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Will Victory Lead the Way in Electric Road Bike Development?

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Editor Dirck Edge aboard a production 2016 Victory Empulse TT

When we tested the Victory Empulse TT last year, we came away very impressed. Instant peak torque at low revs exiting corners, and the broad, step-less power delivery, coupled with a capable chassis, provided great confidence on familiar, twisty roads.

This Sunday, June 26, Victory will be racing both an electric Empulse RR (piloted by Don Canet) and a gas Project 156 (Jeremy Toye on board). The Empulse RR makes a lot more power than the street bike we tested, and the relatively short distance up the hill allows Victory to select max power output (sacrificing range). Could Canet beat the gas bikes on the electric bike? He could, in our opinion, and it will make for some interesting drama, no doubt.

Victory, owned by industry giant Polaris, just might lead the way in major manufacturer development of electric motorcycle technology.  We will be watching this unfold in the next few years, but we will be surprised if Victory does not expand its electric motorcycle line-up as travel range increases and prices drop.

Here is Victory’s latest press release concerning this Sunday’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb:

Victory Motorcycles is racing in the 2016 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) this coming weekend with two very different motorcycles in an epic gas vs. electric battle dubbed “Thunder vs. Lightning.”

In these newly released videos, the Empulse RR and Project 156 were tested at the Thunderhill Raceway ahead of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday 26th June.

Empulse RR video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCPCgoE-hj4

Project 156 video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxMSciKZho

Victory Racing’s electric Empulse RR will be raced up the mountain by Cycle World’s Road Test Editor Don Canet while the gas-powered Project 156 will be ridden by a former Pikes Peak Champion, Jeremy Toye.

The Victory Empulse RR is a race-prepped version of the road-going Victory Empulse TT. This bike was raced at the Isle of Man TT in 2015 where Lee Johnston rode it to a 111.620 mph average lap speed and 145 mph top speed for a third place in the SES TT Zero race.

While the base frame and overall design of the Empulse RR is essentially the same as the production Empulse TT, a lighter monocoque carbon-fibre subframe is used and the battery, controller, and Parker Hannifin-sourced motor have been upgraded with repackaged battery cells offering more capacity, new motor windings and an updated control system and wire harness. Visual differences from the IOMTT version raced last year include less bodywork, a more upright riding position and the addition of hand guards to protect Don’s hands from the cold mountain air.

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Don Canet testing the Empulse RR on Pikes Peak

“The Empulse RR has a couple of things going for it that are going to make it hard to beat, owing to its all-electric powertrain,” says Brian Wismann, Victory Racing Team Manager. “Does this make the Empulse RR the clear favourite? Not necessarily. Batteries are negatively affected by cold temperatures and there’s no place to charge on the mountain, meaning any misstep in logistics or setup will cost Don the time he needs to get up to speed. He’ll clearly have a strong contender underneath him, but as we know… anything can happen when the flag drops!”

“I  jumped at the idea of piloting the Empulse RR up America’s mountain as soon as I heard Victory Racing discussing the idea,” Canet says about his decision to compete on an electric motorcycle. “We all know thunder follows lightning, and it’ll be no different at this venue! Toye is going to have a heck of a job cut out for himself in trying to beat me to the top.”

“There are definitely advantages of having an electric bike on the mountain – particularly when it is being piloted by a seasoned racer like Don Canet,” says Brandon Kraemer, Product Manager for Victory Motorcycles. “But we also have a very focused, competitive former Pikes Peak champion in Jeremy Toye ready to push the envelope with Project 156, so this one is anyone’s game. Whichever platform takes top honours; the winner is the Victory rider of the future who will be enjoying the same technology on their future street motorcycles someday.”

“Our first outing with the Victory Empulse RR, on the Isle of Man last year, exceeded our expectations,” says Rod Krois, General Manager for Victory Motorcycles. “Now, at Pikes Peak, we’ll see whether the Lightning of the Empulse RR can make it up the mountain faster than the Thunder that is Project 156.”

Are you on #TeamThunder or #TeamLightning? 

Scheduled for Sunday June 26, The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Brought to you by Gran Turismo is expected to feature a field of approximately 100 competitors.

Spectators are invited to join Victory Motorcycles 5pm to 10pm on Friday June 24 in downtown Colorado Springs to celebrate 100 years of the Race to the Clouds at the 2016 PPIHC Fan Fest. See favourite competitors and enjoy entertainment, motorcycle exhibitions, vendor booths, food and refreshments.

 


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57 Comments

  1. Mr.Mike says:

    Screw electric – I’ve still got my money on buggy whips.

  2. Tank says:

    If you doubt the future of electric vehicles just Google “Nano batteries”.

    • Grover says:

      Just read about “nano” batteries. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome before it’s a reality. Keep hoping.

  3. rapier says:

    There isn’t anything to develop, except much much much better batteries but Victory isn’t going to do that. Probably nobody will, anytime soon anyway, and not at an affordable price. Competent chassis and brakes, suspension and motor/motor controllers are at this point commodities.

    Now the could get lucky and maybe grab an outsized share of a small market.All good in and of itself, but in any big picture for Vistory not a game changer and for the industry, blip.

    • Gary says:

      “Probably nobody will”
      Guess you guys haven’t heard about the Gigafactory in California. Tesla companies are the engineering behind it, and Panasonic is a very heavy investor in it. They will be making LiIon batteries for cars, homes, and even factories. Yes they are now coming out with battery packs that can power smaller factories. With this much increased production, will come lower prices and even more development. Plug in hybrids are definately making in roads in the car and SUV business with undoubtably more to come.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Yes, but they aren’t gong to be manufacturing better batteries. They are going to be manufacturing the same batteries as everyone else. Which are already massed produced. I’m not sure what the the gigafactory brings to the table.

        • John says:

          It brings the name “Giga”, which is totally cool, though the Giga Factor not quite as cool as the Giga Shadow.

    • Dave says:

      Batteries don’t need to get much better, volume needs to come up to a point where the bikes are competitively priced. 100 mile range is plenty for urban/suburban transportation. Don’t hold your breath for a 200+ mile product. Even the ICE manufacturers have given up on that need outside of the touring segments. Just not enough riders who need it, and they’d be disappointed with recharge times since they really want to ride 300+ miles/day.

      Another thing to consider: batteries will steadily get better but a gallon of gasoline still produces the same BTU now as when they first began refining the stuff and look at how capable cars and motorcycles are today compared to even 20 years ago. The battery is not the only opportunity.

  4. Fred says:

    I was into racing RC cars about 10 years ago, when things were just switching over to LiPo’s and brushless. As an old gearhead, I was amazed just how much fun the electrics were, without the noise, exhaust and general messiness of the nitro vehicles.

    As much as I love gas engines and the variety of exhaust sounds, I’m quite certain that I could enjoy an electric bike just as well. I have no interest in being the guinea pig, but if/when they get the price/performance/range/recharge envelop under control, they will definitely have my interest.

    Progress is good, but mass-market acceptability still seems to be years away.

    • goodlyRun says:

      Indeed. The range anxiety associated with any electric vehicle will be a hurdle that can not be easily cleared UNTIL a reliable network of charging stations is present. At work we have 2 charging stations for electrics and, yup, two electrics are there every day. Would more stations mean more vehicles? Who the hell knows….

  5. Tom R says:

    As exciting as the “instant torque” hype is, a fundamental shortcoming will be with electric bikes for the remainder of my riding days and beyond. Before needing an overnight re-charge they will only travel for what was scheduled for the passengers and crew on Gilligan’s Island: “A three-hour tour, a three-hour touuuuuur”.

  6. HS1.... says:

    I don’t really care how the Brammo finishes. If it wins it’s class or DNF’s, I’m equally fine. I’m hoping for Project 156 to puke out it’s mechanical guts at the starting line, though. No other marketing charade deserves more public embarrassment and scorn than this one. I wish for everone to be safe and the course to not be oiled for other racers. Other than that, humiliate yourself gigantically 156.

    • azi says:

      “No other marketing charade deserves more public embarrassment and scorn than this one”

      Norton could be in the running with its SG race bikes (AKA leftover Aprilias).

  7. mkspeedr says:

    I rode the Alta motorcycle SM – it was absolutely awesome. The future is electric.

  8. stinkywheels says:

    I like this electric vs gas rivalry from the same company even! I love my old ICE bikes, and drool over the latest and greatest ones. The electrics don’t incite the passion, but for a track bike or racer it would be drool worthy. I’m not a fan of electronic nannies on the ICEs, that being said, the nannies on the electric bikes are so simple to apply it would be silly to leave them off. I’m glad to see the technology being invested in so the prices and foibles will come down eventually. The only part of this technology I’m able to use/take advantage of/ afford is with my cordless power tools, phones and my Shorai batteries.

  9. troop says:

    I’d like to see Zero make an impact. Much less $$ than the current Victory/Brammo.

    • Fivespeed302 says:

      Zero won’t sponsor racing, so Hollywood Electrics races their version of Zero. Basically a dealership vs. manufacturer.

  10. mickey says:

    I’ve always believed that the best application for electric motors would be in scooters. The clientel would be more resposive to electric.. inner cities, small towns, college campuses etc. The batteries could better be hidden in body work, the range and speeds more appropriate, the simplicity of twist and go a plus for those riders.

    That said, figuring out a way for open road motorcyclists to use it is an admirable goal.

    But then you have to overcome the social stigma.

    tough row to hoe.

    • Grover says:

      I don’t believe there would be much of a social stigma if they were on par with price/performance/range of ICE bikes. They are still quite a few years off and may never equal them. The folks that really enjoy the sound of a Duc, Guzzi or Harley will always be a hard sell as e-bikes are soulless in comparison.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Considering how many scooter riders there are in other countries, particularly the wealthy eco-conscious countries of Europe, it seems like it would be a good market for electrics.

    • stinkywheels says:

      I agree with you on most points. I got to see a fairly in depth article on the Lightning superbike that makes it seem like a hoot to use for the most advanced riders. The newest ICE bikes are trying to go to a more twist and go with the clutchless upshift/downshift, slipper clutch setups. This GP technology is trickling down to we mere humans and is being embraced by the non curmudgeons.

    • dino says:

      That is a great idea, scooters also would not be effected much by a limited range either. At least the smaller scooters, most people touring on scooters are the larger displacement anyway, so a City run-about would be perfect for Electric.

      I would strap one on the back of my camper and use it for a campground..

    • EGS says:

      I’m a perfect candidate for an e-bike. Short commute to an ecologically minded company that provides free charging stations. Though the Prius dominates the lot, there are a growing number of other makes like BMW, Nissan and of course, Tesla (in the exec area). No stigma here – “E” riders/drivers are treated to the best parking and green ‘atta-boys’.

      Only thing holding me back is the price. My used F650GS twin gets 50+ MPG city and was less than half the cost of an e-bike. That buys a LOT of gas though not nearly as green…

      • TimC says:

        “No stigma here” – hmmm Toyota Pious

        • EGS says:

          Correct – no stigma. Self-inflated, hey look at me I’m green, holier than thou egos notwithstanding… Most of the e-car owners I know are Earth saving socialist jerks who piously thump their chests then complain and whine if their $7.00 coffee isn’t perfectly brewed by some ‘lower class’ barrister. It drives them nuts when I point out how my motorcycle has a lower environmental impact than their wonder car.

          • Tom K. says:

            You know, it’s hard to fault them for feeling smug when they have lawyers making their coffee for them…

  11. Tom S. says:

    It might have a chance if Canet doesn’t wreck it.

  12. PatrickD says:

    This is an fascinating development in motorcycle technology. I doubt most of you have been to the Isle of Man, but if someone develops an electric bike that can get round at 115+mph, you really should sit up and pay attention.
    This is by far the most vibrant technology area in motorcycling in our lifetimes.
    Those without an interest in engineering can checkout anytime from now.

    • Curly says:

      The IOM TT lap times are impressive for such heavy lumps and the riders like them too but the pit stops are a bit long.

  13. cw says:

    Hey! Here’s a suggestion that won’t go heeded at all!

    How about, if you hate the idea of the electric bike so much and think it’s clickbait,

    you stop clicking!!

    Everybody wins!!!

  14. Chase says:

    Putting on my Trump No BS hat- These Ebike articles being pushed by MCD is nothing more than click bait. They know it will get a bunch of comments (99%) negative as they know we have bullshit detectors that are very sharp;y tuned. Provologna basically said it all and correctly.
    Bay area numb nut I know went up to South Lake Tahoe for an event and drove his Tesla Smugmobile up there. Spent hours looking for a plug in to charge it. Ended up having to take it to another hotel. Literally hours to charge before he could drive it again. Unbelievable that that hotel ended up paying for his power. I cannot wait until they start charging for the plug in stations and road taxes these scofflaws are literally stealing from all of us.

    • cw says:

      “Trump No BS hat” -> Oxymoron.

      • Chris says:

        I’m with you. These guys sound like the “if it don’t have a propeller ain’t no way it can fly” crowd of the 1940’s. And all the “dissers” talk about cost of gas vs. electric. No one mentions maximum torque from one RPM to max. What a rush! Battery technology is improving all the time, along with regenerative capabilities. My first cell phone needed a charge to get through the day. I could jump start my car with the one I have now. And it cost less to buy. New and different doesn’t equal bad. No electric bike will ever surpass my ZX-14 for me, but there is definitely space in the garage for an electric to offer an alternative. I like choices. Oh, and for the record, I just read the fact checkers claim 67% of Trump’s claims are BS. Still, less than Hilarity.

        • Zuki says:

          Just like a steam engine, maximum torque with an electric motor is available at ZERO rpm.

        • mickey says:

          hmm my old slide phone with qwerty key board phone went about 3 days on a charge, my new smart phone with apps and crap about 11 or 12 hours, and I don’t use it for internet. My old phone cost $50, the smart phone $600. Hardly seems like progress to me.

          I’m not an electric disser. Said before I would love to test ride one. But until people under 50 are no longer riding, maybe under 40, I don’t see them making much headway in sales of electric street bikes, so maybe another 20-30 years or so? even if the technology IS there to be competitive with an ice bike.

        • Tom K. says:

          That’s the paradox – you can believe that Trump’s a douchebag, but with the Hildebeast as the only alternative, he ends up looking like Winston Churchill. Speaking of our friends in England, I wonder what the Brexit will do to Triumph prices and availability. Sorry, off topic thoughts on both counts, but at least the second one is mc related. I just want to see Chis jump his car with his cell phone….

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Bahahaha!

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      The funny thing is, I was going to put a fake Trump quote in here (to parody anti-electric closed-mindedness) but Chase actually put a real one in. Wow.

  15. Mike Simmons says:

    Unless and until some major advance in battery technology occurs, the Empulse and its competitors will share a tiny, tiny niche market. The energy density is just not there.

    Mike

  16. Provologna says:

    Tens of thousands of readers needing to pick a bike to race 2017 Pike’s Peak await the outcome w/baited breath.

    /sarc off

  17. Chip Hoopong says:

    You know what they say about headlines ending in a question mark: The answer is always “no”.

    • Provologna says:

      Dig.

      My reaction to electric vehicles: “Yawn…wake me when oil gets back up to $90+ a barrel. As long as the US and Saudi Arabia keep oil prices artificially deflated (to cause financial harm to Russia), we’re stuck w/cheap oil, too many bloated gas guzzling cages, and financial Armegeddon in US oil patches.

      BTW, check this out: do the math w/ratio of fuel prices vs. oil price. Believe it or not, considering how far oil prices have sunk, fuel prices are considerably higher than they should be. We’re actually getting gouged.

      And I’m not happy to report this. If prices fell even lower, there would be even higher ratio of bloated cages, more smog, and less space to park.

      Yes, e-bikes lack many service costs related to ICE bikes. But these freaking batteries have a shelf life. The more frequently charged/discharged, the shorter is battery shelf life. Of course Dirck and Gabe keep this fact well hidden because it’s contrary to the “e-bike Nirvana” meme. What’s the dollar cost per mile for battery replacement, and environmental impact? Why is this cost and potential hazard ignored? Bike makers often quote mpg spec? Why special treatment for e-bikes? The only known reason to ignore the cost is because it’s embarrassingly high.

      And we’re all absolutely positive no battery shall ever be found tossed in the street, right?

      At this stage, I get the distinct impression the entire genre exists for commuters in a small number of cities w/abundant recharge stations, ultra-luxury status symbols for extremely well healed show-offs, and very few others.

  18. Tyler says:

    My interest is, dare I say, peaked!
    And with some regenerative brakes, it can recharge itself on the way down!

    Seriously, this is something I will be following. I will still vote #teamthunder, but the ICE days are numbered.

  19. mickey says:

    ” so this one is anyone’s game. Whichever platform takes top honours; the winner is the Victory rider of the future who will be enjoying the same technology on their future street motorcycles someday.”

    Same technology, but it just may look like a cruiser judging from past experience

    The electric may be the closest thing we see resembling a sporting motorcycle from that company

  20. steveinsandiego says:

    i so want an elec mc: 200-mile combined range, less’n $15K out the door, and i’m good to go.

    • Knight says:

      Make that 200 mile range @ 80+ MPH and less than $15k OTD.
      It needs to be real world realistic to become mainstream.

      Also, has everyone forgot that ZERO has been in the game much longer than Victory?

      • Tom K. says:

        You may not recall that Polaris purchased the Brammo electric motorcycle company maybe a year ago. I’m not sure which came first, Zero or Brammo, my guess is they hit about the same time. So, Polaris bought themelsves a head start on development.

        About three years ago, Arognnne National Labs announced a battery development program whose goal was to produce a vehicle battery in five years hence (from then) that greatly improved upon what was available at the time (I don’t want to mis-quote the stated goals due to my poor memory, but they were quite ambitious). Wonder how they’re doing on that?

        • cw says:

          If you look at the amount of development that happened at each company, you will see that Zero is ahead of Brammo->Victory in development.

          • Jason says:

            Ahead in electric drivetrains but not chassis development. The Zero S was a big jump up from the previous bikes but the chassis is still not up to motorcycle standards.

    • WJF says:

      You can buy alot of gas motorcycle for 15k vs the smallish sized one you can possibly get in electric

      Seems like an elelctric Grom in the 6k area would be a good start for people, instead of getting hit with the 10k plus sticker right away, but what do I know, I own a vstrom that gets 55 mpg