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Electric motorcycles pick up speed [Updated]


Electric motorcycles are closing the speed gap on internal combustion bikes. Brammo won the kickoff to this year's TTXGP North American Championship series Sunday, clocking the fastest-ever lap speed at Infineon Raceway for an electric motorcycle with its Empulse RR -- and showing the quick evolution of a sport that didn't even exist until 2009.

Brammo's fastest lap time at the Sonoma raceway was 1:55.150, almost two seconds faster than last year's winning electric bike on the 2.5-mile track. Its average lap speed was within 20 seconds of the fastest qualifying lap time of a 1,000cc internal combustion superbike on the same track. 

"We're definitely knocking on the door here," said Brian Wismann, director of product development for Brammo Inc., based in Ashland, Ore.

Brammo was among the first electric motorcycle manufacturers to compete in the original TTXGP on the Isle of Man in 2009. The Brammo Empulse RR is powered with a permanent magnet AC, or PMAC, motor  and 12.5-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. [Updated 5-20-11, 10:05 a.m.: A previous version of this post said the Empulse RR was powered with an AC induction motor.]


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 -- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Racer Steve Atlas riding the Brammo Empulse RR electric motorcycle. Credit: Brammo Inc.

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Harpon, if you assume everyone lives in Smogolia then there are natural barriers to speed. In the real world beyond Tinseltown, there are wide open spaces where speed matters.

As for the Prius...explain why there are so many 3-5-year-old models available on the used market? You can buy a hell of a lot of $5 gas for $7,000, the price of a replacement battery.

The Empulse RR has a top speed of about 135-140 mph. This is not the speed attained at Infineon Raceway, however, as this track has very few and very short straightaways, so the gearing was set to maximize drive off the corners.

@ Jack Romanski:

Infineon is a small, tight, twisty, technical, hilly track and these are heavy bikes, so you have to do small tires and a tall gear, all while trying to milk one-fifth of a gallon of gasoline equivalent. It'll go over 100 mph on the longest, straightest part of the race track. You can bet that on a longer, straighter track they'd want to change the race bike set up to make a higher top speed.

If it's raw speed you want, electric it getting it done.

If you want long banked straights, see Chip Yates do 160 mph beating 1000cc gas bikes in WERA races and 190 mph on the flats time trails in one mile. Or you could see the Killacycle or the OCC bike doing more than 170 mph on a quarter mile drag strip in under 8 seconds.
Then there's the Buckeye team with the speedster that's done over 300 mph. If you're really a speed freak, the latest railguns make shots that do over mach 8. All of those are electric.

Meanwhile, the largest US cities all have actual average vehicle speeds of less than 10 mph, and even slower during commuting times. Supermotards are the fastest growing mototcycle segment in the US as cruising and touring wanes and desire for around town practicaility and fun increase. Those are generally designed for 35-50 mph or less settings and high manuervarability and ease of operation. Electric are definitely beating gassers there, straight up, to the point of having to give the moto gassers a handicap in racing.
"In an attempt to level the playing field and capture fans' attention, race organizers handicapped the electric motorcycles by delaying their start behind the gas motorcycles by several seconds...While entertaining, the top electric motorcycle riders were so much faster than the majority of the combustion field that it caused hazards during passing that resulted in at least one incident."

What is this motorcycle's top speed, flat out?

How fast will it go?

straight into a freeway wall and harrassing regular motorists just trying to get from A to B without incident. love those mohawk helmets too - just reflects what a menace they are.

It is about speed because if you are going to win over adherents to a different mode of transport, the sad fact is that it's not going to be environmental freindliness. Speed sells. The Toyota Prius is successful because each owner wants to propogate an image of themselves as a environmentally conscious person. I argue that the motorcycle market is different. Electric motors have a lot of potential to provide a great deal of performance and acceleration. New segements of the market can be won over by focusing the potential of the electric motor in other areas besides creating an image of saving the planet.

Don't get me started on what happens to all the toxic waste from the lithium on all the Prius batteries that are about to end their life cycles.

Why does it always have to be about "Speed"-

t is in fact "speed" that continues to inhibit the introduction of sane hybrid and electric- or even smaller combustion use,

while the natural factors of more crowded streets and freeways slow things up otherwise.

Why worry over speed that motorists and commuters can't legally or realsistic use otherwise?


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