcycles suffered with the same fundamental limitations of battery technology and cost, but unlike key rival Brammo and Mission, Zero has a laser focus. Instead of wasting resources on extravagances like international racing and lavish trade show presentations (actions for which Brammo and Mission were both guilty), Zero operated frugally, accepted often harsh criticisms to steadily improve its products while reducing costs.

In other words, they did business.

It seems obvious that being a motorcycle company is about manufacturing motorcycles, but startup culture in 21st century America has been built around internet business, where physical products aren’t the core focus. The Silicon Valley template is to go from prototype to high volume delivery as fast as possible, to secure later venture funding.  This, in the vernacular of venture capital, is called scaling, the end goal of which is either the sale of the fledgling company to a larger one, or to float stock on the market in an IPO (independent public offering).

Go big or go home : Brammo and its very large (and expensive) trade show display at EICMA in Italy
Go big or go home : Brammo and its very large (and expensive) trade show display at EICMA in Italy

It’s a formula that’s made tens of billions in the dot-com and app universe, but unfortunately translates very poorly into businesses that actually make things.  Physical devices in the tech world, if required, are outsourced to contract manufacturers because they form only a tiny part of the consumer experience. But with motor vehicles, the physical product is the experience.

Both Brammo and Mission were founded and led by captains of the west coast tech industry who believed that the road to success in electric motorcycling followed this pattern. Build and present flashy prototypes, and use the pre-orders to secure funding for developing the production bikes.

It could have worked, and in fact that is precisely what Tesla did to great effect. The key difference between Tesla and the tech world was that Tesla spent all its capital building its own factory and focusing on delivering one expertly finished product into customer hands, even if it meant sacrificing short-term growth.

Lack of focus

Just after Brammo’s first bike, the Enertia, began to ship to customers in 2009, the company changed direction.  An ambitious line up of new models, headlined by the Empulse sport bike, but also including the Engage and Excite motocross models and an upgraded Enertia Plus, were announced with imminent delivery dates.  Up to that point Brammo has promoted itself as practical and stylish mass market bike for everyone.  The image makeover recast the company as an aggressive enthusiast brand.

keepitclassy

As is typical in manufacturing, production and distribution issues popped up. Selling through Best Buy didn’t work, so dealers were hastily signed up.  Brammo moved production of the Enertia to Hungary, delaying deliveries while it concentrated on the Empulse, a complex and expensive design with a proprietary gearbox and three times the battery and performance of the Enertia.  Marketing of the production Enertia dropped off to almost nothing, while Empulse development bogged down.

Please don't try this at home. Yves Behar's Mission One appealed only to fans of Rubbermaid
Please don’t try this at home. Yves Behar’s Mission One appealed only to fans of Rubbermaid

Over at Mission Motors they soon realized that their target audience didn’t like the boxy look of the Mission One by celebrity designer Yves Behar, so they went back to the drawing board hiring established motorcycle professionals like renowned engineer James Parker (Yamaha GTS) and designer Tim Prentice (Honda NAS).

The new Mission R was an amazing design with range, beauty, speed and handling unlike anything before. Again, delivery dates were announced, and deposits were being taken on the superbike, albeit at the eye watering price of $68,000.

mission-r-production-racer-to-arrive-june-3rd_2

Mission R was, and remains still, the evolutionary apogee of the electric superbike
Mission R was, and remains still, the evolutionary apogee of the electric superbike

While this was going on Mission spun off a separate company to market its electric vehicle drive train technology to major car companies. This pivot in business strategy made sense based on the explosive forecasts in electric vehicles predicted in 2009.  However the demand never showed up, and what little did saw car companies going to established suppliers in the traditional automotive supply chain.

By 2012, both Brammo and Mission were burning through cash while taking in little revenue.  Enertia sales remained weak while Mission had not delivered a single customer motorcycle despite the stellar performance of their racing team and high-profile media exposure on Jay Leno’s Garage. The board decided to sell off the motorcycle unit, which was re-established in 2013 as Mission Motorcycles, to concentrate on the powertrain business.

Finally in 2013, three years after it was announced and two years after expected delivery, the Brammo Empulse was ready. Tests were positive and, together with a continuing string of racing successes, the brand looked strong.

Unfortunately for Brammo, 2013 was also a breakthrough year for Zero, whose lineup and capability had grown dramatically. At the time of the Empulse launch, the rival Zero S packed in 30% more range, a more powerful motor and cost less. The Brammo was considered the better bike, with Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels, but it was too expensive and invisible thanks to a thin distribution network.

Brammo_Blowout

By late 2014 signs appeared suggesting that the business was failing. There was a debt refinancing deal just seven months after a $9.5 million  funding round, and the company appeared on a website normally reserved for struggling startups. By this point Brammo had raised over $60 million from serious venture firms and blue chip industrial companies like Polaris Industries, but as one image from the funding website revealed, Brammo was still selling ideas instead of motorcycles. Yet another model, a cruiser, was promised in the near future.

Mission’s power train company, now called Mission Electric, was getting some work done for Mugen and reportedly Harley-Davidson, but the newly independent Mission Motorcycles was fading fast. The co-founders were locked in a bitter and public series of law suits and counter-suits over equity, while the CEO continued to make outrageous claims from the company’s trendy offices about a production lineup with delivery and specifications that bordered on science fiction.

A few swipes of the pen and voila! Brammo's proposed "eCruiser". Rear shock's size and location reveals how far from reality this concept was.
A few swipes of the pen and voila! Brammo’s proposed “eCruiser”. Rear shock’s size and location reveals how far from reality this concept was.

The Cold, Hard Truth Hits Home

Brammo was clearly dead as a manufacturing enterprise when at the end of September 2014 the company announced a sale on its website, where unsold stock from 2013 and 2014 could be ordered for as much as 40% off their regular price.  A few months later Polaris Industries, a major Brammo stock holder, acquired the floundering electric motorcycle business and shifted production of the Empluse under the Victory label.

A quick look at the dates of the announcements and financing disclosures reveals that the fire sale was in advance of the debt deal, meaning that for all intents and purposes, Brammo was out of cash by the fall of 2014, and went hat in hand to investors for help.

The Empulse, nice as it was, could not compete with Zero in the marketplace.  Zero had roughly doubled sales each year since 2010, improved the product quality by an order of magnitude, lowered costs and won tremendous market share.  According to information readily available in the public domain, Brammo burned through at least $66 million in cash plus an unknown amount of debt to sell perhaps as little as 4,000 motorcycles, equivalent to Zero’s annual production just this year.

“to date, we have not earned any cash/revenue of any kind”  – Mission CEO

Mission is closed for good as of last week, for lack of sales. The company did not have the talent or the resources to develop, manufacture, market and distribute a legal production motorcycle. According to a letter submitted to the bankruptcy court, Mission did not earn one thin dime against $12 million in investment.

You can shout about being the revolutionary “Tesla of motorcycles” all you want, but it’s not the same as making and selling actual motorcycles. In the end, Mission and Brammo contained some excellent ideas and technology but simply didn’t meet the goal of shipping out reliable, competitive products and generating revenue.

Forget Tom Cruise, the real Mission Impossible stars the California startup escaping it's creditors. Photo : Jensen Beeler taking out bad guys
Forget Tom Cruise, the real Mission Impossible stars the California startup escaping its creditors. Photoshop : Jensen Beeler taking out bad guys

The sum of the parts is Zero

Some pretty hard and inscrutable facts have forged the consensus that there is no business case for electric motorcycles:

Fact number one, front and center for all critics of electric motorcycles, is the range limitation of battery technology. No one wants to buy an expensive street bike only to be tethered to a one hour travel radius from their garage.

Fact number two concerns money. Those same said batteries are colossally expensive to manufacturer in volumes that make electric vehicles usable, so that they alone end up costing as much as an entire assembled 600 cc sport bike.

When you combine these two salient points, you end up with a losing formula that makes electric motorcycles extremely expensive while simultaneously limiting performance compared to traditional gasoline powered bikes. Objectively, this scenario suggests the technology for highway capable electric motorcycles is immature, which for the most part, it is.

Neal Saiki, founder of Zero Motorcycles, built the company out of his basement after leaving NASA
Neal Saiki, founder of Zero Motorcycles, built the company out of his basement after leaving NASA

But there is factual, data driven evidence that says highway capable electric motorcycles are not only viable, but that the economic fundamentals of the business point to growth.  Right now as you read this, Zero is building and shipping about 20 new electric motorcycles every day, making Zero roughly identical in size to MV Agusta when Harley-Davidson acquired it in 2008 for $100 million.  Zero raised about the same amount of venture capital as Brammo, but has consistently delivered improved models on time.  The company stated that they are on course for another 50% growth this year, while the costs of batteries have fallen by half since 2010.

With the Brammo and Mission failures, lots of investors are understandably negative, but it is critical to note that all of the high-profile electric vehicle companies that died over the past four years did so because of operational weakness.  Most of these startups were run by people with no motorcycle industry knowledge and yet held the arrogant belief that this was actually an asset.

Tesla, so often cited as an example of outsider success in an entrenched industry, is filled with executives and technical staff hired directly from establishment brands. Mission experienced most of its success with the Mission R, a design created by established motorcycle industry experts.

Harley-Davidson Livewire - when the establishment takes on the electric motorcycle, Captain America shows up. Photo : Autoevolution
Harley-Davidson Livewire – when the establishment takes on the electric motorcycle, Captain America shows up. Photo : Autoevolution

This is why the high performance, electric motorcycle revolution is stalled.

As usual, revolutions begin with radical thinkers operating on the fringe, but get carried on by established players. Case in point is Neal Saiki, the founder of Zero, an ex-Nasa engineer and mountain bike enthusiast who used outside logic to break new ground.  But once his company got traction he had to move over and let more experienced people carry the company into mainstream growth.

Small, light, and polished. Yamaha PES1 has the right stuff, if not a good name
Small, light, and polished. Yamaha PES1 has the right stuff, if not a good name, to make a genuine electric motorcycle possible.

Major OEMs will begin introducing electric motorcycles with the polish and performance the public expects within a couple of years, and it’s also probable that Zero will grow into a respected niche manufacturer with volumes similar to Aprilia or Moto Guzzi.  They will have done this the old-fashioned way, building and selling bikes, reinvesting and growing organically.  No outrageous statements, no flashy pyramid scheme of escalating product promises.

The electric motorcycle revolution is coming, but it will be a slow-burn transformation instead of an explosive one.  Given the volatility of the motorcycle market, that is a good thing.

30 thoughts on “The Electric Superbike – The End of the Beginning”

  1. Can we find something else to talk about please Michael ?
    Electrics are at best a sidebar to the current state of the motorcycle industry and frankly bore the living daylights out of me.
    Its kinda like watching an Ichiban Moto video….

  2. Let’s be completely honest: This is possibly the worst “journalism” I’ve ever seen on electric motorcycles.

    First of all: The vast majority of startups fail. Ever heard of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SixDegrees.com ? You could have easily said that social media was dead after their failure, but that’s not would be missing the point – most successful startups are built on the back of other historical development, interacting with a critical market need. Just because Altavista is dead, doesn’t mean Google is circling the drain with a few remaining scraps of internet money.

    Mission failed because they failed to produce a product. That often happens with startups, either because they fail to produce a functional product, or they fail to produce a good product, or they fail to use marketing effectively to get their product to the people that want to buy it.

    Brammo hasn’t failed at all, as their motorcycle production lines, techniques, processes, etc, were viewed as a good investment for Polaris, who last I checked, isn’t in the business of charity.

    The commentary on the tech industry is frankly, embarrassing. The consumer experience of using and holding and touching an iPhone is a huge component of what Apple has sold people on. Tesla is actually a living example of the very thing you blame on Mission and Brammo – they are not cash flow positive, and they are sucking down money at an absurd rate in the hopes that they can build enough infrastructure on someone else’s dime to own the market entirely. It’s difficult to say if it’s going to work out for them in the long run, but it’s incredibly twisted to hold Tesla up as an example of doing this right, and to hold Brammo up as an example of doing the same thing wrong, when their core models are actually relatively similar, although taken to different degrees. The difference between Tesla and Brammo is that there is no buyer with enough money to buy out the Tesla production line, as opposed to the much smaller motorcycle industry, where the larger players can easily acquire companies or pieces of companies from smaller players. In a different world, where major car makers were smarter, the GM EV1 would have killed Tesla before it was even born. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Polaris has their eye on owning a large chunk of the potential market, and the best way to get there is to buy their way in by picking up someone else’s production infrastructure.

    Additionally, it’s fucking offensive that you say “From SOHO to Bimbos” with a picture of Shelina Moreda, a professional roadracer (sponsored by Brammo at the time), who has competed and won internationally. Your attitude towards women is terrible and repugnant – this is why motorcycling has such an issue with women riders. That caption is a damning indictment of your sexism, not the women that chose to race it and promote it, or the companies themselves.

    But your personal terrible views aside, you follow by pointing to the Mission R, a bike that was never actually available for sale, as the “evolutionary apogee” of the electric superbike (never mind that their times, while impressive, are now falling to other manufacturers). I’m not sure how you can say that Mission experienced any success when they never actually sold a motorcycle. For 12 million dollars, you can do a lot of non-street legal R&D, and track success is not production success. You point to Brammo as floundering and poor tech, yet indicate that a bike that never made it to production is the “apogee of the brand”? Did this fall out of your draft love letters to the Mission Motors CEO and accidentally get published?

    Brammo also sold incredibly well overseas, AFAIK, which is something you leave out entirely. Also, pointing to the machinations of the finance industry as demonstrating if a company is floundering or not is frankly just ignorant to the complexities and realities of modern financing. Same with anything that has an acquisition component, the impact of carrying product into those relationships is complex and nuanced. I have no insider knowledge of the Brammo financing deals, but I have seen many times where odd decisions were made due to accounting and tax based drivers making the benefits invisible to those not on the inside.

    Also, judging on production is similarly ignorant, especially given that business goals are vastly different between Brammo and Zero. They have considerably different approaches to what was manufactured in house vs what was outsourced. Comparing sales to sales is essentially a completely meaningless metric when you’re talking about both a developing industry and completely different manufacturing goals and priorities revolving around electric vehicles. Brammo is now making money by selling drivetrains they developed to other companies to power new electric vehicles. Looking at Brammo without that context is missing much of the point of the company.

    You topped off this pile of idiocy, though, when you referenced MV Agusta. The company that was acquired by Harley for 100 million, and then re-acquired back by the same family that sold it for 1 Euro some time later. If you want an example of a company that exploited the shit out of “venture capital” through questionable legal and financial maneuvering, MV is definitely on that list, but that just further proves that Brammo is on a proven path – get someone else to finance your risky development, build a product, and then partner with a major company to scale and build a brand presence. Your example indicate that Brammo is on the right track with how they’re building their business and brand.

    “Major OEMs will be introducing electric motorcycles in the next couple of years with polish and performance the public expects”? I don’t know how to tell you this, but…a major OEM already owns a production electric motorcycle manufacturing facility. They’re named “Polaris”. As the market grows, it’s equally possible that Zero will simply fade away once Polaris and Honda start throwing down in the industry, as Zero is pushing the limits of their existing hardware and technology to an extreme degree and they will need to do a complete, ground up redesign with significantly more expensive components if they expect to stay competitive. They’re a year (or maybe less) away from being in direct competition with Polaris and any other OEM that decides to throw down. Their primary advantage is cost right now, and that benefit drops away as electric tech gets cheaper and production costs become more traditional (or if you simply purchase a production line…).

    Finally, only the ignorant would have ever thought that the electric motorcycle thing would have exploded in the first place – the range issues are a serious problem for American riders (significantly less so for EU ones, as motorcycles are commuters there, not toys, and that’s where electric bikes shine). Electric bikes are ultimately driven by battery technology and charging stations – those limitations are what control the expansion of electric bikes. The US market will show minimal growth in that direction, as fits our ‘bikes as toys’ market. The larger EU and Asia commuter market will lead the pack, not the US.

    This article is pretty much the worst clickbaity, jump to conclusions bullshit thing I’ve seen on the internet today — and I accidentally went to the front page of reddit an hour ago. Well done, I guess.

    1. Thanks for the considered response. It is clear that you feel passionately about the subject. If you read the article again, you will see that it aligns almost point for point with many of your own.

      – Regarding startups, I point out that most electric motorcycle brands fail. Failure is normal
      – Regarding Mission, it clearly blames the lack of deliverable product as the cause of its demise
      – Regarding limitations of battery technology limiting growth, again, in the conclusion of the article
      – Regarding the economic forecasts, I concur that these were wildly optimistic and lacked credibility.

      On the other points, perhaps some further reading would help

      – Regarding women and motorcycling, I was offended by the use of umbrella girls, something that the industry as a whole is guilty of and was the subject of my last widely read article. Again, this sentiment is clear in the article
      http://canadamotoguide.com/2015/08/17/be-gentle-with-me-women-in-motorcycling/

      – Regarding the failure of Brammo, Brammo as a company and brand no longer sells motorcycles, which since this is a motorcycle magazine, is where that ends. The company is at best a contract manufacturer for Polaris, so calling Brammo a motorcycle brand would be like calling Foxconn a cell-phone brand, just because they manufacture the Apple iPhone. Besides that, Mr. Bramscher stated many times on the record that the business goal was a $1 billion IPO in 2015.
      http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/sbo/2013/11/brammos-bramscher-sets-2015-ipo-goal.html

      – Regarding Zero as the sole electric motorcycle OEM, I will grant that this is not literally true, since Energica, Polaris and a handful of others are actually shipping small numbers of units, but they have almost no market penetration. Zero alone has mainstream market-fit, the lion’s share of the market, and is delivering thousands of units per year.

      – Regarding the MV comparison, it is plainly clear that the comparison is there to place real value on small volume, niche motorcycle manufacturers. The actual value of MV was mostly branding, since as you correctly said (and I have written many times) MV was drowning in debt.

      I am unsure how you got that this was a “love letter” to Mission, given that the article clearly questions the actions of the company. The Mission R was, objectively, the best high performance electric motorcycle presented at the time, even though it was merely a prototype and nowhere near a production. Again, a point that is well stated in the article, and aligns completely with your criticism.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    2. Zero had developed the highest battery power density with Luke Workman. Check out his death bike vid where he beats a tesla in the 1/4 mile. Range is going to always be an issue without quick fueling via an infrastructure and quick fueling is always going to be an issue with batteries. Even high induction chargers for experimental F1 cars take approx 20 minutes to “fill up”.

      A FCV as an electric motorcycle or trike could be re-fueled quickly with hydrogen, but there is no infrastructure.

      If Polaris is going to dominate then it’s only going to dominate if they get on the FCV bandwagon. There’s no summer to winter degradation in mileage because of ambient temperature changes like gas burning ice engines have.

      Actic cat has a cool unit coming out called the SVX450 snowbike but why not give riders a summer winter swap out kit for the front and rear wheels/ skis and track assembly? As an electric, call it An E-SVX?

      Because that would be intelligent.

      No doubt electric is the way to go but not completely without some kind of
      Hydrogen fuel infrastructure.

      1. I think your mentioning of alternative energy snowmobiles and recreational vehicles is interesting, given that they are exposed to such extreme temperatures. Batteries, as you say, are not too happy in cold conditions, so perhaps fuel cells will be good there.

        On the road, even in inclement weather, I believe that battery electric vehicles will be the dominant propulsion system. It is just a question of practicality. Batteries are stable at ambient temperatures and (relatively) benign when punctured (Yes, they catch fire but a hydrogen fuel cell by contrast explodes catastrophically).

        Either way, let the best technology win! We live in exciting times.

  3. Amarock stills owes me the t-shirt I was promised in it’s crowd funding drive. I’ve got no respect for Michael Uhlarik or anything he has to say.

  4. I’ve owned a Zero SR since January ’14, and I have to say I very much agree with Brian’s perspective. Brammo’s sale to Polaris was far from a failure; it’s one of two holy grails of a startup….build a brand that’s successful enough to be of serious interest to a major player in the industry. Bigtime hallmark of success, not failure.

    And for the industry, having a major player jump into the ring (either with a clean-sheet design like HD is toying with, or by purchasing existing branding as Polaris did) is a very strong signal of (as you’ve subtitled the article) the end of the beginning of the electric motorcycle. Look at how many EV companies have come and gone over the years, until Tesla came along and blew up all previous conceptions. Now Porsche, BMW, and other major manufacturers are finally coming forward with exciting, stimulating designs which treat the EV as just another valid drivetrain choice, not the glorified golf carts they had been giving us.

    Yes, of course range is an issue, as is purchase price. You know as well as anyone that both of those problems are receding faster than the reservoirs in California right now. And besides, EVERY vehicle has limitations which the owner has to work around. You can’t haul sheetrock in a Honda, and you can’t split lanes in a Hummer. Like most people, 90% of my driving is commuting, which my Zero easily provides for me extremely inexpensively. I have an old BMW 528i for bad weather, hauling people or stuff, or making long trips for….and I still have to rent a vehicle when I need to bring plywood home for a project!

    Give the electric motorcycle credit where it’s due. It’s an incredibly cheap commuter, a blast to ride (a very underappreciated fact by people who’ve never ridden one), and a very viable personal transportation alternative. It’s not god’s gift to the motorist, but neither is a Ferrari.

    1. It is NOT a cheap commuter. The electric motorcycle has low running costs, but considering the low buy-in price of a scooter or 250-300 cc motorcycle, THOSE are cheap commuters. They are also only truly viable transportation in the city (although that’s where most buyers live, so that works out).

      The fun factor, though, is undeniable!

    2. Doug,

      The article concludes with a detailed argument as to why electric motorcycles have a positive future, just not in the way it started. You may notice that it makes the case using Zero as an example, just as you have.

  5. And superbikes are what? People ride them and either get tired of the uncomfortable riding position or crash them. Rarely do they ever get used for anything useful. They get stuck in the garage and the LEAD ACID battery goes flat.

  6. Michael,

    Next time you write an expose on a company, you should try to contact them first. Brammo didn’t get acquired by Polaris. Let me say that again – Brammo DID NOT get acquired by Polaris. We are all still in Talent, OR in our 100,000 square foot facility developing electric motorcycles, lithium-ion batteries for multiple industries, and hiring new Engineers.

    Polaris acquired our production motorcycle business to take to market under the Victory brand. They simultaneously hired our team to execute on improvements and even do final assembly of the bikes at our facility. It’s been a huge positive move for our brand even though it takes us one step away from being a consumer brand. After all that marketing (BTW – Brammo’s booth at EICMA was nothing compared to the major OE’s that spend millions of dollars per year and are 4-5 times the size), we were still unknown to the general public and our distribution network was growing at a snail’s pace. Victory has a well-established network after 15 years of business and a brand that is at least recognized by the general population. I wish Zero, Alta, Lightning, and others the best – but the road to becoming a “real OEM” is long and ludicrously capital intensive. Brammo is alive and well and doing what we’ve always done. We went racing at the Isle of Man TT with Victory sponsorship. Those were our bikes and the Brammo team – you’ll see me in the videos leading the effort.

    This article is poorly researched and belittles the massive efforts and achievements made by those at Brammo and Mission (who are unfortunately not around to defend themselves). I believe that you’re simply venting your own frustration to have any significant impact in this market with Amarock…

    1. Brian

      Thank you for responding. We’ve known each other for more than five years, and have always been mutually supportive in our efforts and enthusiasm for electrified motorcycling. Rather that be offended, I invite you to read what I wrote again.

      I compliment both the Empulse and Enertia as products and the technology Brammo developed, while acknowledging the business experience of the leadership. I do not attack persons, or make accusations of wrong doing of any kind. The only exposé is of readily available facts from the public domain (with links).

      However I do question the strategic business choices Brammo made, which lead the development of the Empulse, and seems to have contributed to weak market fit at the time of launch. The events of fall 2014 (the discounts, etc) surprised and disappointed electric motorcycle boosters everywhere, including me.

      The article casts a critical eye on tiny newborn manufactures’ decisions to bite off too much too soon, and expand so quickly.

      Manufacturing all-new vehicles is extremely difficult and expensive, which is why even the most experienced global giants usually plan 3-4 years to develop new models, and only the largest attempt both a new chassis and powertrain at the same time. This is what experience taught me over two decades as a motorcycle R&D employee and consultant at those OEMs, and a point I’ve made numerous in print many times.

      I have corrected the line regarding the Brammo-Polaris relationship, with a link to the Brammo’s own website, which confirms the facts as presented.

      “Now, Polaris is expected to start making Brammo’s electric motorcycles—including the award-winning Enertia and Empulse (pictured)—in the second half of the year in its factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa.”

      1. First, this isn’t an “exposé” of Brammo, for the record. Second, it’s almost 100% correct factually, according to the research I’ve done over the several years I’ve been following Brammo and documenting what they’ve said and done, though it is a very strident tone, for sure. Thrid, I’ve contacted Brammo directly, and personally, for research for Power in Flux – a History of Electric Motorcycles, and been completely and utterly ignored.

        Brammo has said whatever Brammo has wanted to say over the years, with very little concern about their credibility or accountability, in my opinion. It’s not a surprise that there are plenty of people who now won’t believe anything they say. It also has been a pattern, since as early as 2010, that when you criticize Brammo, you are accused of envy, personal anger, etc… the “they hate us cause they ain’t us” mentality. This response by Brammo isn’t anything new, but still disappointing.

  7. Good lord. Well this is certainly the clickbaitiest article I’ve seen in a while.

    Literally:

    “PLUG-IN ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLES ARE A SCAM! […] The electric motorcycle revolution is coming, but it will be a slow-burn transformation instead of an explosive one.”

    Trololololol. In shocking (zzzing) news, electric bikes are an emerging, bleeding edge technology in a niche subset of a niche industry. OF COURSE there are going to be weird missteps and bizarro failures.

    I’ve put 20,000+ miles on my Brammo Empulse R, and it’s one of the best bikes I’ve ever owned. I wasn’t aware getting acquired made you a ‘corpse,’ but I’m excited about the Victory transition. If they release a new model with ABS, I’ll buy one of those too. And if they don’t? I’ll buy an Energica Eva, or a Zero SR, or an Alta Redshift, or a Honda Whatever-the-hell-comes-out-of-the-Shinden, or a who knows what. Electrics are the future; it’s just a question of when.

    1. I am, and will remain bullish about the future of electric motorcycles. The Empulse was a good product and I’m glad you love yours. Brammo as a motorcycle brand is dead, but with Polaris’ steady hand at the wheel, your bike’s next of kin are in great hands.

    1. The article was about big budget electric companies going wrong, not meant as an electric motorcycle state of the union. Lito is neither big nor going… anywhere.

      1. funny guy. You shall call me and ask because you are completely wrong… and I always answer the phone. Delivering the SORA to customer since april 2014. Now customer in 6 countries (France, Germany, Canada, USA, Switzerland… and Kazakhstan ;-). Also look the season premier of Hawaii 5-0 this friday to see the SORA as the Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) motorcycle for the complete season and everyweek in the opening sequence… we are focus and moving forward. please keep your mis information for your family and friends!

      2. The SORA by LITO just replaced Harley Davidson on Hawaii Five 0, one of the Most Watched TV shows and just sold more units to EU. Also launched the Signature Series this year as released in the Robb Report.

Join the conversation!