Whatever happened to Brammo, the once promising electric motorcycle maker with its funky 6-speed gearbox? After Polaris acquired the company and left it to linger for years, Cummins just snapped up Brammo and is jumping into the electric truck party.
Cummins Snaps Brammo, Gets In Electric Trucking Game
Cummins is the king of the hill when it comes to heavy-duty diesel trucks in the US. For the past decade or so, Cummins has also developed a line of what it calls clean diesel powertrains that have been especially sought out in the maritime world. Essentially, it’s a line of diesel engines that burn more efficiently than the norm. Still, diesel being what it is and revealed for that much more since the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal came to light, the tide has turned and Cummins seems to see the writing on the wall. The obvious solution is to join the rest of those adopting the electric drive en masse.
So what’s a diesel engine maker to do? The decision for Cummins was apparently clear — snap up Brammo, an electric vehicle (EV) company. In many ways, Brammo is the perfect platform to help Cummins take its first steps into electrification of trucks, a way to save the company years of in-house development.
Brammo was founded in 2002 and built two electric motorcycles, the Inertia and the Empulse. As we mentioned above, the Empulse was an interesting electric motorcycle in that it was the only one to sport a six-speed gearbox. I was there at the official unveiling of the Brammo Empulse in Los Angeles and was fortunate enough to be standing next to the Italian engineer who developed the gearbox. He told me the idea was to give an electric motorcycle more scalability and allow it to travel on almost any terrain.
At the time, Brammo was competing against Zero Motorcycles, which had various electric motorcycles ranging from highway capable to motocrossing. I asked him specifically how they surmounted the initial torque problems that chewed up clutches with electric motors back then. He replied with an enigmatic smile that it wasn’t a concern on the Empulse. And that was it. I was left just as puzzled as when I started that conversation. Nevertheless, the launch was a success and the who’s who of Los Angeles were there — racers and stunning ladies alike.
Brammo Falls Into Polaris, Then Cummins
But things changed in 2015. Polaris acquired Brammo. It’s fair to say I felt, at last, a company saw the potential with Brammo and electric motorcycles. Since then, Brammo has been making battery packs and electric drivetrains for other electric vehicles (EV).
According to Tom Linebarger, Cummins CEO: “To be a leading provider of electrified power systems just as we are with diesel and natural gas driven powertrains, we must own key elements and subsystems of the electrification network. … By adding the expertise of Brammo, we are taking a step forward in our electrification business and differentiating ourselves from our competition. When markets are ready, Cummins will bring our customers the right power solution at the right time.”
This statement was backed by Craig Bramscher, Chairman and CEO of Brammo: “Brammo’s expertise across a broad range of applications uniquely positions us to enhance Cummins’s efforts to be a leader in the electrified power space.”
Brammo operations will report under Cummins’ recently formed Electrification Business led by Julie Furber, Executive Director of Electrification at Cummins. It will continue its own operations in Talent, Oregon, and it sounds as if Cummins will let it continue to develop its electric energy storage technology for mobile and stationary applications.
Brammo & Cummins, A Match Made In Heaven?
It’s hard to say who will benefit the most from this acquisition. For Brammo, it is a shot in the arm and the release from Polaris will be seen as a positive move in general. As for Cummins, if the company plays its cards well, and we have no inclination to think it won’t, this will certainly help the company compete with Daimler, which has been making the rounds in the news due to its electric bus and electric truck development.
Will we ever see another Brammo electric motorcycle? It seems most likely not. But that fun work appears to have paid off for the e-mobility leader.
Either way, we hope Cummins snapping up Brammo finally gives the latter room to breathe and to continue developing what we all like to see out there — more electric drivetrains.