While many electric motorcycles have come and gone, and some resort to obscene lawsuits to keep their company alive, some elmoto manufacturers have remained in business and even grown. We’ll look at the state of two-wheeled electrification, big and small, slow and fast in 2018.
Honda recently introduced an electric version of its PCX scooter. But this isn’t your usual, plug-in EV. The new Honda PCX Electric scooter features batteries that are designed to be easily removed when they’re spent and swapped out for fresh ones, so you can get back on the road and keep on riding.
Honda PCX Electric Scooter | Gallery
Companies like Renault and Tesla have toyed with the idea of hot-swappable batteries in their vehicles, with something that looked like initial success in Israel. Larger batteries with greater capacity and faster charging networks have largely made that need go away for car buyers, but urban apartment and condo-dwellers still struggle with access to charging ports- super or otherwise. That’s why an electric vehicle like this, with batteries that can be charged at home or at work, could be such a big deal.
Honda is set to launch vehicles like this, powered by a number of these “universal” swappable batteries, as part of a pilot program in Saitama, Japan. In addition to the PCX electric scooter, they’ll also launch a small delivery vehicle and a side-by-side utility vehicle as a sort of GEM-NEV competitor. Both electrified, sure, but combining other forward-looking technologies like automation and airless ATV tires. These, too, are based on production Honda models.
There’s no way to know, at this point, if the pilot program will be successful. Still, if it is, it’s easy to imagine technology like this doing for light EVs what it did for portable power tools. But I’m a bit of an optimist when it comes to Honda. What about you guys?
Do you think this is all just a bunch of CES hype that has Honda slapping a bunch of buzzword tech at existing products to make some cynical PR waves, or is Honda putting some real energy into this? Check out the other vehicles that will be part of the proposed Saitama project, below, then let us know what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Honda Swappable Battery Tech
Source | Images: Honda, via Motorpasión.
This story about Alta electric motorcycles was first published by CleanTechnica
Alta Motors, the other electric motorcycle company in California, has a few good pieces of news to announce. Alta Motors has added 36 new dealerships in 16 new states in the past year. As of today, that brings the total to 41 dealers. That means, most likely, you too can have fun in the woods! 🙂
Alta Motors, like Zero Motorcycles, is an electric motorcycle maker in California that has steadily been making progress in its corner of the market. Alta makes off-road electric bikes. Unlike Zero Motorcycles, which provides a lineup of motorcycles crossing from off-road bikes to the street, Alta Motors has deliberately focused on the off-road world — and, oh yes, it’s Redshift SM is a supermoto we’d love to get our hands on, not to mention the Redshift EX and Redshift MX.
Alta Motors CEO Marc Fenigstein, whom we’ll be interviewing later today, said: “After demonstrating the Redshift’s ability to compete head to head with combustion, we’re excited to scale our dealership base across the U.S., offering more riders the opportunity to hop on for an initial joy ride. … No doubt, there are still hurdles to educating this market on the thrills and combined benefits of riding an electric bike, but we’re seeing a promising future with an 18x increase in sales this year.”
The EX, MS, and SM do one thing and they do it very well. They can be ridden hard in the woods with little noise and close to no pollution, depending on the energy you feed them. Today, Alta Motors announced its expansion to reach 41 dealerships across the U.S., but it has expansion plans far beyond that (more on that soon). With Alta Motors Redshift motorcycles now available from coast to coast, perhaps now is the time to explore your inner teenager’s more epic off-road desires.
The company estimates the global lightweight vehicle market (LWV) potential at over $125 billion. How much of that market it can gobble is the question.
Scott Bannick, sales manager of Colorado-based Elite Motorsports, has been selling Alta Motors bikes since 2016. He had the following to say: “We’ve sold more Alta bikes this year than any other single model. … The success we’ve seen was unimaginable a year ago, but now not so surprising. The coolest thing to witness after encouraging a customer to try the electric bike is seeing that customer return at the end of the day with eyes the size of dinner plates. It’s priceless.”
Alta Motors Defines Electric Motocross
We can probably thank Josh Hill for having helped cement Alta’s success. Alta Motors Redshift bikes can change the level of power delivery and regenerative braking with the flick of a thumb.
Oh, and please, don’t go out riding your motorcycle after watching these videos … seriously.
Perhaps the greatest potential an electric motorcycle has to offer any given rider is a tailored experience in real time to match their riding style, terrain, and more. To date, Alta Motors Redshift bikes have successfully competed against traditional gas bikes and proven the electric motor’s might and powerful torque. How about as battery costs keep dropping and the software keeps improving?
Ben Atkinson, another Redshift MX rider, says: “In 1974, I got my first off-road minibike, and have been riding and racing motocross ever since. This summer, I purchased Alta’s Redshift MX, and have already logged over 65 hours on it. It’s become my favorite bike to ride for a number of reasons. Namely, it’s faster, quieter and easier to maintain. I can ride any time of day around my track in Rochester without disturbing our neighbors.”
Alta Motors Solidifying Its Electric Motocross Lead With New Dealerships
Alta’s new dealers solidify its dominance in the electric lightweight vehicle field and spell its impending international exploration next year. We feel like the competition is about to get even hotter.
We’ve said it before and maintain it: electric motorcycles are where it’s at and have a ton of potential to move the needle of EV adoption into the mainstream. When motorcyclists get on it, the rest of the industry has to offer an electric version as well.
Check out the Alta Motors lineup to get your own eyes growing, and consider going a step further.
Weighing in at 251 lbs. and packing 40 HP from its 13,750 RPM electric motor, the Alta RedShift MotoX electric motorcycle seemed destined for greatness as soon as it debuted. A lot of electric startups look great on paper, though. It remained to be seen whether or not the RedShift could deliver on the track. That’s exactly what happened at Red Bull Straight Rhythm this weekend, where Alta scored its first national-level supercross win. A historic first for an electric motorcycle. (!)
That historic win for an electric bike had a bit of extra “Hollywood” to it from the start, too. The ride signaled the return of Josh Hill, who came out out of retirement to ride the Alta RedShift MX for the Red Bull-sponsored weekend.
Not bad for a bike starting at under $15K, right?
According to Jensen Beeler, at A&R, “Alta has eyes on furthering its racing résumé, targeting the Redshift MX to compete in other lites class races. We could soon see the … RedShift MX in various 250cc motocross, supercross, and supermoto events in the US.” Here’s hoping they actually follow through and bring some TTZero-level EV excitement to a dirt track near you!
You can check out some of this past weekend’s race highlights in the Red Bull-produced video, below, then let us know if you think electric bikes like the Alta have a real shot against their gas-powered rivals in the comments section at the bottom of the page. And, before anyone says it, you get absolutely zero points for guessing that the Alta will probably show up on next year’s Best Fuel-efficient Motorcycles List.
Red Bull Straight Rhythm 2016 Highlight Video
On national drive electric day, September 10th, Zero motorcycles celebrated their 10th anniversary. We’ve been covering their progress since the beginning. In fact, my first article for gas2 was a review of the 2009 Zero S. They’ve certainly come a long way since I first reviewed one here, and I was very excited to celebrate with them.
We were treated to factory tours, demo rides of the 2016 fleet, and inspiring talks. I really enjoyed watching Terry Hershner tell his Zero story, as we’ve chronicled parts of it here.
We weren’t allowed to take photos in the factory, but I’ll give you the highlights. The factory has moved to a much bigger facility than the one I visited in 2010, capable of building as many as 20 zeroes per day. Sure, that’s a lot less than the one car per hour Ford’s robots can build, but a lot more people drive cars in America. For now.
The most exciting thing I saw in the factory, aside from the mysterious empty space behind the battery on a 2017 model were the DC tools at every station. These tools are connected to a server and they’re programmed to reach the required torque setting for the bolt being installed. If they don’t get torqued correctly, the builder is decommissioned. Kidding. An alarm notifies the builder that the torque needs to be corrected.
If a bolt is stripped or some other issue occurs, the bike leaves the assembly line and goes to “the hospital” where specialists fix it. Every stage of the build takes about 25 minutes, and Zero has the capacity to build up to 20 bikes a day. One particularly cool trick they have is a UV treated waterproofing they put on all the bolts. This prevents the sort of failure that can really ruin an EV rider’s rainy day ride.
But the best advancement of all has been how Zero has been able to increase range and lower price over the years. Model Year 2016 bikes have as much as 16 times the range of MY07. Prices continue to drop while components improve. 2016 models are $1,000 less than models sold a few years ago.
Yes, I’m a fangirl. I was considering buying a Brammo Empulse until I took a 2013 Zero FX for a spin. I waited that long because I wanted a motorcycle I knew could hold its own in LA traffic. Previous model year Zeroes and the Brammo Enertia never had quite enough power to make me believe they could survive in the urban jungle. The FX(S) is quite a different bike than the sportbikes I had been riding for years. But it’s gobs of fun.
At the Further with Ford conference, Dan Ariely claimed that EV’s are an effective method of reward substitution regarding global warming because of the ego fix (aka “the smug“) But for those of us who enjoy the sport of riding, or driving, it’s really the torque that gives us that instant gratification he speaks of. Helping the planet remain habitable a bit longer is so much easier when it means beating absolutely every single vehicle off the line at every green light you’ve ever launched from. We’ll have more news from Further with Ford in the days to come.
The automotive and motorcycle industries are incredibly tough businesses. At one point, there were more than three hundred American car makers- and we’re down to just a handful, today, with more set to fail any time. Despite that, sometimes we have high hopes for transportation startups, and Mission Motorcycles was one of those. Sadly, it appears that Mission is no more.
Mark Seeger, the CEO of Mission Motorcycles, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on October 15, 2015. Neither Mission Electric- a spin-off company that had hoped to provide powertrains to other aspiring EV-builders– nor Mission Motorcycles is in business any more.
Depending on who you ask, the company’s final downfall came after Apple poached a number of key Mission employees. Ben Rich, over at Green Car Reports, however, believes that it was simply “far more likely that employees decided to find better jobs upon realizing Mission Motors was unlikely to be sustainable.”
The arrival of a number of highly qualified vehicle engineers at Apple has only helped to spur rumors of an upcoming Apple car– but this should be a time to alk about Mission’s final days. In the end, Mission lost several key engineers to Apple, sure, but to other Silicon Valley companies, as well. After that, their financing fell through, and Mission Motors simply ran out of money.
Source | Images: Mission Motors, via Green Car Reports.
Zero will be presenting their new models at the AIM Expo in Orlando today, and we got to peek behind the curtain so you could be the first to read about it. On Monday we joined a call with Zero’s Scot Harden to find out what’s coming for 2016. They’ve made a lot of exciting improvements to the lineup and are introducing two customer-designed bikes, the FXS and DSR, after so many Hollywood Electrics customers couldn’t leave without these upgrades.
I was seriously in the market for a Brammo Empulse. Until I rode a 2013 Zero FX on the streets of Hollywood. I knew immediately, even with knobby tires, this was the perfect urban assault vehicle. So I bought one and had Hollywood Electrics swap those dirt wheels out for wheels that come with the S, and some Pirelli Diablo Rosso II’s. Well, this has become such a popular modification that Zero went ahead and made it permanent for 2016- the Zero FXS, a proper Supermoto bike.
The FXS features the new IPM motor, suspension components from the DS and comes stock with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires. The new FX and FXS also have taller handlebars. I just hope they’re narrower on the FXS, as I was smoked by some kid on a fixie lanesplitting through DTLA because his bicycle was so much narrower than those massive bars. Reviewing the 2016 Zero FXS on the streets of LA for your edification will be one of my greatest pleasures.
The Z- Force motor has been dramatically redesigned to deliver power more efficiently and cool more rapidly. The patented Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) motor has the magnets mounted in a new formation to significantly improve cooling under hard riding conditions. This will be especially valuable to racers but also to riders whose only mode is “ride it like you stole it”.
The horsepower and torque haven’t changed on any of the Zero models, but the motor can use all of those ponies for longer periods of time, as long as the battery is still up for it. If not, you’ll still get the governor kicking in to throttle you back to a speed more likely to get you to your destination.
For 2016 Zero has improved the battery capacity of the S and DS models by 4%, but the FX line with its swappable batteries now boasts a whopping 14% more battery life. This is no small feat. But if that’s still not enough juice for you, and you want something a little cheaper than the Power Tank, Zero now offers the Charge Tank. This on-board charger comes with a J1772 and can triple the charging speed! You don’t even have to connect the regular plug to an outlet, the Charge Tank automatically connects to the on-board charger and works through that as well. The Charge Tank is also backward-compatible with 2015 Zero S and DS models in place of their Power Tank. And Power Tanks from 2015 can fit 2016 models.
With Zero’s Charge Tank, and startup DigiNow having just announced their Super Charger accessory, it’s clear a lot of electric motorcycle owners are looking for a faster charge more than the weight (and cost) of extra batteries. The $1900 Zero Charge Tank can fit where the $2674 Power Tank (extra batteries) would go. And it’s a lot cheaper than the batteries. This proves that Zero is listening to their customers and finding that many of them would like to go for a long ride and stop for a quicker charge than what a 110v outlet will give.
Zero continues to offer the highest energy density batteries in the entire EV industry. Take that and stick in your SUV, Elon. All these improvements are actually costing less in some ways. The more popular SR and FX models retain their 2015 prices, while the S and DS are each $1,000 cheaper than in 2015. The FXS will retail at the same price as the FX- $8,495 for one battery (3.3) or $10,990 for two (6.5). Don’t be cheap and think you’ll be ok with only one battery. You won’t. And 27 hp is a LOT less than 44, even with 70 ft-lbs of torque in a super-light sub-300lb. package.
The DS also gets a sportier version in the DSR (above)- This high-performance dual sport features the new IPM motor, ZF13.0 batteries, 56% more torque and 25% more power than the DS. Zero continues their fleet program, with the following lineup …
… and here’s a handy chart of how the 2016 bikes compare to each other on the basics. The details should be up on Zeromotorcycles.com soon.
Zero Motorcycles 2016 Pricing
All photos courtesy of Zero Motorcycles.
Originally published on CleanTechnica.
By Mike Barnard
What is the fastest production motorcycle in the world? What bike beat every other motorcycle and most cars up Pike’s Peak in 2013? What motorcycle had massive brake and shock upgrades while getting almost $2,000 cheaper in the past two years? What motorcycle is cheapest to own and run over several years?
The answers are electric motorcycles from Lightning and Zero. The rate of change in electric motorcycles is truly phenomenal, and mostly outshadowed by Tesla’s great job of getting amazing press by delivering amazing electric cars.
Let’s start with Zero.
The graphic on the right shows the 2011 to 2014 evolution of the Zero motorcycle: quadrupling of range, 50% increase in top speed, 150% more horsepower, and 150% increase in torque.
What it doesn’t show is the price or a couple of other key specs. In 2014, Zero also massively improved the brakes and shocks on the bike while dropping the price by $400. In 2015, the company left the specs of the bikes alone, but dropped the price tag by $1,350. How were they able to do that? Rapidly declining battery costs, mostly.
What is the Zero SR most comparable to? Well, in terms of torque, it’s up there with 1000 cc gas bikes, while in terms of horsepower, it’s equivalent to 600 cc bikes. That means it’s very quick off the line, with the SR rated at 3.3 seconds to 60 mph. The top speed isn’t as insane as bigger bikes, topping out around 100 mph — also known as the speed at which fines start being enough to fund municipal budgets and having your bike taken away from you is a serious possibility.
My last bike was a BMW F800ST, a beautifully mannered and very quick sport tourer from Bavaria. It took 3.5 seconds to get to 60 mph. I only took it above 100 mph a couple of times, and not by very much. Mostly, I enjoyed the quickness of it and cornering on it, rather than exotic speed.
I test drove an older Zero S a couple of weeks ago and started seriously thinking that maybe another bike was in my future. It was very quick, had no problem keeping up with the 650 cc sport bike that the staff member was riding and handled adequately. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t try out the SR with the better shocks and acceleration, but I was more surprised that the oil town I’m currently living in had electric motorcycles at all.
The exploration led to wondering what the total cost of ownership would be comparable to, similar to the assessment that one enterprising husband did a year or so ago between a Honda Odyssey minivan and a base model Tesla. He found it was almost the same price over 8 years of ownership, and was able to justify having a dead sexy car instead of a sex-killing minivan. I decided a comparison between a decent entry-level bike, the Suzuku SFV650, the Zero S and Zero SR, and my old BMW F800ST would be interesting.
It’s well known that it’s a lot cheaper to run and maintain electric vehicles. The assessment above took purchase prices, safety gear, fuel cost, insurance, depreciation, and annual maintenance costs into account. One key difference is that, right now, electric bikes are depreciating a lot faster than gas
bikes. This isn’t because they are wearing out faster but because new bikes are so much cheaper and better. It’s like the curse of the Tesla owner who bought a Model S 60 a week before the Model S 70D became the base model.
As can be seen, a Zero S is only about $4,400 more expensive over 8 years than an entry-level Suzuki, or 16%. And the Zero SR is only about $1,400 more expensive than my BMW F800ST over 8 years. When we start talking about BMW prices, that’s an irrelevant amount.
The BMW is suddenly $4,700 more expensive than an SR. If you aren’t worried about depreciation, all of a sudden, the SR starts looking financially appealing. The Zero S, not shown, becomes about $800 cheaper than the entry-level Suzuki, making it a very inexpensive choice if you are in the market for a bike.
The maintenance assessment was based on percentage likelihood of specific major repairs and maintenance such as annual tire changes, annual brake adjustments, annual tuneups and lower likelihood expenses such as oil pump changes, fuel pump failures, and the like.
But those numbers are based on the USA, where gas is fairly ludicrously cheap at about $3 per gallon compared to places where it’s more sensibly priced to drive market behavior that’s aligned with little things like climate change and pollution. The numbers also exclude any rebates such as California’s $900.
The Canadian average is $4.16 per gallon right now, and the European average is around $6 per gallon. In Canada, an SR is about $5,700 cheaper than the BMW over 8 years, while the S is about $1,700 cheaper than the Suzuki. And in Europe the numbers are even more startling, $8,400 and $4,300, respectively. Those are decisive numbers. They pay for a lot of upgrades to the Zeros, undoubtedly including new factory batteries with much greater range.
The most shocking news of 2014, as you probably heard, is that Harley Davidson beat all the Japanese OEM’s to the electric motorcycle market. While they claim the Livewire is not scheduled for production, they do have a large demo fleet touring the nation. At the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA I took one for a spin.
The demo route was a short jaunt through Long Beach, just enough to get a little taste of what the Livewire can do. Although part of the route was on the Grand Prix course, we weren’t really allowed to open it up to full capacity, but instead were led at a chill cruiser pace appropriate for the bike and the neighborhood.
Harley worked closely with leading electric powertrain developer Mission motors and the motor is excellent. The power delivery is smooth, but more impressively so is the regenerative braking. On many other electric motorcycles, especially my superlight Zero FX, full regen requires a delicate throttle roll off.
With the Livewire, you’ve got equally strong braking but it’s smooth as silk regardless of how suddenly you close the throttle. The mechanical brakes work fine too. The motor has a sound, louder than the Zero and quieter than the Energica. While the Energica sounds like some kind of alien spaceship, and can get annoying, the Livewire sounds like a proper electric motorcycle.
The bike is more café racer style than anything else. It’s low slung and has a fairly long wheelbase and excessively wide rear tire. This made for slow, heavy turns compared to the sportier electric bikes I’ve ridden. When I returned, I mentioned this and was told the steering gets noticeably heavier with as little as two psi missing. The mechanic checked and sure enough my bike was down 2psi. Another rider felt the same, but the two others on our ride said it turned fine. All of us are experienced riders.
As Mark Gardiner wrote, this shows that Harley is trying bold new avenues to reach new customers. As their major fan base is aging and young hipsters go for the British (old and new) or vintage Japanese bikes, Harley knows they need to do something pretty different to show they’re not just for creepy old men anymore. I used to like Harleys until I worked across the street from a restaurant that was popular with the RUB’s (Rich Urban Bikers).
They’d rev their engines for a good 20 minutes before taking off, leading me to never want to hear another Harley or have anything to do with the sort of men who ride them. What’s great about the Livewire is that riders can pose all they want and actually have conversations with passers-by instead of annoying them.
Check out their tour schedule here and sign up to take one for a spin. You’ll notice they’ll be in Miami for Art Basel, but weren’t in Daytona for speed week, a popular vacation spot for old-school Harley riders. Would you buy an electric Harley? Why or why not?
I spoke with Harley’s Media Relations Manager Jen Hoyer, and she said the Livewire has had a very positive reception everywhere they’ve taken it. Full interview is here:
Electric cars may have finally reached the tipping point where society en masse begins moving towards them, at least in America and Europe. In the developing world though, another kind of EV revolution is taking place, albeit on two wheels instead of four.
The latest study from Navigant Research says that in the next ten years, 55 million electric motorcycles and scooters will be sold, and more importantly, markets outside of China have the potential for huge growth.
The Chinese economy currently accounts for 98% of electric two-wheeler sales, but in both Europe and North America consumers are warming up to the notion. For one, electric motorcycles and scooters are a lot cheaper than their automotive equivalents, and yet a Brammo Empulse, which can be had for as little as $6,995 right now thanks to a special deal, can travel up to 80 miles between charges.
That’s about as far as the Nissan LEAF, albeit under favorable city-driving conditions. Meanwhile, many electric scooters have a range of 25 to 30 miles, and while they may not be as fast, they’re a cost effective alternative to public transportation or a car. Another benefit is that the smaller battery packs don’t need home charging stations; a normal outlet is often enough, they public charging stations can top off many of these vehicles in just an hour or two. Meanwhile electric two-wheelers deliver just as much fun and performrance as their combustion-powered counterparts, which is why companies like Harley-Davidson are getting on the hype train.
Still, it all comes back to cost, and while electric cars are certainly getting cheaper, so are electric motorcycles and scooters. Pretty soon there could be a negligible price difference between combustion and electric drivetrains, and when faced with the option, many consumers in urban areas and developing nations are likely to choose the vehicle that costs a lot less to operate.
Many oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia and Iraq continue to rely on heavily subsidized fossil fuels, mostly gasoline and diesel. But international pariah Iran has bucked that trend with its efforts to put CNG cars and electric vehicles on its road, and its efforts have taken a big step forward.
The effort is being spearheaded by the Iran Fuel Conservation Commission, which is currently working to replace gas and diesel vehicles with CNG vehicles to great success. Now the FCC wants to bring some 400,000 electric motorcycles and 120,000 hybrid taxis to the streets of Tehran, Iran’s capital, and eventually only EVs will be allowed on its ancient streets.
But Iran plans to go a lot further to support electric vehicles, including paying manufacturers $300 for every electric motorcycle they build. Manufacturers can choose to either keep that money, or pass the savings onto consumers. While the IFCC admits that some hybrid cars may have to be imported, a $6,000 manufacturer credit for every domestically-built hybrid could saw Iranian automakers (of which there are many) to commit to hybrid development. Iran’s auto industry is actually the 18th largest in the world, with annual production of about 1.6 million units. Few of those cars are hybrids, though a growing number resorted to using CNG as a fuel over oil as international sanctions limited production.
It’s ironic that a nation that appears at times to be culturally conservative can be more liberal when it comes to its energy policies. Outside of the UAE, few Middle Eastern nations are doing anything to combat climate change, content to sit back and collect their oil money. If approved, the Iranian plan to bring EVs and hybrids to the streets could change the balance of power in the region.
It won’t happen overnight, but with oil prices and demand basically flatlining, fossil fuels seem to be falling out of favor at a time when both were supposed to be rising, and Iran’s support for electrified vehicles could make all the difference.
After years of separation, much to the joy of electric motorcycle buyers everywhere, but especially Los Angeles, Hollywood Electrics and Brammo are together again. Brammo has had a hard time finding their home in Los Angeles, starting out at Best Buy, then briefly selling through Hollywood Electrics before moving to Bartels, a Harley Davidson dealership (and not exactly a good fit).
Hollywood Electrics sells only electric bikes, so it’s the go-to shop for anyone who wants to be sure they’re buying from a shop that understands EV’s, making it the perfect home for Brammo.
What’s also interesting is that this comes shortly after Harley has introduced their own electric bike, the LiveWire. Yes, they claim they have no plans to actually sell the bike, but it would not make sense for them to carry a competitive brand at one of their largest and most iconic dealerships. Mark Gardiner explains here why Harley is most likely going to produce the LiveWire.
Brammo has just announced their upcoming grand opening party to be held August 16th at Hollywood Electrics. Hollywood Electrics is also offering test rides at Newcomb’s Ranch, a popular restaurant on the Angeles Crest Highway, a great place to really see how that bike handles. They will have Brammo Empulse R’s and Zero S’s and FX’s available to demo. From their Facebook page:
Electric Motorcycle test rides this Sunday at Newcomb’s Ranch to help celebrate their 75th year anniversary!
Mark your calendars: August 10, 2014, 10am-3pm.
Angeles Crest Highway 2, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
While this does present a challenge for Zero, the brand that has really blossomed through their #1 dealership, it can also help them improve. As any capitalist can tell you, competition is great for innovation. Brammo and Zero each have their strengths and weaknesses, so being in the same dealership can help them see what it is that customers really want from them.
Also in the past week, Hollywood Electrics became a LACI baby- our term for Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator Portfolio Companies. With this partnership, Harlan told us he plans to use the money to further their R&D, to create better upgrades for their customers. They already do some pretty sweet stuff to bikes with what they have, this will enable them to do even more. You can read about LACI’s inagural Cleantech Showcase here.
Press release of the dealer partnership here.
Imagine you had the choice between an Italian supermodel and that nice girl next door. Both of them like you, but the girl next door loves shopping at Walmart and it shows. The Italian? Well, you probably think she’s too rich for your blood. But all that goes out the window once you actually ride her, feeling the way her top shelf suspension components hug the curves of your favorite road, and the delicious bite from her 240mm Brembos as you brake hard from her top speed of (governed) 150mph, you know you want her. At any price.
I only had her between my legs for about 17 miles, even though I begged CRP to let me ride the Energica Ego further, and faster. Even at a staggering 568 lbs, she’s easy enough to ride. Even confidence-inspiring, as Asphalt & Rubber also said. Sure, it’s not a bike you’d flick around through tight traffic, but it performed beautifully in the tight twisties known as “The Snake“. Because I’ve primarily been riding Yamaha R1’s the past decade, I felt right at home on the bike. The footpegs were a bit too high for me (I’m 5’11), but it was a nice contrast after scraping pegs on the Zero SR the day before at Laguna Seca.
The Ego is a big bike, and I like big bikes. At 100kw, it’s got twice the motor of the SR, and 143 ft/lbs of torque vs 106 on the Zero. We were forced to sign a contract promising not to wheelie the Ego, or ride recklessly, and I did my best to hold back. We had to stay behind our ride leader the entire time. As you can see in the video, it was a fairly mellow ride:
The Ego is a very smooth ride that definitely corners like it’s on rails. It hold its line perfectly through the twisties, although I would really love to be fast enough to put this bike through its paces in the TT Zero. I rode in sport mode the entire time, with the regen set to “standard” for the first few miles. But the regen was so subtle I switched it to max, and it felt more like a Ducati, with that nice engine braking. It’s easy to switch modes on the fly, and the Ego features 4 settings for riding and 4 for regen.
The Energica Ego also sounds different than any other electric motorcycle. CRP explains the Ego has straight cut final drive gears similar to the drive train of an F1 car. Which would explain the high-pitched whine of the motor. It was novel, and sounds really badass, but I missed the peaceful silence of my Zero FX. Riding in Los Angeles is a bit stressful, so having one less source of noise vying for your attention, even if it’s your own bike, is nice.
The good news is, the Ego isn’t Desmosedici expensive. Just Panigale expensive. Well, the purchase price at least. Maintenance costs are basically $0 compared to a Ducati. CRP is hoping to get this bike to market at $34,000, while the Zero SR as I rode it, with the power tank, has an MSRP of $19,490. The maintenance costs on both of these bikes are practically nonexistent, so total ownership cost is more manageable than it would be for an Italian gas superbike.
That Price Includes Top-Shelf Components
You may recall we toured their factory in 2010, to see where the magic happens. CRP’s main business is 3D printing ultra-light parts for racing vehicles and spacecraft from their patented carbon “ink”, Windform.
This ultralight material enables them to pack more battery power into the Ego- 11.7kWh to be exact. CRP claims 31 miles of range under racing conditions and as much 93 miles of city riding. The TT Zero is 37.73 miles long, so they’re not far from making a bike that can compete there. The bike also features a reverse gear, to make it easier to park. This is nice, since the regen can really make it hard to back up even the 280 lb Zero FX.
Marchesini wheels hold Pirelli Diablo Rosso’s, my personal favorite tire brand. Brembos stop those wheels with a pair of 320mm rotors and 4 piston caliper brakes up front and a 220mm rotor and 2 piston caliper on the rear. In production, there will also be a Bosch ABS system.
This massive beast is exceptionally well handled by fully adjustable Marzocchi 43mm forks and a fully adjustable Ohlins shock. None of which were adjusted specifically for me, and I felt fine on the bike. My videographer said I looked much more comfortable on the Ego than I do on my R1. I felt more comfortable, even though it’s 140 lbs heavier. It’s just so much smoother and easier to manage the power. I thoroughly enjoyed riding this bike, and would certainly consider it as a canyon and trackday bike.
When I first rode the 2014 Zero SR I was terrified; this was an electric motorcycle after all, a completely different beast from what I was used to, and at high speeds I felt like I might fall over. Then I found out why; I had over-inflated the tires because the 25 psi I’d gotten them at felt way too low. But 36 was entirely too high, so the next morning I reduced it to 32. It felt better but still not great. So I took the bike to my mechanic to tweak the suspension to my weight and swap the tires for the Pirelli Diablo Rosso’s I have loved for over a decade.
When I got the bike, it felt like a completely different bike. All of a sudden the bike felt planted and solid at high speeds. The stock tires are a cheap, hard compound tire with a rather square profile of 140/70. The 150/70 Pirelli’s felt much better. I set the tires to 28 psi, as recommended by a friend who races 250cc bikes, a fairly similar comparison. With 54hp the bike is similar to a 250 cc powered bike.
The next day I trailered my Zero SR to Laguna Seca for Refuel, an EV track day held by car guys Speed Ventures. Brandon Miller, who wrote about the SR here when he first bought his, won the production class of the motorcycle race. There was about $5 million worth of Teslas present, and about 10 motorcycles, mostly Zeros. Tesla had conveniently scheduled their owner’s conference, Tesla Motor Connect, to be held the same weekend in Monterey. It was a beautiful sight watching about 50 Model S’s lined up for the parade lap…so beautiful that I forgot to take a picture.
In the first racing session I felt comfortable until I started scraping pegs on some of the right-hand turns. Other than that, the Zero SR was a blast to ride. It’s weird riding an electric bike on a track you’ve more recently ridden on a gas bike, because you just slow for the corners instead of downshifting. You have to hope you slow down enough. I learned that after I went into the corkscrew a bit hot a couple times and was faster through T2 than I’ve ever been on my R1, my lap times were much slower. What I lack in cornering courage I make up for on that delicious front straight, as the R1 is capable of 185mph flat out, compared to the 95 MPH top speed of my Zero SR.
For the second session, Zero’s Director of Prototype and Test Bill Ruehl tweaked my suspension as recommended by Zero racer Jeremiah Johnson. We dropped the front forks 10mm and gave the shock a bit more preload. I took it out for a spirited ride around the access roads to get used to it, and I liked it. However, in the next sessions I was slower. I didn’t scrape anything, but my times were about 3 seconds slower. Perhaps because this time I hadn’t started out right behind Eric Bostrom, trying to keep him in my sights. Yes, mere mortals get to ride with Brammo factory racers at Refuel! Because there are so few bikes on course, it’s safe enough to put us all into one group.
What’s strange is that I was faster on my personal Zero FX than I was on the SR. Yes, it’s 172 lbs heavier at 452 lbs, but also has 23 more ponies at 67 hp. What it came down to is that I’m just much more comfortable on the FX, and not afraid to flog it for all it’s worth. The SR suspension is stiffer, as the FX is like a dirt bike. Yet for me, the SR underperformed against the FX where it’s supposed to excel- on a paved course. You can read about last year’s Refuel here.
I still say the FX is more fun to ride and am still glad it’s the one I bought. But the SR with the power pack has more range than any electric motorcycle currently on the market at a combined 131 miles of combined driving range. So if it’s range you want in a fun daily commuter and weekend canyon carver, the Zero SR is your bike. If you want a sportier ride, the SR needs rear sets, clip ons, and some cosmetic surgery to give the clip ons clearance. Better suspension components would be nice too, and the stock tires should be burned in a bonfire, regardless of the emissions.
The bolts are an issue too, as the stock hardware is a bit soft. There was also an issue with some bikes being assembled with excessively strong loctite instead of a medium strength loctite. This resulted in plenty of stripped alan heads for anyone wanting to change tires. As you can see, someone had fixed that on the press bike I got, and a Zero engineer (many were present, as Refuel is basically held in their backyard) told me they would love to use better bolts, but the marketing folks want the cute ones. Ultimately, I think it really comes down to the locktite problem, and just steel quality. It would be nice to have harder steel bolts for the things you’re likely to take off frequently, like wheels.
The 2014 Zero models have a much better dash than previous models, it’s not only gorgeous and has all the information you’d most want, it’s also really easy to read. This includes my favorite feature- a clock! There is now a handy range estimate based on current draw. That is a real confidence booster when you’re squeezing out the last few volts.
Since they can’t account for variables such as wind resistance, it can’t predict your range based on speed, but I found it to be accurate enough to trust. At Refuel, a Zero engineer told me they tested range with two nearly identical riders and found it to be about 7% different between the two of them. Yet the power tank really gave this bike so much range I didn’t even need to plug in after distances my Zero FX could only dream of covering. I didn’t even bother trying to be more aerodynamic.
In conclusion, the SR with the power tank has the most range of any electric motorcycle I know of, and certainly the most below $20,000. But at what price? If you absolutely need an electric bike for your 100 mile commute to work, this is the bike. But if you have a shorter commute, skip the power tank. The $2500 you’ll save would be well spent on better suspension and braking components.
Dropping 45 pounds should help the bike’s handling a bit too. It’s an awful lot of weight and $$$ for a 20% increase in range. The power tank plays into the range anxiety gas vehicle owners tend to suffer from. My daily rider has half the range of the SR without the power tank, and that suits me fine, even in the sprawl of Los Angeles. I’ve found my own range, riding it like I stole it, actually matches their posted range, which is nice.
The day after Refuel, I rode the SR from downtown LA to Malibu in a hurry for the CRP Press Launch. I was late and figured an electric bike launch would include charging. I made the 39 mile ride with about 50% to spare. 35 of those miles were freeway miles, ridden fast. I could’ve made it home on that, a bit slower, but went ahead and plugged into the generator CRP had brought. After the CRP test ride, I rode to Malibu Country Mart for lunch, and plugged in again.
Thus, I made it back home the long way, about 60 miles, with stops in central LA to run errands and no heat issues. This is a great city bike, and fine in the canyons at moderate speeds, but needs help before it hits the racetrack.