On the Line: Brian Wismann of Brammo – The Man Behind the Enertia

1 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on On the Line: Brian Wismann of Brammo – The Man Behind the Enertia
Brammo Enertia

On the Line: Brian Wismann of Brammo – The Man Behind the Enertia Hot

The future has arrived! You probably hear that almost daily now with the continuing march of technology in the constantly moving world in which we all live. The future we are looking at here, though, is the relatively new field of production electric motorcycles.

To be fair, the current (pun intended) crop of offerings from today’s manufacturers are not the first such machines to be built. As early as the late 1860’s there were already several patents for two-wheeled vehicles designed to run on electric motors. In 1911 it is believed that many small manufacturers offered them for sale to the public, though exactly who is still open for debate.

It was not until the 1940’s that large companies began selling them; this was mostly due to the war effort consuming most of the fuel and forcing resource rationing for all. As far back as 1973, Mike Corbin was setting land-speed records on electric motorcycles, and the next year saw the beginning of an electric (or ‘alternative fuel’) motorcycle race up the road to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, USA.

As you see, the idea of two-wheeled electric transport is not a completely new concept; it is the advent of lithium-ion batteries and more compact and more powerful electric motors which separates these early models from what we have now. This is where the good people at Brammo come in – this small Oregon-based company is leading the technological revolution that these recent innovations have brought to the world of motorcycling; and, they are thriving.

Brian Wismann. Brammo Director of Product Development, is responsible for the entire product line rolling out of the Brammo factory. At present, that is the simple and lightweight Enertia powercycle, which is available now either direct through Brammo or at your local Best Buy store.

The fully electric Enertia is a bike made for riding, not just as basic transportation; it is very light – considering the substantial weight of the batteries – at only 324 pounds (145 Kg), its mass is centralized to provide for outstanding handling, the wheelbase is a racy 55.8 inches (141.7 cm), and it has top-notch performance components – Marzocchi fork, Elka shock and Brembo brakes. The Enertia would not be so equipped with those high-end components unless Brammo was serious about performance.

The six lithium-iron-phosphate batteries will take you an average of 42 miles (68 Km) on one charge, and they are completely maintenance free and non-toxic. It will only take you about 4 hours to charge up the Enertia with a standard 110 volt socket; it can even be ‘topped off’ easily at any time without damaging the powerful batteries.

Furthermore, the Enertia is made from recycled materials, is fully recyclable itself, uses less than 10% of the new material used in the average automobile, and is made with 100% clean energy itself. However, we are not here to review the product, but learn more about the man behind it, Brian Wismann.

The opportunity to get some words with Mr. Wismann does not come along often, and it can take some time to even get the opportunity. Here we have an exclusive interview with the man behind the technology and we get to learn more about what brought him to where he is now.

AllAboutBikes: Where did you get your start?

Brian Wismann: I got my start at North Carolina State University College of Design in Raleigh, NC where I studied Industrial Design. I interned and later took a full-time design position with a small design firm in Raleigh called Think Design, which later became a part of a larger company named Human Centric Technologies.

I was also heavily involved in a club in college in which we built our own four wheeled vehicles (Formula SAE and Mini-Baja) from the ground up to compete in collegiate events at an international level. This participation led to some excellent opportunities, and in 2003, I designed the bodywork for the Crawford DP03 Daytona Prototype race car which competed with much success in the Grand American Rolex Daytona Sports car series from 2004 – 2009. It is these racing involvements which lead to an introduction to Craig Bramscher, founder and CEO of Brammo, Inc.

AAB: When and how did you end up in Oregon?

BW: I came to Oregon to work with Craig Bramscher when the company was just a couple of guys and some crazy ideas. We now have more people… and A LOT more crazy ideas. 😉 I’m not sure of my actual hire date, but I think May, 2004 is pretty close.

AAB: Are you an avid motorcyclist? Have you become one?

BW: I am an avid motorcyclist, although this has been a relatively recent development for me. I have always been drawn to motorcycles since I was a kid begging my parents for a dirt bike. Even though the answer was always “no”, they would at least take me to the motorcycle shops where I could collect the latest brochures with the glossy images and imagine what it would be like to experience the speed and freedom of motorcycle riding.

College saw all my buddies get motorcycles, but it still wasn’t on the cards for me. It wasn’t until we began designing the Enertia that I got serious about motorcycling, but I’ve come at it with a vengeance!

AAB: Does this mean that you have a Brammo now?

BW: YES! I bought an Enertia as soon as they were available. I have Limited Edition no. 07 (my lucky number) and have really enjoyed commuting to work on it almost every day since I’ve owned it. I’ve also made several cosmetic upgrades to the bike, which you can read about at: www.brammoforum.com .

AAB: So, do you ride any other marques of motorcycle?

BW: Besides my 2010 Brammo Enertia, which I ride to work and around town almost daily, I’ve also owned a Ducati Monster 696 and now own a BMW S1000RR. I took the Bimmer to the track for the first time last weekend and had a blast!

AAB: Since you live in the southern part of Oregon, and not far from the California border, where do you ride?

BW: There are some great riding roads in Southern Oregon and my favorite has to be Green Springs Highway (Hwy 66) as it leaves Ashland and runs up into the hills to Hyatt Lake and eventually out to Klamath Falls. Dead Indian Memorial Highway is another fun one, although I’m always careful to watch my speed as there are more residences on this road.

AAB: Since you started in the four-wheel design field, do you take part in automotive racing?

BW: No, but I had the chance to be a test driver for the Ariel Atom when we built those cars. That was fun…

AAB: Just how important do you feel design is to the Brammo company? Does Brammo focus on it? Does it drive innovation?

BW: Design is absolutely critical to our company and the group is given the flexibility and the responsibility required to innovate. We have a culture that supports this ideal from our marketing group through our engineers that ultimately have to make that innovation a reality. One of Brammo’s real strengths compared to larger companies is how closely knit our team is.

New projects are developed hand-in-hand with input from Marketing, Engineering, Production, and Management.

AAB: Can you tell us how much of the bike is produced in the US versus, say, China, Europe or Japan?

BW: Batteries come from Valence in Texas, they source from China, suspension and brakes from Marzocchi and Brembo in Italy, tires from the UK, shocks from Canada, Extruded aluminum chassis from Portland, fenders and other plastic from California. Many parts are made using recycled materials. Motor from PERM in Germany.

AAB: Are there any regulatory issues now due to the fact that the current state of electric motorcycles as main transport is in its infancy (limitations due to outdated rules or lack of knowledge on the part of officials)?

BW: There have been some challenges in this category of motorcycle. In most cases, we’ve tried to build the bike to comply with existing gas bike regulations so as not to make things more difficult for our customers as they go to register their bikes for road use and get insurance coverage.

AAB: Will you continue to only sell through Best Buy locations and direct online or will you let existing motorcycle or scooter dealers – or others – also sell your products?

BW: We will use multiple sales channels as the market matures.

AAB: Any plans for a sport-oriented competition-only machine?

BW: If that is what customers ask for then it would be foolish of us to ignore that.

AAB: Any chance we could see a dirt-specific, enduro or dual-purpose Brammo motorcycles?

Brammo Enertia

BW: Quantya and KTM have more ambitions in this area than we do. But, if customers ask for it…

AAB: Are there any plans for Brammo to participate in the TTXGP (especially, now that it is coming to the US) or the FIM ePower series? Will there be a factory sponsored team and/or supported privateers?

BW: Brammo really enjoyed participation and success at the inaugural TTXGP race on the Isle of Man TT last year. Since then, things have gotten a little confusing with 3 separate series emerging for electric motorcycle racing. In my opinion, there aren’t enough teams to support three series (TT Zero (single race), TTXGP, and FIM ePower) and the regulations are hard to draft without excluding many of the privateers.

Obviously a production based series would narrow the field considerably so we will continue to see the one off creations designed to win and with their owners promising to put it into production sometime soon (don’t hold your breath…). Brammo will enter events only as it sees a benefit to do so. Our first priority must always be for the engineering team to support production and new product development.

However, if the media exposure for the brand is there and the competition is strong, don’t be surprised to see Brammo show up with an entry that tests some of the new technology we’ve been developing.

AAB: What is in store for the short term?

BW: We are very busy right now, but I can’t say what we have in store; however, I know you will like it!

AAB: Should we expect other accessories like tank bags, saddle bags, front saddle bags, etc?

BW: Yes

AAB: So, what do you have in the development stages for us in the future (2011 and beyond)?

BW: A motorcycle company (or car company for that matter) cannot only sell one product and hope to be successful. You will see new products and continued innovation from Brammo in the future. We’re excited and you should be too!

As always, Brammo customers will be the first to hear “the scoop” on new developments.

Wismann is sending us a message in this interview; one beyond the simple fact that he would most certainly like you to buy an Enertia. If you do join with the Brammo experience and purchase one of your own, you become part of the company. You, the customer, will help guide Brammo into the next stages of its development.

It makes motorcycling a fully-participatory sport in a way which is not very common in modern, mass-produced culture. Wismann also plies us with the unknown, thus we all get to use our wild imaginations to guess at what is going on behind the scenes at Brammo. Dropping just enough information to whet your appetite is a great way to get riders interested in your brand, or at least mystify them enough to pay attention.

We don’t know what is coming next, but we do know, given Wismann’s background in designing high-spec race machines with four wheels, we can expect that passion for power, speed and handling to be sewn into the DNA of the Brammo electric bikes as development continues. If it all works well, their design focus will follow a path set by the people who own and ride their bikes. This could push them far beyond the all-around Enertia powercycle as it is now.

A sportbike, a dual-purpose, a supermotard, or just a standard with some flair – a streetfighter – all are within the realm of possibility. A cruiser or sport-tourer may be out of the running at present due to the energy demands for long-distance travel, which is the forte of such machines. I do wonder what they could do with a three-wheeled set-up…more weight allowance and the possibility of 3WD? It could get very interesting…

See that, an entire paragraph without mentioning the green credentials of such machines. Could this mean that we are more accepting of this next generation of motorcycle? It’s likely just the author, as we know that many people want to see more from this category before they accept it as a legitimate addition to two-wheeled culture. ‘It’s a niche,’ they say, ‘similar to mopeds in the US.’ Once the big manufacturers start producing these machines – KTM has one on the way and Honda will sell two in Japan very soon – everything about them will change.

Batteries, the major limitation to this technology for so many reasons, should see some serious improvements in the next few years. Electric motors are already becoming more advanced as the engineers find better ways to dissipate the large amount of heat generated. In a market like powered two-wheelers, a competitive edge like an extended range with light and compact batteries and a motor with huge amounts of torque will go a long way to selling more electric bikes to the typical rider.

It is the work of Brian Wismann which will determine the path of Brammo and its products. He wants you to help him with this; he wants Brammo’s customers to assist in guiding the company’s engineering and design towards an electric motorcycle which will be exactly what you will truly enjoy riding. To do this, you have to join the movement by buying into it, obviously.

And, who reading this would be opposed to owning another motorcycle, especially if it is high-tech, fun to ride and easy on the finances? No one, that’s who. Go out and test ride an Enertia, you may find that it surprises you – and you might find you want to be part of Brammo’s future.

Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia
Brammo Enertia

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