I love my Triumph Street Triple, in the last few months it’s almost completely displaced my Spyder as my vehicle of choice (basically, unless I need a vehicle with a trunk or there’s heavy wind or I’m driving a long distance I’l probably take the Striple). So you can imagine how pleased I was to learn that a startup out of Oregan called Brammo had launched an all-electric motorcycle whose ergonomics and design are overtly based on the Street Triple. It’s called the Empulse and based on everything I’ve seen it looks like a very solid machine.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not in a hurry to replace the Striple, it’s an absolutely awesome little bike. At 675 hp it’s lightweight, agile, and absolutely perfect for maneuvering in heavy bay area traffic for my commute to the city. 48-52 mpg is nothing to sneeze at either! I’m planning to ride it for years to come.
The only thing I don’t love about it, in fact, is that even though it’s sipping a lot less fuel then a typical cage (read: car for those of you who don’t ride), it’s still ultimately dependent on a fossil fuel infrastructure that’s completely and irredeemably unsustainable in the long term. The real question isn’t if we’re going going to stop using petroleum it’s when.
The two big hurdles for electric vehicles are price and range. Currently, the Brammo Empulse starts at around $17k and the Empulse R (which like the Street Triple R adds improved suspension) is almost $19k. The Street Triple by comparison is just under $10k. Given that the gas bike gets damn good mileage and it’d take forever to make back the price difference in fuel savings I just can’t justify making the jump to electric. For now. As gas prices continue to climb and electric vehicle manufacturer’s are increasingly able to scale and bring down costs I expect that to change. So while I can’t justify dropping $20k for a new bike when I already have 2 monthly payments, I feel comfortable saying that when I’m ready to buy my next bike in a year or two I’ll be buying electric.
That just leaves range as the big consideration. A century of petroleum-based transportation means the US has a pretty well developed fuel delivery system in place for fossil fuels. Fortunately, the landscape for Electric vehicles isn’t nearly as bleak as you might think it is. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s either at or rapidly approaching the tipping point where “where do I charge this thing” will no longer be a consideration. Plugshare, a new-ish web/mobile app for EV drivers has a great tool that should help drive this point home:
Like most of the best new stuff on the net, Plugshare is partly curated content, partly crowdsourced. Individuals who find charging stations can list them along with descriptions and ratings. They even allow users to take the social aspects of the app into the real world – member/users who are willing to share their home outlets with a friendly driver can list their address and what hours they’ll be around and available. In the Bay Area there are enough public charging stations you’ll probably never need to plug in in a friendly strangers driveway, but in rural areas I can see this being a huge win for EV drivers.
I suppose the moral of the story is that, as usual, the world is changing and, as usual, social and crowd-sourced tools are making that transition friendlier and more human-scale. I think it’s pretty cool.