Early in 2015, Polaris bought electric motorcycle make Brammo with the intention of taking its green bikes to a bigger market. While that seemed like a long-term proposition, Polaris hasn’t wasted time with its first release through its Victory Motorcycles wing. The 2016 Victory Empulse TT ($19,999), based on an earlier model by Brammo, is going on sale in the fall and represents a shakeup on the thin electric motorcycle market Harley-Davidson plans to enter.
In a company statement (via Cycle World), Victory described the release of the Empulse TT as a natural fit for the brand’s expanding lineup because of its sporty riding experience. The bike maker said engineers improved battery capacity and handling in the Brammo model to create the the first electric motorcycle in the company’s history. It features 54 horsepower, 61 pounds-feet of torque, and is capable of hitting a top speed of over 100 miles per hour.
The range of the Empulse TT is not its strongest suit. According to Victory, “the Empulse TT battery provides a rider with a range of about 65 miles, and a range of 100 miles is possible with throttle management and use of the bike’s regenerative charging.” As a commuter or exploring bike, riders barely have the range of a standard electric car on the road these days (e.g., Nissan Leaf). Charging on a Level 2 system takes 4 hours to get the battery full, while a standard 120V plug takes 9 hours.
While the specs of the Empulse TT are not noticeably improved over the Brammo Empulse R, Victory entry in the segment is noteworthy because the electric bike market remains so limited with Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire still in development.
Harley CEO Matthew Levatich told Bloomberg his company is waiting on improvements in battery efficiency before introducing an electric bike for rides, which suggests we are several years away from the realization of the LiveWire concept. (Likely, by the time the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 arrive, in 2017.) Polaris is making an early-market move in a segment where Zero Motorcycles has most of the available product.
Zero lowered the starting prices of all its available bikes in May, citing lower battery costs as the means for its incentive to buyers. Compared to the Empulse TT, the Zero S ZF12.5 ($13,995) does not have the same curb appeal yet offers a combined range of 115 miles and a top speed of 95 miles per hour. Despite the huge price gap, it is easy to see lovers of classic bike styling gravitating toward Victory’s new electric bike.
The market remains small enough for one new product to make a huge difference, so we’ll keep an eye on the performance of the Empulse TT when it hits the market “in late 2015,” according to Victory’s press release. With the Polaris marketing machine behind it, Zero may have stiff competition for whatever sales are up for grabs in the segment. Looking ahead, Victory has the chance to get a big head start on Harley by the time it makes an electric move.