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More “Enertia” in Washington: Brammo Makes the Case for American Ingenuity

| Friday June 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments

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The Brammo Enertia (with rays of hope)Everyone remembers the network and cable news brouhaha when the CEOs of the Big Three automakers each flew to Washington, DC on corporate jets at a total cost of $45,000 to plead with Congress for a bailout. The CEOs’ journey was recently retraced by two employees of Brammo, the electric motorcycle firm based in Ashland, Oregon — “at a cost of $4 per guy.”

Brammo makes the country’s first highway legal, all-electric motorcycle, the Enertia. The bike is powered by a lithium-phosphate battery produced by Valence Technology, which is more stable than other lithium-based batteries and can fully charge in just three hours.

With a top speed of 60 miles per hour, the Enertia is not intended to be a racing bike, but it’s perfect for urban or suburban commuters who travel less than 40 miles daily — read: about 75% of Americans. It’s built of high-quality parts including Marzocchi forks, Brembo brakes, and Elka shocks, resulting in an ultra-smooth ride. It only has one gear, a feature intended to appeal to non-traditional motorcyclists — particularly women — and it’s easy to control, since it weighs just 280 pounds. And the best news for Brammo is that with economies of scale now in effect, the Enertia’s price has dropped by almost a third in the past year, from $12,000 to $7,195 with federal incentives. Depending on state incentives, it could be even less.

CEO Craig Bramscher set out to design a fair workplace that could make a domestically-manufactured motorcycle for a smaller price tag than a traditional bike made in China and shipped to the US. To help cut component costs, some of the Enertia’s parts come from non-traditional sources: the bike’s panels are made from recycled plastic bottles, and the fender from old car battery casings.

In tracing the route from Detroit to Washington, Brammo employees Dave Schiff and Brian Wismann relied on social media to get their message out, and the kindness of strangers to keep themselves housed. Their strategy paid dividends, and eventually landed Bramscher a meeting with Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. And while there’s no word on whether the President ever received the Enertia that Schiff and Wismann were trying to give him, the company did land more than 150 articles and interviews in small and large media outlets while garnering great goodwill from thousands of people tracing their journey on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and beyond. That, plus $10 million in Series A financing is nothing to sneeze at.

“We think this is the opportunity for people that want to do something right now and make a difference,” says Bramscher. “And have a blast doing it.”


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