Brammo Go BLAMMO

And the other tire drops: Brammo, that electric motorcycle company that talked a big talk, now tanks big time.  After not even three full years of Empulse motorcycle sales, Brammo, Inc. now ceases to exist as an independent entity, having been bought out by Polaris Industries (makers of ATVs, snowmobiles, the Victory and Indian gasser motorcycle brands, etc.).  Whether they will exist at all is now Polaris’ play.  brmm

The first public clue was Brammo announcing an “end of season” clearance sale.  An end of season sale last August.  Personally, late August/early September is when my riding season is in its second wind, literally.  Anyway, Brammo slashed prices by about half on some bikes.  Then it was seen that dealers- such as they were- still had 2013 Brammo Empulses to get rid of.  They still had clearance Empulses into 2015.  The second public clue were the reports of little or no activity at Brammo headquarters/factory in Oregon.

My clue, however, came years ago, dealing with these Keystone Choppers.  In my experience, Brammo was chasing a phantom: the fickle tastes of a small segment of motorcyclists, itself a small segment of vehicle buyers in general.  Rather than start with a good technology base, then digging in with plans to grow out from there, Brammo tried to nail it with one shot.  They thought they had to have a multispeed transmission/clutch to replicate the “real motorcycle” experience.  Instead, contracting IET for trannys delayed production and sale, and made Empulses the worst of both worlds: the limited range of an electric, with the gear slop of a gasser.  Meanwhile gear losses net you even less range. Continue reading

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Riding-Season Reasons

It’s 2014, and 238 years for the US.  For motorcycles, and technologic motorcycles at that, might as well be Year Zero.  On hand already, we have:

Zero Motorcycles
Brammo Inc.
Agility Global Ltd.– UK delivery only

And on tap, supposedly this year :

Mission Motorcycles Inc.
Lightning Motorcycles
BRD Motorcycles

This is besides later, more-tentative motorcycles from Yamaha, Energica, Harley-Davidson, KTM, and Voxan, possibly Mugen/Honda, Saroléa, and Tacita.  Plus scooters.  So, one’s a freak, two’s a coincidence, three’s odd, and four’s a fad, right?  Then seven, ten, or more must be a movement.  “There is that sense of being at the beginning of something new, and part of our future… It’s coming,” says American Motorcyclist Association chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw.  A new way of working has reinvigorated a stale field, perhaps most importantly by enabling new entrants.  Young blood will invite even more young blood. Continue reading

Post-Peak

2014: what went down (so to speak) on the mountain?

-Zero Motorcycles (well, indirectly) got exactly what they put in: a Zero FX entered, and it finished.  Rider Jeff Clark put in an average time, on an average bike- it was the 2013 FX, not the improved 2014.  This is because it wasn’t literally a factory team, but pretty much sponsored by Los Angeles dealership Hollywood Electrics, who did some light mods.  (Though not enough to leave the production class, for the modified class).

-Brutus Motorcycle put in their V2 custom… and got a worse time than Clark on a Zero.  Last year’s Zero.  Last year’s lightweight Zero.  Yeah, doesn’t say much about them, but it could be the rider, not the bike.  Could be the person tuning the suspension didn’t quite grasp the issues of the course.  Could be the V2 is really more of a drag bike or boulevard catapult, and the suspension doesn’t really tune.  (The course contains hairpins, “The Devil’s Playground,” and a part called “Bottomless Pit.”  )  Never rode a Brutus, nor have any acquaintances.  Don’t particularly feel like it now.

-Bigger news: Mitsubishi’s modified race car (billed by them as a kind of MiEV, but no one actually believes that) came within 2.5 seconds of topping all other cars, gas or electric.  2.5 seconds is close enough to be driver skill, a botched corner, something getting on the course, etc.  And we were that close to a 2013 Lightning moment, but in cages, not bikes.

-Similarly, “Tesla” raced… actually, it was a privateer in a modified Tesla Roadster, not a factory team.  Similarly, a Honda Fit EV beat the sleek, expensive model.  Someone in a Honda Fit, modified only with a race-mandated roll cage, beat a Tesla sports car.

Life’s weird, eh?  Actually, no, this is perfectly understandable.  In a growth industry, lots of stuff is going on, and one slipup means the first can become last- that’s how you know the industry is actually growing and developing.

Zero to Lose (Or, Where’s Lightning NOT Going?)

pphlIt’s June 29, the 2015 Pikes Peak (officially, the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb) is going on as I write this.  Let me tell you a tale of two electric motorcycle companies (…plus).

Last Year, Lightning Motorcycles won the 2014 Pikes Peak outright- not just in an electric-motorcycle class.  The Lightning bike was the fastest motorcycle up the mountain, period, gasser or electric.  And yet, Lightning’s not even showing up this year, nor is Mission or Mugai, but Zero Motorcycles is.  Even then, Zero is racing their FX model, a lightweight dual-sport, not their performance machine, the SR.  What’s going on here?  The FX has no chance of winning, but Lightning is showing us zero.

A charitable person might say Lightning is too focused on getting their design into production. A cynical person might say the company is still getting their act into shape. More reasonably, a charitable person can say Lightning already got their publicity/advertizing out of last year’s win; the company now has less to prove out of their basic tech. A cynical person can say they don’t have enough financing to head out to the mountain, and are in the hole trying to get vehicle production going (when it’s already behind schedule) without enough preorders and thus, deposits. Continue reading

…First at Last?

plwlI wasn’t able to make the Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire event in New York… but Mark Gardiner did.  As a former amateur motorcycle racer and veteran of the marketing/advertizing industry, Mark now writes for motorcycle-usa.com, and has some interesting claims:

  1. The LiveWire (or at least, a Gen 2 bike) is actually going to production.  The LiveWire tour, billed as a rider feedback program, is actually a ruse.
  2. Harley is building the bike to show up Honda and BMW… upstaging Zero and Brammo would be a bonus, too.
  3. The ruse is The Motor Company’s plan to defuse the graybeard riders, who would be outraged at a “straight” announcement.
  4. This all means H-D management is more on-the-ball, and forward looking and future-oriented, than non-Harley fans expect.

Now it’s time to play “what’s the evidence, and how much of it do I buy?” Continue reading

LiveWire Jive Flyer

hplwx

Credit: Harley Davidson

I’d be slacking if I said nothing about Harley-Davidson’s Project LiveWire.  So here’s something: you can’t actually buy it, which is why there’s no price and no date.  It’s a marketing probe and styling exercise- a “concept bike.”  Of course, automakers show concept cars all the time; we just need to remember what they are, and aren’t.  This one’s at least rideable, which is how it’s in Avengers 2.

Manufacturers show concept vehicles based on their possible plans; this one’s going on tour.  They’ll start in New York next week, then Boston, Philly, etc.; Canada/Europe are slated for next year.  Obviously, company reps will log rider comments.  Less obviously, I’d bet the interested riders themselves will be pegged, so H-D can do demographic studies.  Note that the official video’s full of young people- not a gray beard to be seen. Continue reading

High (St)Isle? Actually Zero Isle

IoMcourse

Credit: Isle of Man TT

It’s Memorial Day weekend, time for race fans to focus on… the UK!  Yes, it’s the Isle of Man TT.  In particular for this blog, it’s EV race time.  Qualifying’s already begun (subject to rain); motorcycles will actually race in coming days, with the TT Zero race Wednesday, June 4.

This year’s event is one to watch, if not hear.  Last year’s winners, MotoCzysz (and the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that), won’t compete; founder Michael Czysz’s cancer has worsened.  Without its dominating competitor, the 2014 running will be up in the air.  Sometimes literally- this is no dumb oval.  It’s a road race, on old European streets, including hills.  Officially, it’s dubbed the “Mountain Course.”

So, what does the coming week hold- and what does it mean for the coming year or so in EVs?  After MotoCzysz (who offered their EV skills as consultants to automotive companies), the next favored team is Mugen, with their Mugen Shinden.  After coming in second to MotoCzysz, this year’s Shinden San would be a logical bet.  Never heard of Mugen?  Continue reading