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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How Hybrid 3b: …Small Packages

The simplest way a hybrid engine beats a “regular” gasser is simply size.  A small engine can hit several engineering targets an equivalent large engine can’t- ask a motorcycle racer.  If electricity makes up the torque difference, then pairing an electric motor with a small gasser makes much sense.

Thermodynamics– on the most basic level, fewer cylinders make a heat engine more efficient.  One big cylinder has much less surface area than its equivalent in two or more smaller cylinders.  Surface is bad because heat is lost through the walls of the combustion chamber.  Any combustion heat that escapes to the oil, the coolant, or the air around is heat that’s not pushing down the piston, and thus pushing the vehicle.

So why don’t more vehicles use one big cylinder?  Above a certain size, one cylinder is too rough.  (Or “NVH”- Noise, Vibration, Harshness to engineers.)  That size is generally 400-500cc- not enough engine for a (non-hybrid) car.  You typically see single cylinders in motorcycles only, and typically 450cc or less, which is still considered a small motorcycle in developed countries.  Single-cylinder motorcycles are then referred to as “thumpers,” and typically not sold for long-distance riding or upscale models. Continue reading