Comparison: Brammo Empuse R vs. Zero S

And finally, what I’ve been waiting for, a comparison between Brammo’s and Zero’s electric motorcycles.  I love my Current Motor Super Scooter, but I’m always pushing it to its limits.  Flooring it in a car everywhere is illegal, but flooring the scooter is necessary to keep up with 45mph or 60mph traffic.

What I’ve been hoping to learn about the comparison is whether or not an electric motorcycle would benefit from having a transmission.  Sadly, the reviewers did not answer that question for me.  They did answer questions I didn’t know I wanted to ask, and for that I’m grateful, but what my biggest question is: do the gears make a difference when climbing hills–when accelerating uphill?

Perhaps I need to reread the article to find my answer, but my initial impression of the linked comparison is that there is no clear advantage of having a transmission vs. not having one.

What I like about both bikes:

  • Standardized EVSE plugs (J1772 and/or CHAdeMO in addition to the basic 110V L1)
  • Styling — both look more like motorcycles now than plastic-toy dirt bikes
  • >100 miles of range (one can almost take this for granted from these two manufacturers now)

What I don’t like about both bikes:

  • >$15K price tag
  • The tiny instrument panel
  • The sportbike styling – by which I’m trying to say that I prefer cruiser styling, but I’m not stupidly holding my breath for an electric cruiser, because chances are, the saddlebags will be filled with batteries instead of useful storage space

What advantages I see the Brammo Empulse R has over the Zero S:

  • A J1772 plug for L2 charging wherever electric cars (except Teslas) can charge, which in the Seattle area is becoming easier and easier.
  • A large on-board charger to take full advantage of L2 charging that makes it recharge as quickly as my LEAF using the same plug, not slower like the Zero S.

What advantages I see the Zero S has over the Brammo Empulse R:

  • An optional CHAdeMO fast-charging adapter (but the drawback is that it is a $1,800 add-on, and that CHAdeMO fast chargers (which are not Level 2 (240V) but actually Level 3 (480V) are much less common than L2 charging stations)
  • Belt drive, which I prefer over having to grease a chain.
  • A phone app (sadly without a Windows Phone version) to make up for the underwhelming instrument panel.  Current Motor might be working on something like this, but I have no details (and no Android phone).

The verdict?

This article certainly helps, but I can’t make a final decision without test riding both myself.  I don’t know if a non-professional rider like me would react to the number of gears the same way the article’s author did.  I don’t know whether the gears really would help me climb the hills along my commute more easily or not.  Maybe having the larger amount of power in either bike is more than enough to overcome the hill, so a gearbox isn’t necessary.

I must wait for a Seattle-area dealership to offer Brammos for test rides.  Zeros are already available in Washington State, even though they’re made further away than Brammos are.  Heck, used Zeros are already available here, while Brammo is only this year shipping out product to their early adopters.

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