Electric Motorcycles - the new 2014 Zero SR - just rode one...

Discussion in 'Other Cars' started by DadofHedgehog, May 17, 2014.

  1. DadofHedgehog

    DadofHedgehog Active Member

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    There is no forum thread yet for EV motorcycles, so I'll start one as I've been looking at them for about 2 years and I just finally rode a brand-new model: the Zero (brand name) SR.

    Here's the manufacturer's link: Zero SR Electric Motorcycle || ZERO MOTORCYCLES

    Background: Over the years I've owned five road motorcycles: a 400cc Kawasaki, a 500cc Suzuki, a 1000cc BMW, a 750cc Ural and a 1000cc Buell. Altogether, I have more than 160 thousand miles under my, er, seat. My son a.k.a the Hedgehog has owned two other bikes.

    Having a well-liked PiP and now also a 2013 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV, I've been looking at the fast-changing EV motorcycle market. I originally was drawn to the Brammo brand Empulse models, but from afar as they are very rare in Virginia. Son and I did look at a Zero dealership in 2012 somewhere in Pennsylvania but we came away unimpressed as the 2012 Zeros looked and felt like underpowered Enduro wannabe bikes.

    Zero offered a ride demo today in Arlington VA and I rode the brand-new, much improved SR, their top end model. My oh my... now I want one. Except...

    #1 quibble: wayyyyyy too pricey! there are two traction battery sizes, the higher one giving the rider a respectable 80 - 90 fast highway miles range and a much much higher 150+ "city miles" range. This model goes for around 19K USD plus taxes, and the federal 10% tax credit for motorcycles expired in 2013. 19K? Brrrr...

    2d quibble: the batteries are lithium, but the built-in charger on the bike will only handle 120V charging current. Zero does sell a J1772 adapter, but even if the bike hooks up to a level 2 source, it'll still draw only at 120V recharge rates. That means nine+ hours for a full recharge of the highest-capacity version of the bike at that Voltage rate. Really? Zero explains that the J1772 adapter makes "use of Level 2 public and public commercial recharging stations possible". Yes, but at the very sloooow 120V rate.

    The Good Stuff: The Zero SR model has a new and much improved motor. The specs are on the above-listed Zero Motorcycles URL, but BLUF: this thing has many more ponies and much more torque than my 1982 BMW R100CS bike had, and that bike was a 980cc cross-country sports-tourer. I was blown away by the power and the torque of the Zero SR. This thing smokes! Again, I have a lot of motorcycle miles on multiple bikes, mine and my son's. This 2014 Zero SR is literally as nimble as a 250cc bike, with the "pull-away power" of at least a new 600cc sports bike. That is beyond satisfying. It puts a stupid grin on the rider's face. It's a winning combination of gobs of instant-on torque, no transmission (yes, no shifting at all - there is THIS MUCH torque at all speeds), no reciprocating engine parts to balance, a very low-seeming center of gravity and the EV silence when you accelerate like a banshee. The motor is supposedly governed at just over 100 MPH, although we never got close during the test ride today.

    One other observation - although there are provisions for a passenger, the physics of EV power combined with motorcycling realities make this really a one-person vehicle. I don't think that the Zero SR loaded down with 400 lbs of two adult riders aboard would give an appealing road performance.

    So, in the spirit of EV technology, I hereby announce that I like this new 2014 Zero SR as a fully functional, albeit not a long-distance, motorcycle.

    Anyone else out there try one yet?
     
  2. Robert Holt

    Robert Holt Senior Member

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    Hey, interesting! What a great commuter bike, although $$$.

    But for long distance hauls, have you found any hybrid motorcycles?
    I am curious why no one seems to have tried to make a "Prius-type bike" with an Atkinson cycle ICE, plus motor and high capacity high voltage battery. The flat-plate equivalent frontal area would be less than the Prius, and you could attempt to construct a shell with a similarly low Cd. I would be interested in that combinations, but I cannot find it. You?
     
  3. DadofHedgehog

    DadofHedgehog Active Member

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    This stuff is so new that (IMHO) most of the technical solutions for bikes have yet to be tried. For me, I can hardly wait for the manufacturing efficiencies of scale to bring that horrendous price down. I'll bet you that if gas ever hits USD 6/gallon in the near future, those bikes will fly out of the showrooms. Imagine if that bike would cost somewhere like 8-9 grand? and zero maintenance except for the tires? (it has a belt instead of a chain).
     
  4. DadofHedgehog

    DadofHedgehog Active Member

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    I dug some more into the technical info. The Zero SR has four battery modules, and a potential to add a fifth module in a large cargo hole where the fake gas tank sits. The Zero sales team swore that US Navy Seal teams, which supposedly have purchased some Zero SRs, "hot-swap" these four battery modules on returning to their base area, and that the hot-swap takes about a minute total (for all four). I could see that making sense for continuous fleet operations... BTW the Zero team is making a big effort to sell these bikes to police departments across the US.

    Additionally, Zero sells additional chargers (not/not EVSEs - actual extra chargers just like the one already on the bike). Supposedly, those who have $$$ to burn and several separate circuit receptacles right next to each other in the garage can reduce the charging time by 50% by hooking up an extra charger, or by 75% by simultaneously hooking up all four battery modules, each on its own home-based charger. Interesting idea - providing a choice of multiple 120V chargers rather than a stronger Voltage (L2) built-in charger, maybe because of tighter weight/space parameters on a motorcycle? I read this info on the Zero website, as the sales team was either clueless or silent about this accessory. Each extra charger runs around $400. I could see this solution also work out for certain fleet operations.

    Finally, the Zero can be factory-equipped with a ChaDeMo port. Not enough of these around Virginia to matter for single owners.
     
  5. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    Except for the largest road bikes, I think getting the ICE, motor, inverter, and battery to fit on a bike frame is difficult. Look at how much trunk space a converted car model can lose to a battery. It is around 2 suitcases worth.

    The aerodynamics is the biggest drag on a motorcycles economy. The cd (which doesn't factor in the frontal area) of a bike can be worse than that of a semi and trailer. A poster on another site was able to get big improvements for range on an EV converted bike simply by installing aero fairings.
     
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