NY Times Review of the Enertia

Just reporting this because it’s the NY Times.  Not everyone can be a Brammo fan, I guess:

June 11, 2009, 10:48 am

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A Short Ride on the Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycle

By Daniel McDermon

Brammo EnertiaDaniel McDermon/The New York Times The Brammo Enertia at a media event on Tuesday in Manhattan.

Everywhere you looked this week, there was the Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle. There it was in The Times’s Automobiles section on Sunday. There it was again, on Good Morning America, and on Fox Business News. And on quite a few other sites as well.

After all this hype publicity, you can’t help but wonder what it’s like to ride the thing. After taking a very short ride on the Enertia at an event in Manhattan on Tuesday, here are a few thoughts:

• The bike, which has a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, feels very light. At a claimed curb weight of 280 pounds, it feels more like a midsized dirt bike than a street motorcycle. Honda’s dual-purpose CRF230L, for instance, weighs 267 pounds with a full tank, while the 234-cc Honda Rebel, one of the lightest street-only bikes available, is 331 pounds. (A nice diagram of the Enertia’s construction is on the company’s site.)

• The riding position is standard. Controls are arranged in the basic layout, with right-hand throttle and front brake lever. Because there is no clutch or transmission, there are no controls on the left side. The 33-inch seat height was comfortable for a rider of 6-foot-3, but might be a bit of a stretch for those closer to five feet.

• Turning radius is wider than expected, which could make parking and maneuvering in close quarters a bit tricky.

• Initial performance is less explosive than some electric-powered vehicles. The ride-by-wire throttle is engineered to provide a bit of cushion at takeoff. While riding, available power seemed adequate for a city street, with its stops and starts, but lacking the showy, emphatic thrust of a high-powered street bike. (This is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly for riders with less experience.) A Brammo spokesman compared the bike’s power output (18 horsepower and 28 pound-feet of torque) to that of a 250-cc gasoline-powered bike, which seems about right.

There are a few open questions:

• The retail price is set at $11,995, with which one could buy a matching pair of Vespa GTS250s. That price would likely come down eventually, if the company survives, as the cost of its lithium-ion batteries decreases, but who will pay that kind premium for an electric bike?

• With a top speed estimated at 55 miles an hour, the Enertia straddles the line between scooter and motorcycle performance. Is there a market there?

• The plan to sell the bikes through Best Buy makes one wonder about the expectations that buyers will have. Will that bring the Enertia to a broader audience, including buyers without riding experience? Will it undermine the confidence of potential buyers, who aren’t used to thinking of their big-box retailer as a vehicle dealer/service center?

For more details on the bike and the company, see Kristin Hall-Geisler’s article from Sunday.

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