Polaris Industries has announced that they are going to participate in the TT Zero race at this year’s Isle of Man TT. In what was becoming the worst kept secret in the tiny world of electric motorcycle racing, the confirmation that Polaris was behind what organizers called an unannounced “high level” entry, surprised few. However, that the brand chosen to carry the banner is Victory and not Brammo, reveals much.
Polaris Industries acquired the Brammo electric motorcycle business, late last year after the start up failed to get traction in the marketplace with its brand of high performance electric street bikes. With Harley-Davidson’s commitment to electric motorcycles in the form of the LiveWire concept, Brammo was a logical addition for Polaris, who bolstered the initiative by buying another electric mobility company less than a month later.
Polaris is a highly successful manufacturer of powersports equipment that first ventured into the road bike market with its Victory brand more than 15 years ago. Victory began as a modern cruiser alternative to Harley-Davidson but has since evolved into a diversified range of sportier offerings, while Indian Motorcycles, also acquired by Polaris, concentrates on the more traditional touring segment.
Brammo was founded as a maker of modern, but modest, electric commuter bikes when its first motorcycle, the Enertia, was introduced in 2008. Touted for its economy and ease of use, the Enertia represented the first lithium-ion powered production electric motorcycle capable of real world speeds.
However, by 2009 the company quickly changed direction, developing racing prototypes for the inaugural TT all electric race at the Isle of Man, where they finished a very respectable third. Brammo continued with an aggressive electric racing program as well as an aggressive marketing campaign, co-branded with Icon clothing, but went bust as revenue from actual motorcycle sales failed to materialize.
Wait, electric motorcycle racing is a thing?
The TT Zero is a single lap, all-electric race held within the two week Isle of Man TT event, first run in 2009. It has gained world wide attention, more in the automotive field than in motorcycling, for its role in demonstrating what is possible with the current state-of-the-art.
Charge, a documentary film in 2010 about the race, raised the competition’s profile and that of American Michael Czysz, an architect turned racing motorcycle developer, who’s winning electric prototypes and personality inspired many. The TT Zero has thus become an annual showcase for battery powered innovation, with all electric lap times now rivaling those of 600 cc production supersport bikes, less than six years since beginning.
What does this mean for Victory, America’s other cruiser brand?
The electric race bike Victory has presented is a re-branded Brammo Empulse RR, the very same race prototype used in the Icon era. That makes sense, since it was by all accounts a reliable, fast and good handling machine that, backed by sufficient Polaris resources, ought to acquit itself well at the TT Zero in two weeks time.
What’s notable is that by flagging the effort under the Victory brand, it is crystal clear that Brammo is being dropped as a motorcycle brand completely, and more importantly, Polaris is preparing to pivot the Victory brand into the high performance sport segment.
Polaris has become the most dynamic company in the power sports industry this decade, spreading innovative products out in all directions. From their pastoral headquarters in Minnesota they have expanded into the three-wheeled space with the provocative SlingShot, developed a truly exquisite new American cruiser with the Indian Scout, and now are pushing Victory into the realm of competition with the TT Zero effort and the Pikes Peak racer developed with Roland Sands.
Polaris is clearly determined to deliver all things motorcycle to all people, which given the company’s history of success, makes it America’s powersports superhero. With America so dominant in electric transportation technology, and with the charismatic MotoCzysz out of the picture, Polaris is poised to take the fight to the Isle of Man TT Zero and show the world what Victory looks like.
It should be great.