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2016 Victory Empulse TT

July 29, 2015

empulse-tt-04

After Brammo investor Polaris acquired the struggling company, they were pretty quick to split the business into two units: a powertrain developer and the Empulse manufacturing unit, which moved to Polaris manufacturing HQ in Iowa.

Shortly afterwards rumors began to trickle out about an electric product from Polaris under the Victory brand. Brammo under the Victory banner raced the TT Zero at Isle of Man and did quite well for a first TT Zero appearance, turning in a 111 mph average lap. And now we see the final piece: Victory has just launched the Empulse TT as the first 100+ mile production electric from an established manufacturer.

Compared to the lightly refreshed 2014 Empulse R, Victory has made only a small number of changes. Capacity and onboard charger power have increased by about 10%, the fairings and battery enclosure have been redesigned, and the mega 180-width rear tire has been swapped for a more modest 160-width tire.

At the Empulse’s last update, the E1 and 2014 Zero SR both faced off at the $17k price point. I thought that was a fair matchup; the Zero was quicker and lighter, but the more basic Empulse had better equipment and a real level 2 onboard charger.

The basic Empulse has gotten the axe, and that leaves a lightly refreshed Empulse TT at $20k facing off against a $16k Zero SR. Both bikes have 10% more capacity than at the last matchup; the Zero has high quality suspension and ABS brakes now. The Empulse still retains its signature edges: six-speed gearbox, liquid-cooled powertrain, and level 2 charging. But, that price gap!

And when placed in Victory’s existing lineup.. it actually lines up okay. None of the Victory bikes are sold on top speed, and the Empulse should be about as fast as the cruisers and faster than the baggers in a straight line. And once you take a turn..

Ultimately the Empulse TT is not for the electric enthusiasts. Most of us have been riding electric for a couple of years at least, as soon as production electrics with serious range became available. To us, the TT is boring; small capacity bump, small price bump on top of a light refresh to a bike first introduced 3 years ago. In 3 years Zero has doubled the range of their bikes, doubled the power, and seriously upgraded the quality of the components.. and though that speaks to the room Zero had to grow with their 2012 bikes, it’s still disappointing to see only a light refresh of the Empulse.

Instead, the Empulse TT is for the “early mainstream” crowd. Gas riders, who maybe heard something about “those electrics” winning at Pikes Peak or making huge strides at Isle of Man, but never understood what a “Blammo” was. Tesla has done their part to make electrics sexy and desirable; a few years experience with production electrics have put to rest some early concerns about battery longevity (when’s the last time you heard doom and gloom about battery life based on cellphone and laptop experience?), and level 2 charging stations are fairly prolific in most larger cities.

Convincing the early mainstream riders that electric is worthwhile will be an uphill road for Victory. $20k is a big scary sticker, but it’ll be priced in the middle of all the other bikes on a Victory showroom floor, and I suspect that gives dealers some leeway to haggle with buyers. Polaris has seen a fair bit of success selling the oddball Slingshot, and perhaps they can repeat that with the Empulse.

And you can bet every other traditional manufacturer will be watching with close attention.

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