So I went for a test ride on the Victory Empulse TT this weekend. This is Victory's electric motorcycle. While recording the video I actually tried not to talk because I felt like the sound of the bike was an important part of the ride. Since I didn't really tell you much about the bike in the video, here are my thoughts on it.
The Empulse was definitely a different kind of ride. I found that the bike wasn't super powerful with just 54HP and 61 pounds per feet of torque, but the acceleration was plenty for getting out into traffic or beating a car off the line to shift lanes. The seat was bit on the hard side, but didn't really seem uncomfortably so on my short test ride. Being 6'1" the bike did feel fairly small to me, but I didn't feel cramped on it. All of the controls were right where you would expect them to be, even down to an engine kill switch on the right hand side.
The handling of the bike was spot on. Weighing in at just 470 pounds it was easy to flick the bike where I wanted it and the suspension on the bike made it feel stable in the curves.
The bike has dual rotors on the front and a single rotor on the rear with Brembo brakes, so stopping power isn't an issue. That said, the bike didn't have ABS, which I found a bit odd in a bike that has a $20,000 MSRP. I think that was a serious mis-step on the part of Victory in the design of the bike.
The transmission on the bike was a strange thing. On the one hand, I like it because it feels familiar to me and helps make me feel like I'm on a regular motorcycle while riding. On the other hand, it feels like an unnecessary point of failure on the motorcycle. Victory recommends that you just put the bike in 3rd gear and leave it alone, but they give you a transmission to shift. That seems like a strange choice to me. If I don't need to shift, why should I, and if the bike has an actual clutch in it that it doesn't need, that's just something that can wear out and require maintenance down the road.
The clutch was also a bit odd. First, the clutch didn't really seem to do anything. I found that I would hold the clutch at a stop and then slip it out, but that was really just due to habit. I couldn't feel the clutch actually engage on a take off, it was already there, and when I was sitting still in 1st gear with the clutch pulled in I went to rev the engine and the bike lurched forward, so it doesn't seem to actually disengage the drivetrain when it's pulled in. It almost felt like the entire transmission was just built to make riders of normal motorcycles feel at home on the bike.
Overall, the ride of the bike was exceptional and I could definitely see it being a strong choice as a bike to commute on or run errands around town. If I were to buy the bike, about the only change I would probably make is tossing on a trunk or tail pack.
Finally, let's talk about range of the bike on a charge. Victory claims that the range is 140 miles on a charge. Personally, I would say that's the best you can hope for, assuming you're on a constant downhill slope with a tailwind and a really light throttle hand. Granted, I was opening the throttle pretty hard on the test ride, but the bike had a charge of about 34% when I got on it and dropped to about 28% by the time we got back, so I lost about 6% of the charge on a 10 minute test ride. In the real world I'd guess that the range would probably be somewhere around 70 miles on a charge. Personally, my commute is about 40 miles round trip, so I should still have about 30 miles left when I got home, enough to be able to run to the store or go out to dinner before I needed to top off the charge.
Is the Empulse a good buy? Well, that all depends on a lot of factors. First, let's compare it to the number one competitor, which I would say is the Zero SR. The Zero SR starts off with a $16,000 MSRP,
$4,000 less than the Empulse. Along with that $4,000 savings you get 70 horsepower and 116 foot pounds of torque, giving you an additional 16 horsepower and 55 foot pounds of torque over the Empulse's offering. For the cost of the Empulse you can buy a Zero SR with the power tank and quick charge, giving you more range and faster charge times than the Empulse. That means that at the $20,000 MSRP of the Empulse it's not worth it, especially with Polaris closing down the Victory line. But the choice isn't that simple anymore. Even though the bike I rode had a tag flapping in the breeze that read $19,999 on it, the dealership has the bike listed on their website for $8,024. When I checked on Cycle Trader I got about 60 hits nationwide for the Empulse and about 20 of them were in the sub $10,000 range, so I'd say this is probably the going rate for the bike now. At $8,000 the bike begins to actually be worth it.
There are a few concerns about it though. First, Polaris is shutting down the Victory line, so it's the last of it's breed. That's not a major issue since Polaris is a strong company and isn't going out of business itself anytime soon, so I'm not worried about loss of manufacturer support. This isn't a deal breaker, it's just something that I would say you need to keep in mind before pulling the trigger on the bike.
The second concern is maintenance. This is a special breed of bike and you won't be able to take it to just any mechanic, the dealer will be your only real option. You'll probably find no aftermarket parts available for it, which means paying whatever the dealer decides to charge when you need something. I also have a feeling that finding a Clymer's or Chilton's manual for the bike is going to be impossible, which means that any wrenching in your own garage is going to require exploratory surgery and a lot of cussing.
The final major pitfall is resell value. The main reason these bikes are being sold at 60% less than MSRP is because there's very little demand for them and the dealers are trying to get rid of them. The problem with that is that it means there's not going to be much demand for the bike when you decide to get rid of it. I checked on Kelly Blue Book and found no pricing info on the bike. Take that with a grain of salt, because I was able to find pricing on the 2014 Brammo Empulse R, the bike the Empulse TT was based on. The 2014 Brammo had a retail value of about $10k and a trade in value of about $7k, so theoretically if you can find a buyer you should be able to get a reasonable chunk of your money back when you sell it, you're just going to have to have the patience of Job to sell it.
All things considered, I haven't knocked the Empulse off of my list of potential purchases for a commuter bike yet. I am impressed with it and with a price tag of $8k, it really makes up for any of it's shortcomings.
Here's the video of the ride, with a special opening just for Lou.