When they go on-sale at some point in the next year or so, the Brammo Engage and Encite dirt bikes will be the first production electric motorcycles ever fitted with a gearbox. The six-speed unit, mated to the electric motor and sitting beneath the battery packs, works just like it does on gas-powered counterparts — pull in the clutch with your left hand, click down into first with your left foot, feed the clutch out and you’ll pull away. Just here, you’ll do that silently.
By working to maximize an engine’s leverage over its wheels to increase acceleration or reduce the speed at which the engine needs to spin to boost efficiency, gearboxes have enabled gas-powered vehicles to be both faster and more efficient. Those are advantages single-speed electric vehicles haven’t yet enjoyed. Conventional wisdom stated they didn’t need to; the large torque outputs and flat power delivery of electric motors enabled reasonable performance without multiple speeds.
So what’s the advantage? Craig Bramscher, Brammo’s CEO, chiefly sings the praises of increased performance. “I’m afraid to give it full throttle, even in 3rd gear,” he says of the smaller of these two bikes, the Encite minimoto.