06 August, 2015

Not quite the end of the line.

I'm a bit on the slack side. I've not updated this blog for a very long time. I did lose the password for a while. As well nothing was happening with the bike and there's just so many posts you can put up that say "nothing happening".

Some time after I stopped updating the bike stopped moving. It was still in warranty and I should have got on to it straight away but there were other things happening in my life that were taking up all my energy. So the bike got parked and I didn't even look at it for months. 

Eventually I did some diagnosis and it appears that there is 50+ volts at the motor terminals when you twist the throttle but the motor doesn't turn. My limited understanding of the Agni motors leads me to believe that the brushes have stopped sliding in their mounts and so the power isn't getting to the workings of the motor. I think that might be related to my having ridden it in deep sand rather a lot, but I don't know. The next step was to pull the swing arm off, remove the motor and have a good old look. Instead I gave the whole bike to my brother who is A) very clever, B) mad for fixing electronics and electrical things, C) currently without a motorcycle.  

So the Zero isn't dead, it's just resting until he breathes life into it again. He has all sorts of ideas for hotting it up, but I've suggested he get it working first and see if it even needs hotting up. We'll see what happens.

22 July, 2012

Nothing Happening (Still)

There's still nothing happening, so I'm going to have another opinion.  I thought this blog would be just the facts.  Our lives together, but it's not panning out that way as the bike is providing far too little entertainment.  Well, it's being entertaining but not in the way of "interesting times".  It's just getting me places and going about things without any effort.  

So anyway, the other day I started thinking about costs.  Electrics have a big up front payment.  It's something that you just can't get away from.  The Elephant in the room if you like.  However I feel that the total cost of ownership is much lower.  I've run the figures for service and fuel and that showed they're cheaper in the long run.  However there was something I hadn't really put a dollar value on.  My time.  Now I'm in a reasonably good situation, but not unique I'm sure.  I work part time and if I wanted to work more I'd just have to ask for more shifts.  It might not be as easy for some people, but most people can if they wish get a second job or start a home business.  So for me, I get paid a bit over 30 dollars an hour, but it's not worth the money they're offering to increase my working week.  Therefore my time is more valuable than 30 dollars an hour. (to me anyway).   You must have a value for your time too or you'd have that second job and we wouldn't even be talking about vehicles of any sort as you'd just walk everywhere.  
So how much time is saved with the electric?  Well I don't have to warm it up before riding like I need to do with every petrol bike or car.  I warm petrol vehicles for 3 minutes.  I always have and I probably always will.  The electric I jump on and go.  That's a $1.50 value for me every time I ride anywhere.  I also have to fill a petrol vehicle with petrol (kinda obvious).  I used to work in a petrol station "pumping gas" as the Americans call it.  I didn't particularly like the job and at the time I did it for minimum wage (there's no tipping in Australia).   Now I wouldn't do it for less than 30 dollars an hour.  Yet I have to do it for my petrol vehicles.  I timed it on Friday the best way I could.  I was on the highway and I checked my estimated arrival time.  It was: 14:42.  I then pulled in to a roadside servo.  One that had "pay at the pump".  That's the quickest possible way to refuel.  It was on my intended route, no queue to pay, just stop, fill, go.  When I got back on the highway my estimated time of arrival was 12 minutes later at 14:54.  I'd lost 12 minutes or in other words $6.00 of my time.  

So what would that work out at.  I'll use the new ZF9 figures...  The pack lasts and estimated 300 000 km, but say half that.  150 000 km.  My average trip is about 10 km, so that's 15 000 trips in the life of the pack.  At $1.50 per trip of my time saved that's a saving of $22 500.  More than the upfront cost of the bike.  Add in 12 minutes every 200 km that I'm not stopped and filling the bike, or 9000 minutes saved.  Another $13 500 worth of my time saved with an electric.  So in the life of a ZF9 I'd save $36 000 worth of my time.  That's just warming the bike and filling it with petrol.  I haven't included servicing time...  That depends a lot on which bike you're using instead.  My XR600 needed 3 hours service time every 10 hours of riding time.  That's one extreme.  Some bikes only need a service every 15 000 km.

You might doubt these figures, but remember, if I wanted (or if you wanted) you could just work more hours, so time really is money.  Even if you're on the Australian minimum wage, it's still $18 000 in time saved.  Well more than the purchase price of a ZF9.

 So yes, the upfront cost is high, but they more than pay for themselves in my opinion.

29 April, 2012

Nothing Happening

I suspect that “nothing happening” may be a recurring theme with electric bikes. They just get on with it, without fuss.

I was reading a motorcycling blog yesterday, filled as usual with inaccuracies and lies about electric motorcycles. Interestingly it was from someone who “champions” (their words) electrics. However they've got a set against Zeros. I haven't been able to figure out why he doesn't like them.

Anyway his negativity got me thinking about my bike again. Something I haven't actually done much of this year. The novelty has worn off a bit and I'm giving it about the same level of thought as I do my microwave. When I want to reheat a cup of coffee I put it in the microwave, when I want to go to the shops I get on the bike. I remember the first time I used a microwave (a radar oven), I was gobsmacked by it (I'm that old). Now I never think about it. The bike's the same. It just gets on with getting me places.

This negative article was full of the usual as well as the unusual. Zeros are bad because he saw one (a prototype, but he didn't mention that) 4 years ago that had the switches labelled with a sharpie. The implication being that they're so badly finished. (They're actually so well finished that they make me cry with joy apart from some of the DOT required stuff that's a bit tacky)

So I got to thinking about all the times the Zero hasn't let me down. How it just gets me places and I compared that to the petrol bikes I've had. I'm not going to include all the mishaps of my companions, (the internet isn't big enough) just what's gone wrong with the bike I've actually been riding that's left me stranded. Now two things here, I've done a lot of riding, and modern motorcycles make as much or more power per litre as F1 cars, so you've got to expect a few things to go wrong...

So here it is, a list of things that will never go wrong with the Zero that have stopped me on a petrol bike

Exploding clutch baskets. 3 of these.
Stripped gears. 2
Needle circlip breaking. 2
Wrong needle fitted. 1 (I still don't know how this happened and it took a year to solve)
Fouled plug. Maybe 30, maybe more, on that bike I carried 5 spare plugs and sometimes ran out.
Carb slides stuck full open. 2 (two different bikes, both scary experiences)
Cracked exhaust or lost exhaust bolts. 6
Gear shift lever fallen off. 1
Muffler fallen off. 2
Timing plate loose. 1
Snapped throttle cable. 1
Snapped clutch cable. 3
Run out of fuel. 2
Broken choke. 1 (but parts took nearly a year to get, during which time I had to remove the airbox and squirt fuel down the carbies to start the bike so it delayed me hundreds of times)
Stuck exhaust valve. 2
Failed starter motor. 2
Vapour lock. I couldn't count the times but all on one Ducati
Oil leak. 1 (by oil leak I mean the whole lot fell out of the bottom of the motor in about 100metres while I was on my way to a job interview)
Blown head gasket. 1
Kick starter broken. 1

And, not exactly something that stopped me but annoying all the same,

Standing in the rain, unpacking my camping gear only to discover that the hot exhaust had melted my tent and sleeping bag. 1

10 December, 2011

A day in the country

Rode out to a friend's place for lunch today. Just under 40 km there, about 10ish km of it dirt. Sorry to be so vague but I still haven't fixed the speedo. I rode out quite slowly, about (I guess) 50 km/h and arrived with 6 out of 11 bars remaining on the voltage gauge.

I plugged in there and had some lunch and caught up with events. I'd missed some excitement as one of his girlfriend's friends had borrowed his chinese trailbike and stacked it in the bush. She'd been shuttled off to hospital with a headwound (yes, she had a helmet on) and suspected broken ribs. I'd seen them on the dirt road, flying low in the other direction. We had some lunch and then chuffed off to recover the bike that had been left still lying in a creek. Two 4WDs filled with lunch guests headed out and I followed on the DS.

I thought the road was a bit slippery as I was riding but when I got off the bike at the crash site I nearly fell over just walking around. The wet clay was like oiled glass. I was quite pleased at how the DS had gone on it. The road was quite tough and we ended up getting one of the 4WDs bogged and the suzuki Sierra had to snatch it out. I hadn't gone fast, only car speed (glacially slow). After about 8 km there and back it was still on the same 10 out of 11 that it had been when I took it off charge after lunch.

I plugged it back in and had a look at Tom's new CRF450. John and Dave took off for a trail ride and I headed home, setting out fully recharged again.

I rode home a bit faster. I still don't know how fast but I'd estimate 60-70 km/h. I arrived home with it flashing low battery on the hills but it was solid 3 bars on the flats.

Overall I'm quite pleased. Just under 100km of gentle riding and a fine day out with friends. It handled graded dirt roads very nicely even with road pressures in the tyres. I would have liked to go a bit faster on the dirt as the bike felt very stable.

18 November, 2011

One Year - Day 365

Odo about 2354

Well it's a year and I should say “what an eventful year it's been” except it hasn't really. The “revolution” of riding electric hasn't been all that revolutionary really. It's been more like owning a really cool appliance than a motorcycle. Little has gone wrong, (more on that in a second) and it's caused me no angst to speak of.

There has been one “failure”. There's a loose connection between the wheel speed sensor and the speedo. Since last Friday I have to jiggle the cable a bit to get a speed reading (that's why it's “about” 2354 km). You can't really blame that on being an “electric” bike. It's got nothing to do with the fact it's electric powered. The speedo on my KTM failed at 8315.5 km and hasn't moved since... So it's not a failure that's unique to electrics by any stretch of the imagination. I might see if Zero can come up with a replacement cable or I might not. I don't really care if it works.

So that's it. A full year of living with an electric bike. Bit dull really. It's just nice to ride, makes me happy and gives me more spare time to do the things I like doing rather than doing motorcycle maintenance (which I hate, I'd rather mow lawns or go to work or clean the bathroom.)

07 November, 2011

Ciao Marco

I've discovered another thing the electric is no good for that the haters can add to their list.  It makes no noise so it was useless for the Ciao Marco.   At 10:30 everywhere in the world, bike riders reved their bikes for 58 seconds to honour Marco Simoncelli.  Glad I still have the KTM, I'm sure they heard it in Valencia.

27 October, 2011

Am I saving the planet? - Day 344

Odo 2230

Ok, so I enjoy the Zero DS. There's no doubt about that and I'd ride it even if it was powered by ground up baby seals it's so much fun. But. Am I “saving the planet”? I don't know, even as I begin this post where that question will lead me, so follow me down the rabbit hole and we'll find out together.

So, I only live a short distance from work. I could walk, but it's a longish walk. I could ride a bicycle and in my younger days that's exactly how I got around, averaging 300 km a week on the bike. I had no thought of saving the world, I just enjoyed it. So I sort of know what's involved.

It's 5 km for me to get to work. If I rode a bicycle I'd shower at work. I know I would because that's what I used to do when I rode all the time. I'm slow in the shower, always have been. 10 minute shower is quick for me. That's 100 litres of water and approximately 2 kWh to heat the water. I'd also have a shower when I got home but I do that anyway regardless, so we can ignore that. A bicycle lasts me about 5 years. The embodied energy in a bike is about 1000 kWh. (more for all alloy bikes, slightly less for steel). I work about 200 days a year. So that's 1 kWh for the bike and 2 kWh for the shower every day. 3 kWh/d.  I'm ignoring the energy to make the food that I eat because I have to get that exercise somewhere and if it's not on the bike then I use the rowing machine or something.

The Zero would have an embodied energy of less than 8000 kWh (that's assuming that it's all made of virgin aluminium which it isn't but I'm ignoring the replacement battery at the 5 year mark). How long it will last is a mystery but say 10 years. That's 2000 trips to work. So that's 4 kWh/d in embodied energy. Plus the 1 kWh that it draws. 5 kWh/d for the Zero.

The car weighs near enough to 1.5 tonnes. Most of it is steel but some is aluminium. Say 1300 kg of steel and 200 kg of aluminium. Steel is about 10 kWh/kg and Aluminium is about 65 kWh/kg, so that's 26000 kWh per car. Now this one is a bit harder. Here in Oz a car is worth nothing when it hits 300 000 km or 20 years. In the UK (according to my Pommie used car dealer mate) a 10 year old car is worth nothing but mileage isn't all that important. So in 20 years I'm never going to make it to 300 000 km at 2000 km a year. So the car will time expire so to speak. That works out here in Oz at 6.5 kWh per trip. (at 4000 trips to work). In the UK it would mean 13 kWh per trip. It will also burn about 1 litre of fuel. Bit hard to say how much energy that represents because the oil companies are rather coy about how much electricity it takes to refine oil. Given the revolting stuff that crude oil is and the lovely clear pure liquid that petrol is, it's got to have a fair bit of processing. Paper which is just wood ground up with water and then rolled flat uses 7 kWh/kg. The lowest plastic is twice that. So conservatively 7 kWh/litre (a bit less than a kg so slightly more than paper and much less than plastic). Of course it has energy itself, 10 kWh/litre. So that's 17 kWh used for every round trip plus around 6.5 kWh embodied energy in the car. 23.5 kWh per trip for the car. Over 4 times more than the Zero!

Car 23
Zero 5
Bicycle 3
Walking <1 (but adds 2 hours to my commute...)

So it looks like I might be doing my bit. Would be better if I rode a bicycle or walked, but not a *lot* better.

Oh, and the next time someone tells you “the grid couldn't handle lots of electric cars” remember the electricity used to refine the oil was probably (the oil companies wont say exactly) 7 kWh/litre and that does 10 km. A leaf has a 35 kWh battery and will go at least 100 km on that. So the leaf uses half the *electricity* that a petrol car uses.

16 October, 2011


You may not remember but I had a bit of an argument with the organisation that builds infrastructure for the railways.  I won't go into it again, but the reason that they gave me for not installing electric vehicle charge points as per their policy was that they didn't know what the standard was going to be at some unspecified point in the future.  I pointed out that every electrical device sold in Australia (including every electric vehicle) uses the same domestic plug standard.  Apparently that's not good enough for them.  Then I saw this on xkcd.com

20 August, 2011

Fuel is Cheap - Day 276

Odo 1969

We keep hearing of the “End of Cheap Oil”, but that's still a long long way away.

Lets look at what energy has cost in the past and compare it to the current cost. Not the very recent past but rather a bit further back. To get some perspective.

Until the very recent past, if you wanted to do something you needed either a horse or a person to do it for you. Say you decided to go for a motor boat ride. You'd need some galley slaves. Now each galley slave, if they're fit, young and strong, could reasonably be expected to put out about 200 watts. So if you work them for 10 hours a day at that level (which is pretty hard work!) you could get 2 kWh of energy out of them. That's about what you'd get from burning 0.6 litres of petrol in a reasonably efficient petrol engine. That means today you can buy the equivalent of a day's labour of a strong slave for less than a dollar. It doesn't just apply to motorboating, but everything, including growing the food that drives those galley slaves.

Come back and tell me oil isn't cheap any more when the cost of 2 kWh roughly equates to a day's labour cost. In the meantime, while oil is absurdly cheap it's going to be hard to convince people to switch away from it.

25 July, 2011

Why won't anyone believe me? - Day 250

Odo 1799

I haven't covered much distance lately, it's been raining almost every day (wettest July in 60 years and we're only 2/3 through it) and call me slack, but I drive the car in the rain.

I've just changed offices at work and I'm in a new building with 500 new people, who all want to know about the electric bike. So I'm answering all the same questions again. What does it cost, what's the range how long does it take to recharge. Again I tell them that it does about 30km riding like your hair is on fire but I've got 72km out of it riding carefully. Again I get the stunned look. What possible use is a bike that can only do 30km. I tell them that I charge the bike whenever I'm not sitting on it, so range is never an issue. No-one ever believes me... “there are petrol stations everywhere, but there's no where to recharge”. I tell them: “mate, there are far more places to recharge than there are petrol stations. Every petrol station has a power point and you've got four places to recharge on your desk right in front of you” More disbelief...

Ok, so here's a typical day.

I ride to work, 5km and plug in.
3 hours later at lunchtime I get on the fully charged bike and ride home for lunch (saving 12 dollars on take away prices) and plug in.
After 45 minutes lunch I get on the fully charged bike and ride back to work.
3 hours later I get on the fully charged bike, ride home and plug in. I have a shower and get dressed in casual clothes then I get on the fully charged bike and ride to the shopping centre 10km away to buy fresh food for dinner. They won't let me recharge, so I shop and ride home. The bike is now about 1/2 discharged. When I get home I plug in and prep for dinner.
Then I get a call from a friend, “do I want to game?” Sure I want to game, so I hop on the nearly charged bike and go 5 km to his place and plug in.
We game for 2 hours then I hop on the fully charged bike and go home to plug in and finish cooking dinner.
I realise that I've forgotten an ingredient. I hop on the fully charged bike and ride back into town for the second time, then home. The bike is now half discharged so I plug in.

Notice I've ridden 70km of errands around town, the bike has never dropped below half charged and I've been able to ride fast the whole time, never sparing the bike to eke out a bit more range. If I did that two days in a row on a petrol bike I'd need to take 1/2 an hour out of my day at some point to ride to the petrol station and fill up. Instead I've plugged in and unplugged the bike about 10 times, and that's taken me less time than warming the petrol bike just once.  I've saved lunch money and I always warm a petrol bike for 3 minutes before I ride it so I've saved plenty of time that way too.

Yet I still explain every day that range simply isn't an issue and every day I get the same disbelieving looks...

04 May, 2011

1000 Miles – Day 168

Odo 1603

Nothing to report at all. Bike continues to run and make my life nicer, I just thought I should mark the first thousand miles. It's taken a long time to get to here, I've passed 1000 miles in the first week of ownership of many of my previous bikes. Still, my life is different now to how it was then and I wouldn't have actually used a petrol bike anywhere near as much as the electric. In fact I've got two petrol bikes and neither has turned a wheel since the electric came on the scene. The KTM is waiting on me to get a bit fitter and the weather to cool down a bit. The honda isn't even registered at the moment. I used to live at the top of a hill and it was ok but since I moved somewhere flat it's a complete pain to use. It has a vacuum operated fuel tap and if you don't ride it for a couple of days it takes about 200 kicks to bring the fuel down and start it. It never bothered me when I could just put it in second and roll down the hill. It would always start before I got to the bottom.

06 April, 2011

I'm really not tyred – Day 140

Odo 1441

Well I rang the dealer as suggested by Phil. I explained that I'd bought a Zero DS from them recently and I'd been told by the distributor that they'd fitted a different front tyre for another customer.

Yeah mate, bring it in and we'll find something”

So, do you know what you'll fit to it?”

Mate, just come in and pick something you like”

“I'm wondering what you've got that will fit, thing is it's 500 km round trip for me to come in”

Mate... I'd have to go upstairs and look..........”

I considered swearing at him but instead I just hung up and wrote a letter of complaint to the distributor.

05 April, 2011

Tyre Anxiety - Day 139

Odo 1411

I've never really trusted the front tyre. I don't like the idea of a front knobbie and a rear dual sport tyre. It hasn't been too bad so far but my lack of trust means I need to slow down more for the corners and correspondingly use more brakes and waste energy.

So I've been on a mission to find a replacement tyre.

Not much seems suitable but the new 2011 DS has just what I've been looking for, a tyre that matches the existing rear. So I emailed Phil (with requests for a bunch of spares) and the tyre I want. First response was “I'll have an answer next week”. Two weeks later I got a price on the spares and the tyre was “Sorry I didn't get the word on the tyre”. Couple of emails later I got the response (just over 2 months down the track) “with regards to the front tire it might be worth giving (a zero dealer about 250 km away) a call and ask him what type of tyre he fitted to the front of a Zero DS that He recently sold.” Which I translate to mean, no I can't supply you with a spare part for the current bike.

So I emailed Duro (who make the oem tyre) and asked them about both the front and rear tyres. They responded.Unfortunately those sizes are not currently imported, at this point there are no plans to bring those sizes in.
So the tyre is completely unavailable in Australia. Great.

However the rear tyre has now appeared on the Zero website as a spare. It's $197.05!!! for goodness sake! 197.05???? It's a 16 inch commuter bike tyre!!! That's at least triple the right price for a tyre like that! Closer to 4 times the correct price really. They're worth about 50 bucks. Bridgestone BT45 (good quality japanese road tyre) is 84 dollars. A similar quality, similar size dual sport tyre (shinko 244 3.0 x 16) is 23 dollars from  BikeBandit.   How a they think a Taiwanese cheapo is worth 200 bucks...

30 March, 2011

Range Anxiety - Day 133

Odo 1390

Well not so much range as falling range. The Molicel lithiums in the pack are rated for 300 full charge/discharge cycles. Zero claims far more cycles from them than that, which seems odd. I wouldn't have expected that they could get more cycles than the manufacturer... Anyway I've put about 250 or so (I haven't counted) part charge cycles on them. I don't know if the range is falling or not as I'm not using anywhere near the maximum range, but the batteries are beginning to behave differently to how they were when new. I know where the first bar disappeared on the way to work, but now it's going one hill earlier. I know that on a round trip to town, even if I rode like my hair was on fire the display never fell below half, but now I'm seeing it go below half even with careful riding. I wouldn't say the pack was stuffed and if there was no voltage display then I'd never be able to tell the difference, but something is changing.

I wrote to the local guy who sells A123 battery packs and he thinks he can build one for the Zero. A123 estimate between 1000 and 6000 full cycles depending on the drain/charge rates and temperature. His first order estimate on cost was lower than a replacement Zero pack so I'm thinking I'll go that way when the time comes. He has a deeply uninspired website but seems like a nice guy. http://www.lightningev.comuf.com/ I actually asked him about building with the 20 Ah pouches but he seems to think the ANR26650 cells would be the ticket.

In unrelated news I just got my car back from the panel beaters who have de-dented, de-rusted and resprayed the whole thing. It looks better than new!

I've also fallen deeply in love

How can a motorcycle be so charming?

20 March, 2011

Blinded by the Light – Day 123

Odo 1364

Today I tried to adjust the headlight. That's one of the things that is supposed to by done by the predelivery that the government mandates. We're not responsible enough to do that so the bike dealer charged me 900 dollars to take the bike out of the crate, charge the battery and adjust the headlight. Well they managed to take it out of the crate but given the fact that they didn't know where or how to plug it in, I strongly doubt they managed to charge the battery. I know for sure they didn't adjust the headlight as it's aimed for koala spotting...

Anyway I don't often ride at night and as I mentioned before I've pulled the fuse so the headlight is off. However I thought I should adjust it anyway. On the rare occasions I had the light on I could see the drivers in front adjusting their mirrors, even in big raised 4wds. Very little light fell on the road on dipped beam and on high beam it just went up into the trees. So today I attempted it. Well I've managed to adjust it from stupidly way too high to just illegal. I have no idea how this thing got through ADR testing. In 7.5 metres the “cutoff” is 25 cm higher than the headlight on “dipped”. It's supposed to be 5 cm lower, so it's 30 cm too high in the test. Of course in actual use I'll be looking about 10 times further down the road than that, so it's actually going to be 3 metres too high at the distance it will be used. To get it down any further will need cutting and bending. Not good enough Zero (I've used that phrase before...). As winter comes on I'm going to be forced to use the bike at night, so I'll have to fix it.

The pattern is completely symmetrical. It's required to be down on the right and should rise slightly on the left. So the reflector is no good either.

Grrrr. I wonder if I should make a warrantee claim.

07 March, 2011

I Drive 600 km and forget to put a title on the post.

Odo 1288

Once a month I have to drive 600 km in a day. There's no public transport option, so it's just the price I have to pay to live where I live.

Last weekend was that day. I needed to fill the dinoburner before we went and I needed to fill it again on the way back. The price of fuel went up by 10c/l on the way back (and has stayed up). I took this photo when I filled on the *cheap* price.

The US dollar and the AU dollar are about the same at the moment, so that's about 78 USD for 14.5 gallons. That lasts me for about 500 km. This is the vehicle I would be using if I didn't have the Zero. I think that the battery pack will last about 30 000 km and cost $5000 to replace. (the factory claims some astonishing number of km, but I don't really agree). So what would it cost me to run the car for that distance? $78.45 x 30000 / 500 for fuel. Equals $4707.00 for fuel alone. There would also be 6 services at about 200 each. The car cost me $30 000 new and I think will last 300 000 km after which it will be worthless. (no-one will buy a car in Australia that has over 300 000 km on it. Just seems to be a mental barrier). So driving it 30 000 km uses about 1/10 of it's useful life. That's $3000. That's a total of 8907 dollars (at last week's fuel price and not counting tyres).

So it appears that every 30 000 km of use the Zero will save me 4-5000 dollars compared to the car. I will need to ride 90 000 km just to *break even*. That's ignoring the interest that I'm not getting on that money which could be earning me 6% in a long term deposit. Electric is still not a money saving thing unless you can make it your only vehicle. I think that's still quite a way off as it will depend on better infrastructure.

Ideally I'd like to see fast electric trains that carry vehicles (like the channel tunnel). Have a stop about every 100 km. Ride/drive aboard, plug in for a recharge while you are whisked at great speed to somewhere close to your destination. Then ride/drive the last 50 km under your own power. Hmmm. I can't see that happening in my lifetime. It would cost less than the roads, reduce import of foreign cars and oil. Take the burden off the hospitals and eliminate the welfare for people injured on the roads. Reduce carbon output from trucks and private cars. 

It's never going to happen.

The NRMA estimates 61 billion dollars in raw accident damage costs during the period between the Pacific Highway upgrade expected completion date (1999) and 2009. That would have easily paid for a high speed car/truck carrying train between Sydney and Brisbane. That's ignoring the billions more of foreign exchange sent overseas for cars, trucks and oil just to drive between two major cities. Also ignoring the 18 billion spent on upgrading the road. For goodness sake, the Channel Tunnel only cost about 22 billion dollars (in today's money). All this would need is a track upgrade and some new rolling stock. I can't imagine it would cost more than 10 billion to link Sydney and Brisbane. 61 billion would link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane. That would link all but 1 of the 10 largest population centres in Australia. 15 million out of the 20 million population would be within 100 km of a station. For three quarters of the population almost all road trips would be under 100 km and long distances would be covered at 300 km/h in almost perfect safety. That's Sydney-Brisbane in 3 hours rather than 12.  Sydney to Thredbo door to door in well under 2 hours.  You couldn't fly that fast.   For less than what one road has cost the community in 10 years.

04 March, 2011

15 minutes – Day 107

Odo 1288

Well I'm getting my fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Something I never expected to see, a double page colour photo of me in a magazine. It feels quite strange. I'm glad I'm not Matt Newton (who has just been driven completely nuts by the media here in Australia).

The write up in Trail Bike Adventure Magazine is quite balanced I think. Interesting that they should do the write up at all as it's not really an Adventure Bike (other than the fact that with the poor state of public charging, it makes any trip beyond 50 km an adventure...)

It is a complete Pun Fest... Almost every line makes a hidden reference to something electrical.

I think anyone who hates the very idea of electric bikes will find things in the article that will speak to their bias. “...doesn't look good in terms of out and out versatility. It would take a lot of 60 minute sessions to cross the Simpson, especially with four-hour recharges factored in.”

The pro-electric brigade will see things in the article that will speak to them too “And there's a huge group of potential buyers who won't be fazed by the battery charge time. For riders living in cities and suburbs, the near silence of the Zero could easily make the difference between riding and not riding.” “On the road the Zero is brilliant...we reckon it rocked”

As I said, it seems well balanced. I'm lucky in that I have a sportbike and an enduro bike as well, so I don't feel the lack of versatility. I don't think the Zero will work as your only vehicle and really neither does TBAM. It's nice to see some coverage from media that is really somewhat outside the electric world. It's *very* nice to see such good honest coverage.

Anyway, it's in newsagent now and it's the Mar/Apr 2011 edition. I'll put in small thumbnails that I think is “fair review” about what you'd glean from flicking through a mag in a shop.   I don't think electristas will learn much from the article, but I think it's worth the cover price, so buy it!

25 February, 2011

I'm spreading misinformation – Day 100

Odo 1236

In a recent post I blasted Zero. I realise that a lot of what I've said has been based on misreading their website.

The price has only gone up 5% not 25%. I got confused as the website seems to now autodetect my country and gave me local price rather than the US price. Strangely it still gave the US phone number. I used to manually select Australia and it would show local price and local phone number. I thought I was manually selecting the US page to get the US price.

Also there is now a chain option listed for the DS. I don't know if it was there before, but that is a good thing if you're going to be using it on gravel or dirt roads.

On a disturbing note, initial reports are that Neal Saiki has left Zero however blogosphere reports are conflicting. It would be sad if he did. I could see Zero seriously losing their way without him.

I know that the chain has been worrying a few people. Well I cleaned mine last week and adjusted it today. I was careful to get the right size tools 5/16”, 7/32” allen keys and 13 mm open end spanner (thanks Harlan on the electricmotorcycleforum). I also discovered that I needed a 6 mm allen to remove the heel plate and back brake master cylinder to access one of the rear bolts.

Cleaning the chain was horrible as it always is. Used a full can of brake cleaner, but I'm going to try a different lube I've been hearing about. Will report on that when I get some. It was quite sandy (probably due to riding through deep sand I suppose). It's not perfectly clean now but it's better.

Contrary to some internet reports the bolts didn't seem over torqued but I used new tbar allen keys with straight (rather than the ball type) ends and was careful to make sure they were completely home before applying any torque to them. Adjustment was about 20 minutes start to finish and was fiddly but probably easier than adjusting a normal bike as I didn't need to remove a large nut with a huge torque. Didn't even need to wash my hands.  I also got a good look at the front sprocket and I can't see how to change it without removing the motor. It also appears to need a special tool of some sort to hold the motor still while you undo a bolt that retains the sprocket. I guess time (or even a workshop manual should that ever appear) will tell.

16 February, 2011

2011, Backwards or Forwards? - Day 91

Update See my comments and the later post, there are errors in this one. 

Odo 1142

No news on the bike. It continues to just run and make my life nicer.

I've had time to have a look at the spec sheet for the 2011 version of my DS. There's some good things listed. New brakes, which would be good. The old ones were dismal, but that was cured with a change of the fluid. These new ones could be overkill for what is really a very mild mannered motorcycle. Belt drive which will be good if you never go off road and a disaster if you do. On balance that seems like the wrong direction to go. But then the MX is now road legal so if your heart is in the bush then you'd have bought that one anyway (I would have if I was buying now).

The thing that disturbed me most though was the weight going from 122 to 132 kg. It could be a typo, but it's a worrying trend... When Neil was hands on with every aspect of the design, the weight control was very impressive. You could see that every gram was budgeted. Now it suddenly gains 10 kg. Where? What amazing improvement has caused a 10 kg increase? Yes it's got ~10% more battery power, but it's ~10% heavier as well, so no real gain there. I feel that Neil needs to keep a tight control over what's going on here. Great motorcycles have gone west with weight gain in the past. It's also ~20% more expensive. 9995 to 11895. Again, I'm not seeing much in the way of improvement for the money. The 2.3 hour charge is good, a socket that fits car chargers is good (except there's not one public plug that fits it in Australia), but it's another 700 dollars again pushing the total to 12500! 25% higher than the 2010 bike. Brammo has dropped their prices rather than increased. I expected to pay a premium as an early adopter. Now it's looking like I got in on the cheap ones. Looking at the amount of money that's gone into the company in investment and the amount that's been returned by selling bikes you'd have to say each bike has cost 40-50 000 dollars to build. So either way we're getting a bargain. Still, I was expecting that as production ramped up from prototypes to production line that costs per unit would come down rather than rise.

So to sum up, the new one is slower (heavier and same power equals slower), slower to charge (unless you pay 700 dollars extra) and much more expensive.

I feel like Zero is losing its way. However it may be that they're keeping touch with reality and building these bikes is costing more than they thought it would. I guess time will tell.

Just as an aside, while the SAE J1772 is an attractive standard in some ways and may suit the USA with their dozens of competing standards it's not right for here. We're lucky that our voltage is higher and there are really only 2 sockets most people will ever encounter. The 10 amp 240 volt domestic and the 15 amp “caravan” socket (10 amp plugs go into both 10 and 15 amp sockets, 15 amp plugs only go into 15 amp sockets). Rather than a J1772, for my money, here in Australia I'd want the option of a 15 amp 240 volt plug. That gives 3.6 kW and that would fully recharge my bike in just over an hour. (I wouldn't want to charge faster than that anyway for the battery's health) They're found in *every* caravan park and caravan parks are found in almost every town and along most highways. The equivalent in the USA would be the TT-30, found in every trailer park. The installed base is several orders of magnitude higher than J1772 is even forecast to be this decade, let alone what's currently installed. (nothing and no firm plans to do so). Even just having a charger that takes full advantage of the standard household outlet here (10 amp 240 volt) would mean my bike would be fully charged in well under 2 hours. Those outlets are *everywhere*. I counted 9 in the local shopping centre carpark that were next to parking spots. There are *no* J1772 outlets available here. I would estimate that there are at least 400 million 10 amp 240 volt outlets (there are 16 in my lounge room). Of course that doesn't tell you much on it's own, if all the power points are in one place, you can only recharge in one spot.

The last data I can find is that there are 1600 caravan parks with more than 40 sites and a total of 144 000 powered sites in Australia. (average of 90 powered sites) That dwarfs the confirmed roll out of public charge points (none). EV's need to *start* by taking advantage of what's there already. Use caravan/trailer plugs and leverage from that. J1772 will be good in due course. By all means, prepare for them, but don't wait for them.

12 February, 2011

Cars to the left of me, cars to the right – Day 87

Odo 1111

Car drivers never cease to amaze and amuse. Sadly it's hard to get pictures of them in action, but you can figure some things out by what they leave behind.

Here's what one car driver left behind. His car, parked across 3 motorcycle only parking bays.