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2010 Brammo Enertia: So close, yet so far

December 1, 2009
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Brammo Enertia

Brammo Enertia is sold at select Best Buy stores in Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles (Orin O'Neill photos)

“They sell it at Best Buy?” asked the barista incredulously. Yep.

She was totally jazzed about the idea of an electric motorcycle, even if a big-box electronics store was not the place she’d think of to make such a purchase.

In fact, certain Best Buy stores in Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles offer a surprisingly large selection of electric scooters and bicycles. The Brammo Enertia is the flagship, so to speak.

One of those Portland stores is the one at Cascade Station, not far from my crash pad. There’s a sign on the display that says “ask about a test ride.” I’ve always believed if you want something, you should ask for it. So I did. After filling out some paperwork and a pre-flight briefing, I was off.

Of course, starting the Enertia is rather different than firing up a motorcycle with an engine. Forget about FINE-C—you turn the key to “on,” press and hold the power button (rather like the one on an Xbox 360), then sit for a moment and be entertained by a light show in the instrument cluster. You won’t be able to move until you turn the light switch on and put the side stand up.

Brammo Enertia instrument cluster

The green lights on top of the display flash sequentially when the Enertia is stopped

Once underway, you won’t notice much difference between the Enertia and a conventional motorcycle. Aside from NOT HAVING TO SHIFT GEARS, that is. I think Brammo could sell a ton of these things on that basis alone—having to stir a manual gearbox keeps more people off motorcycles than any perceived safety issue.

All the controls are exactly where you expect to find them, and they work very, very well. Throttle response is smooth and linear, and if you crank it really hard, it’ll feel like it wants to zoom out from between your legs (though its deeply-dished seat would probably prevent that from actually happening). Remember, an electric motor makes peak torque from 0 rpm on up. Yes, it makes noise, an electric whine that may well have people calling you “Tron.”

In fact, the Enertia is as easy to ride as a scooter. While my ride was on the new, smooth pavement of Cascade Station, big wheels and generous suspension travel promise a smooth ride just about anywhere. Brembo disk brakes on both ends stop it smoothly, and quickly if need be.

Brammo recently lowered the MSRP from $11,995 to $7,995 (various Federal and state tax credits will offset the price to varying degrees). Like the Tesla folks, Brammo understands the need for a device like this to be a high-quality bit of kit. It is. Everything looks substantial, fits well and works flawlessly. Everything that might break off if the bike drops is made of flexible plastic, as are the fenders. This is a thoughtfully conceived, well-designed motorcycle that is thoroughly enjoyable to ride.

But…

Brammo cites a range per charge of 42 miles (there’s an asterisk, of course). Interestingly, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt is designed to go 42 miles before the gas-engine generator kicks in. GM says they arrived at that figure after their research showed the average American’s round-trip commute is, you guessed it, 42 miles.

So what you have is something you can ride to work and back. Don’t even think about trying to ride from, say, Detroit to Washington, D.C. Yes, it might be possible to accumulate enough tax credits to get the final price down to the level of a Vespa GTS, but keep in mind where and how far I’ve ridden mine. And I didn’t have to stop for gas every 40 miles.

None of this is Brammo’s or the bike’s fault. Battery technology is advancing. So is solar, in theory making it possible to put panels on the roof of your garage that supply the juice to charge your Enertia’s battery. Places to plug in are becoming more numerous by the day. I fill the GTS’ gas tank when the low-fuel light comes on, which usually happens at about 130 miles. An electric that can go that far on a charge becomes quite useful.

Under the Xmas tree

Could there be a Brammo Enertia under your tree this Xmas?

So I’ll get all cynical here and say none of the Enertia’s disadvantages matter because its most likely buyers will be people with lots of money who think buying an electric motorcycle will save the planet, and who may actually ride it only two or three times before parking it next to the Prius and throwing a blue tarp over it. Hey, what early adopters choose to do with their purchases is their business. Mr. or Ms. Green gets the desired ego boost, Brammo gets the money to develop Enertia 2.0, so it’s all good.

Especially when lightly-used Enertias start showing up on Craigslist. Favicon

Plus: Clever design, precise fit & finish, ease of operation.

Minus: Limited range, where can you plug it in?

The details

MSRP: $7,995
Built in: USA
Construction: Extruded aluminum frame w/plastic body panels
Curb weight: 324 lbs (145 kg)
Length: 81.5 in (2070 mm)
Width: 33 in (840 mm)
Seat height: 32 in (810 mm)
Front susp: Telescoping forks w/adjustable compression damping
Rear susp: Swing arm w/adjustable hydraulic dampers
Front brake: Brembo hydraulic disc
Rear brake: Brembo hydraulic disc
Front wheel: 18″ x 2.5″
Rear wheel: 17″ x 3.5″
Motor: sealed brushless permanent magnet AC
Power/torque: 21.1 hp (13 kW) @ 4500 rpm/29.5 ft-lbs (40 Nm) @ 0-1450 rpm
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5 Comments
  1. December 1, 2009 10:59 am

    Where CAN’T you plug it in? All in all, a great write-up on a great bike. Loved the picture with a bow on it.

  2. December 1, 2009 11:30 am

    Where can’t you plug it in? The parking lot at Best Buy, for starters. Smart Park garages, or any place I’ve seen in downtown Portland. The VA Medical Center parking garage. Heck, at the house I’d have to run a long extension cord (and hope it doesn’t pop a circuit breaker).

    Keep in mind, this situation will change shortly, as the cities of Portland and Seattle plan to install numerous recharging stations. But the time it will take to recharge the Enertia is still an issue: 2-3 hours vs. a minute or two to fill a gas tank.

    I guess I’m not willing to live on the bleeding edge. Others are very happy to do so, and in that case the Enertia might work very well for them…

  3. December 2, 2009 8:20 am

    I like the Zero that goes 60 miles on a charge (I live 27 miles from work, door to door). Its seat is too tall, it’s too expensive (especially as it can’t cover all my motorcycling needs!) it is too experimental. Gas is too CHEAP! Can’t charge the bike at work. But…

    Things they are a changing and thats good, I think we both agree.

  4. December 2, 2009 11:38 am

    You don’t plug it in. You pull the battery out from under the seat and take it in the house. Then you try to fit it into one of those things plugged into the wall. The tip is to use a magic marker to put a line on the battery to remember which way it goes back on the bike.

    Sorry. Haven’t eaten anything yet, today.

    Nice writeup. Does Best Buy offer carryout service to the tailgate of the purchaser’s SUV?

    Cheers!

  5. December 4, 2009 12:05 pm

    irondad, the Best Buy store was in the process of preparing an Enertia to ship to Denver, so I imagine they’d be happy to load one in your pickup truck (which is the way I’ve seen most new scooters transported to their new homes). That particular bike was having its Kawasaki green body panels swapped out for white ones; the other color choice is KTM orange. I was told they all come from the factory clad in green, and that changing to one of the other colors (if desired) is part of the setup routine, and therefore comes at no cost…

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