Until Wednesday, one of the biggest selling points of electric cars and motorcycles has been their seamless, shift-free stream of power.
Brammo of Ashland, Ore., which currently offers its Enertia and Empulse electric street motorcycles on the Internet and at some Best Buy stores, says just that on its Web site:
“With no gearbox to get between your throttle command and the application of torque to the rear wheel, the Empulse provides the smoothest delivery of power you’ve ever experienced.”
But on Wednesday, Brammo unveiled prototypes of four new models distinguished by manual clutches and multispeed transmissions — technology used on almost every conventional motorcycle built in the last 100 years.
“I think they are better in some ways,” said Craig Bramscher, the Brammo chairman and chief executive, speaking of the geared prototypes. “They give you a chance to slip the clutch, pop a wheelie — some of the more fun things you can do on a conventional motorcycle,” he said in a phone interview.
“We’re finding that there are customers that like it each way,” he continued. “A commuter, for instance, likes a nice smooth surge of power. But we also get a lot of people who have been riding conventional motorcycles for years, who want it to behave like a regular motorcycle. Our view is that we have both kinds of customers, and we want to have both kinds of products.”
As with conventional gas-powered machines, Brammo’s 6-speed transmission multiplies the torque of the electric motor at lower speeds, yielding better acceleration, and then reduces the motor’s revs at higher speeds, increasing efficiency and allowing for a higher top speed.
Mr. Bramscher estimates that the top speed of these new machines will be 10 to 15 percent higher than that achieved by the simpler, direct-drive system used on previous Brammo models, and on virtually every other electric motorcycle. (For comparison, the Enertia Plus claims a top speed of “over 60 m.p.h.”)
The new 6-speed transmission, motor and clutch packages were invented and developed by S.M.R.E., an Italian manufacturer of high-technology industrial machines. Brammo has formed an exclusive partnership with S.M.R.E. to offer the new line.
Like Zero Motorcycles, its closest competitor in the electric-motorcycle field, Brammo is now concentrating on machines roughly comparable to conventional gas-engine dirt and supermoto bikes with their upright riding positions and tall, long-travel suspension systems.
Brammo is offering these in the Engage MX, a dirt-only version (anticipated price: $9,995); the Engage SMR, an asphalt racing/supermoto version ($9995); and the Engage SMS, a street-legal model ($11,995). One more model, the Encite MMX Pro, is a smaller motocross bike intended for younger riders.
Also like Zero, Brammo is now focusing on signing up a network of existing motorcycle dealers to sell and maintain its products, rather than relying exclusively on internet sales or other unconventional distribution channels.
The four new models will be officially unveiled on Friday at the MiniMotoSX race in Las Vegas.