2016 VICTORY EMPULSE TT
A Brammo by any other name
The story of this 2016 electric motorcycle isn’t really about 2016, and it’s really not that much about the actual motorcycle. It’s about long-term positioning for 2020 and beyond—and Victory’s parent company Polaris being prepared to place strong bets on transportation segments it believes will pay off. Electric motorcycles will have a place in many mass markets, and this bike says, “We will be there. We are there.”
The bike is the 2016 Victory Empulse TT, and if it looks familiar, that’s because it’s a lightly modified Brammo. Cosmetics are polished, a new instrument unit is used, paint and bodywork are redone, and battery capacity is boosted 10 percent with new “pouch” cells and more efficient packaging.
It’s even initially being manufactured by Brammo in Oregon before production is later moved to the Midwest.
And the Empulse name is Victory’s full acknowledgement of this bike’s technical origin. What the Empulse TT accomplishes is this: It gets Victory entry into the electric market before any major OE— particularly Harley-Davidson— and it helps reposition Victory as a forward-looking, performanceoriented brand. It also allowed the company to race the exBrammo electric superbike in the 2015 Isle of Man TT (where it finished third in the hands of Lee Johnston), while fitting in nicely with the “prove American performance” efforts represented by the Project 156 Pikes Peak racer and the Gunner Pro Stock dragbike.
It’s no surprise the riding experience of the 2016 Victory Empulse TT is almost exactly the same as the Brammo version. In my first laps at High Plains Raceway east of Denver during the press launch, the biggest functional improvement was clear: A narrower rear tire on these new Victory-sourced rims made steering lighter and more neutral. It also showed the seat is much improved over the very poor Brammo piece.
Riding a street pace on this racetrack demonstrated this is a reasonably comfortable, smallfeeling bike with acceleration performance not quite in the Suzuki SV650 range from its electric motor and six-speed gearbox. The last Empulse we tested made 52.4 hp and 62.6 pound-feet of torque on our dyno.
The 10.4-kWh lithium-ion battery is better packaged and offers 10 percent more capacity, according to Victory. In our last Brammo test, we found the practical average range to be 45 miles in normal suburban riding, so we’d expect that to be perhaps 50 with the added capacity. Full charge time on 110volt household current is seven to eight hours; at 240 volts on a public charging station or with accessory charger this is reduced to 3.5 hours.
The gearbox, clutch, and chain final drive didn’t make sense before and still don’t. It makes the bike noisier than it needs to be, adds significant driveline lash, and complicates the riding experience for no real benefit. I left it in third or fourth gear and skipped the clutch altogether.
The faster I went around High Plains Raceway, the more it showed that the suspension is unchanged from Brammo spec in the general lack of damping control. Given Victory’s success with damping settings and chassis behavior in its gasoline motorcycles, leaving this stuff unimproved is a disappointment.
So? Polaris gets credit for being the first big bike maker to offer an electric streetbike and gets to see if its supposed customer—a “status-driven, tech-savvy, thrill-seeking ‘toy’ collector, a Tony Stark-type guy”—is actually out there and willing to spend money on a bike like this. We are far more interested to see the next electric motorcycle from Victory. Earlier this year Polaris registered the name “Victory Charger.” What does this prove? That Polaris is serious about bringing its formidable industrial design capability and decade and a half of motorcycling building experience into the electric market.
2016 VICTORY EMPULSE TT
PRICE: $19,995 MOTORTYPE: Internal, permanentmagnet AC CLAIMED OUTPUT: 54 hp SEAT HEIGHT: 31.5 in. CLAIMED WEIGHT: 470 lb.
10 Pereant increase in battery capacity through improved packaging over the previous bike’s
109 mph Top speed indicated at the end of High Plains Raceway’s longest straight. It went down as motor/battery heat increased.