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EV Rider: Life on an Electric Motorcycle

By Chad Lott, March 26, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Chad Lott

Electric motorcycleThe best environmental solutions are the ones that are fun. Growing your own food is a great experience, riding a bicycle can be transcendent, and making some good home cooking for friends is just about the best combo of eco and enjoyable I can think of.

One of my greatest passions, other than food, is riding motorcycles. I love it even though it’s not exactly the most carbon-neutral activity. Sure, the gas mileage is better than a car, but there’s always room for improvement.

That’s where the Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle comes in.

A friend of mine owns a motorcycle dealership in San Francisco, and while I was in for a service on my bike, he suggested I take an Enertia for a spin. It’s made by Brammo, an Ashland, Oregon based startup that is redefining what it means to have fun on two wheels. It’s 100% electric; meaning no gas and no emissions.

A few weeks after the test drive my friend asked if I wanted to participate in a long-term borrow of the Enertia. I said “yes,” and for the last few months I’ve had a sweet electric green bike to ride around town with.

The designers did a great job blending the techiness of the bike with some classic motorcycle lines. The “tank” (no gas, remember?) is pitched forward, a bit like a Harley-Davidson Sportster, while the bars are nice and tall, like a dirt bike. This gives it a sportiness that’s also city friendly. There are no gears to shift and the seat is nice and low, which makes this bike very easy for beginners to operate.

It’s almost completely silent, which is unnerving at first, but the first time you take a spin down a quiet road you realize how exceptionally pleasant it is. I found myself feeling connected to the environment around me in a way that I usually only feel when on a bicycle.

Electric motorcycleIt tops out at about 50mph, which isn’t exactly blistering, but it’s more than enough for city streets. It doesn’t so much rev as it “comes on” at a certain speed and pulls much quicker than expected. The way the throttle feels is different from anything gas powered and really must be experienced to fully appreciate it.

You can go about 40 miles on a single charge. You can plug it into any regular socket and it only takes about four hours to fill the batteries back up. This ends up being just a few pennies per mile, all without a single emission.

If you like meeting people, the Enertia is the bike for you. I’ve never ridden any motorcycle that attracts more attention. That includes beautiful vintage Triumphs, modern sport bikes and about half a dozen classic Vespas. No matter where I went, people wanted to know everything about it, and I had more than a few conversations with folks pedaling next to me in bike lanes. More than any single group, bicyclists were the most curious.

There are only a couple of things I didn’t love about the bike. I commute over a pretty hectic bridge everyday on a motorcycle and I would’ve liked a little more top end speed for that drive, mainly for when I’m merging. Again, not an issue for regular city commuting.

I’d also prefer a little more range so I could go on long weekend rides with my buddies. There’s a ton of roads just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge that would be absolutely stunning to drive this thing on, but I’d have to stop for a pretty long lunch and let the bike fully charge to get home. With the way my friends eat, I don’t think this would be impossible.

Brammo already makes a few models that address my nitpicking. The Enertia Plus has a top speed of 60+mph and a city range of 80 miles. Their sportiest option, The Empulse, is even more impressive with a top speed of 100+mph and city range of 121 miles. I haven’t taken either of these for a spin, but I imagine they’re excellent.

I think this bike is a great addition to motorcycling. It’s a smart design and an absolute pleasure to drive. If you see me out on the road on one of these green machines, don’t forget to wave.

Have you ever driven an electric motorcycle or vehicle? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

Note: I received no compensation from Brammo other than the use of their motorcycle.