Southern Oregon

Swan Song

An electric motorcycle built in Southern Oregon?

It was the summer of 2009, and my wife and I had stopped at a local Best Buy store in Beaverton, Oregon. On the sidewalk outside was a display of electric bicycles, accompanied by a young Best Buy employee.

“Cool,” I said to my wife.

“If you think that’s cool, wait until you see the electric motorcycle we will be selling,” the employee chimed in.


“Yeah. It’s being built down in Southern Oregon by a company called Brammo.”

My imagination was fired by the news. Perhaps I could talk this company into letting me help them sell their electric motorcycles. I loved motorcycles, had a passion for electric vehicles, and had a sure-fire way to help sell a bunch of them.

The first challenge was talking to someone at Brammo.

How an 800 hp supercar led to the development of an 18 hp electric motorbike.

According to Brammo’s official history, in 2002 Craig Bramscher set out to build a high performance car that could accommodate a big guy – 6’8″ 300 lb. BIG. His endeavor was registered as Brammo Motorsports.

Previously, Craig had been the founder and CEO of DreamMedia, an internet company that had combined with USWeb before a successful IPO in 1997. By the time he moved to Ashland, Oregon, Craig was in a position to explore his passion for exotic cars.

In 2004 the Brammo Motorsports Pro GT prototype was finalized, and the name changed to the Rogue GT. If you’re not familiar with Southern Oregon, the Rogue River runs through it, and Ashland is a part of the Rogue Valley. Hence, the Rogue GT.


2005 brought the attention of Jay Leno, when Brammo began building a re-engineered Arial Atom 2, one of which ended up in Jay’s famous garage.

Then came the decision in 2007 to build a lightweight electric motorcycle. While a Tesla roadster competitor had been considered, power to weight among other factors led to the development of an electric motorbike. The company dropped “motorsports” changing its name to Brammo Inc.

Now the company was focused entirely on electric vehicles. Their first motorcycle was the Enertia. By the time I test rode an Enertia it was the Autumn of 2009. And yes, I went to a Best Buy store to take my test ride.1


Brammo Enertia: 40+ mile range | 60 mph top speed

Instead of reaching out to Craig directly to try and help Brammo sell the Enertia, I chose a cautious, circuitous route involving a Brammo regional sales manager. My efforts went nowhere in a hurry.

Then one day out of the blue in 2010, Bramscher called the firm in which I was a partner.

It seems another EV proponent who was aware of our work – Steven Bieda – had brought our firm to Craig’s attention. Brammo was developing a more aggressive motorcycle – the Empulse – which would have a 100+ mile range and 100+ mph capability. They had shot some footage, and wanted help putting together a video introducing the bike. Of course I said yes.

Our brief relationship resulted in the creation of a video – “How Far Can You Go? How Fast Can You Ride?”2 which can still be found on YouTube to this day:

In 2011, Polaris Industries invested in Brammo, and there was no small amount of speculation in the trade press on what that might mean for the company. At a minimum, it would provide the dealer network Brammo desperately needed.1 But there were concerns that perhaps Polaris might take over. Which, in a way, eventually happened – at least as far as building and selling motorcycles was concerned.

In 2015 Brammo sold its electric motorcycle division to Polaris, but would still supply electric powertrains for use in Polaris motorcycles and “other on-road and off-road vehicles.” Brammo would now focus on developing energy storage solutions for OEMs.

The Electric Motorcycle Made in Southern Oregon was no more.

This was probably for the better.

The Enertia never took off (pun intended) perhaps partly because of its relatively tame off-the-line acceleration and limited range.

The Empulse, on the other hand, proved to be a more robust platform, which Polaris folded into its Victory motorcycle brand. But the Victory Empulse TT didn’t set any sales records – possibly because it was more expensive than a Harley Davidson. It takes a special buyer to plunk down $20k on an electric bike with a claimed range of 140 miles.

Then, on January 9, 2017, Polaris announced that it was closing down the Victory motorcycle brand. Who knows where (or if) the Empulse TT might land. It might be gone forever.

The catalyzing event behind the writing of this article came just last week. On October 16, 2017, it was announced that Cummins, Inc. is aquiring Brammo’s assets. The company that set out to revolutionize two-wheeled electric transportation is being absorbed.

From that tantalizing moment in a Best Buy parking lot eight years ago until now, the story of the electric motorcycle built in Southern Oregon has continued to fire my imagination.

Now, it appears, the final chapter of this story has come to a close.

1. Why Best Buy? In 2009, motorcycle dealers weren’t about to take on an unproven electric motorcycle. But without a test ride, why would anyone buy an Enertia? Brammo’s agreement with Best Buy to sell the Enertia in its stores was a rather bold move – if not unproductive in the long run.↩
2. Concept, script and creative direction by Darrell Williams, Mark Roush editor.↩

links Written by Darrell Williams.

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