30 November, 2010

Braking News – Day 13

Odo 412

The brake fluid arrived today, 3 days ahead of the promised time. I also popped out and picked up some fishtank airline and fittings from the pet shop and a couple of big syringes from the vet. I think I've got enough stuff to build a good vacuum brake bleeder. So that's a task for tomorrow.

I also got an LED tail and parking light bulb. www.ledshoponline.com part number 0077 and 2260 Tomorrow I'll fit them and see how they go. Of course I'll let both my readers know tomorrow evening. 40.50 dollars with postage.

Didn't ride to work today as the heavens opened just as I was wheeling the bike out. I could have dragged on wet weather gear, but instead I drove. Still did a lot of tootling around in the morning though.

29 November, 2010

A victory for common sense – Day 12

Odo 385

Well today I got a response from the company representative on the Electric Vehicle Taskforce. He's spoken to Property and they're firm. I'm not going to plug in. They gave the fourth new reason. There's no Policy. Can't do anything unless there's a Policy to cover it.

So I wrote to the CEO and filled her in on what's happening.

An hour later a Range Rover pulls up in the parking lot and my Boss's Boss's Boss's Boss comes into the call centre, he's coming straight for me. This either means I'm sacked or I've won.

I've won.

Just plug it in for god sake. He's been speaking to the CEO and she's given her go ahead. He wants to know what the barriers I've encountered are so that they can be smoothed over for the next person. He's such a cool guy. I offer him a ride but he doesn't have a licence.

I can barely believe that this could happen in Dilbert world.

Anyway, I worked out the reason for the poor range yesterday. I mentioned the strong head wind. Well I was riding at bicycle speeds, around 35 km/h. The headwind was at or more than 35 km/h. So I was seeing 70 km/h. Double the speed through the air, four times the drag force. The distance I rode was the same, but the force was four times higher. Energy is force times distance. So the energy drawn from the pack was four times higher. I did about 30 km into that headwind. It would have been the same as doing 120 km in still air.

28 November, 2010

It's a long road – Day 11

Odo 364

Well I took it for a long ride today. Long for an electric bike anyway. I thought I'd see just how far I could get. Hypermiling. I think that's what it's called. I rode at about the same rate I did on a bicycle back when I was 20 years old and shaved my legs... I managed 72 km (45 miles). I may have been able to go further but the low battery warning was trilling away and the display only showed two flashing bars out of 11. I'm sure it would have gone further to dead flat, but I wasn't going to flatten my pack trying. I think really 72 km is the absolute limit that I would attempt on one charge.

I was really hoping for better than that. Riding at a third of the maximum speed I should have got 9 times further. I've already done 10 km flat out on a half full pack, so I really did expect to easily go over 100 km at that sort of speed on a full pack. The return journey was into a very stiff headwind. 40 km/h headwind, but still. I don't know what drained the pack that quickly. The fan may have been running, but it was impossible to tell. The noise from the cars was deafening.

I will do the same trip again, there were half a dozen opportunities to recharge but I didn't bother because I was testing range. Next time I'll be topping up as I go.

I've also bought a power meter so I can see what it draws when recharging. Seems to pull between 1000 and 1100 watts. The power factor seems close to 100% so the mains are seeing a purely resistive load.  The photo below shows 1020 watts, power factor of 98% and it's been charging for 1 hour and 55 minutes.

It's been charging for 3 hours now, the charger is warm but not hot and the pack is completely cool. I'm sure the 15 dollar desk fan is a winner.

Update, it's now 3 hours and 20 minutes and the consumption has dropped to 350 watts.  I assume it's now in a constant voltage phase of the charge. It looks like if you were on a trip you'd only let it charge to this point before heading off on the next leg.

Update of update, there's actually a light on the bike that indicates the bulk phase is finished and the absorbtion phase is running.  Its symbol is a battery that's nearly full (makes sense I suppose).  When the amber light by that symbol is lit it's in absorbtion.  So if you can see 3 amber lights it's time to roll again on the next leg of the journey.  

27 November, 2010

I'm not worried about Global Warming... – Day 10

Odo 292

...but battery pack warming worries me a lot. I didn't make a big fuss about it yesterday but I did the longest one day ride so far. 70 km. I did have a short charge around the 15 km mark, but basically 70 km on a single charge. When I got back from that ride the display would flash if I needed a quick burst of speed but there were still 3 bars left.

So I popped it on charge when I got home, as you do. I checked it after about 3 hours and the charger was surprisingly hot. It's directly under the battery pack and the pack had become quite hot too. Now they say that temperature is one of the main determining factors in pack shelf life. I turned it off straight away and got out a fan to blow on the whole lot. After about 10 minutes everything was cool to the touch again so I turned it back on. Now an hour later it's still cool. I'm sure the temperature wasn't dangerous, but still, I like to keep my cool if I can.

Additionally I've put a mega huge surge protector in line with the garage charger. I don't want spikes blowing up my new motorcycle.

One of the main questions I get asked is “how much does it cost”. I can tell people my out of pocket expenses in a second. It cost me 13900 Australian dollars on road (USD and AUD are almost exactly one for one at the moment). In most countries there are tax incentives that bring down the out of pocket expense sometimes down to 5000. Not so in Australia. Of that 13900 that I paid about 3000 goes in taxes. Customs processing charges, 10% GST (like VAT), road tax, plate fee, compulsory third party personal insurance (that cover's my pillion passenger's medical costs.... no pillion seat, but I still pay), registration fee, processing fee, stamp duty and compulsory pre-delivery. The government requires that a dealer “pre-deliver” the bike to allow registration to occur. They charge for that of course, and usually it covers uncrating, scratching the tank, checking the oil and putting a teacup full of petrol from another customer's bike in it (I've actually watched another dealer do that whole process as described, I couldn't make this stuff up) for about 800 dollars. It's not “tax” but any time the government says I have to pay for something I don't want I call it “tax”. Grahame Boyd were good and didn't charge me that much. Of course had it not been a government regulation I could have had it delivered straight to my door like they do in the USA. Then I wouldn't have had to pay 100 dollars for trailer hire, 100 dollars for fuel and put 600 km of wear and tear (worth about another 100 dollars) on the dinoburner and lost a whole day out of my life spent driving. So the bike cost about 11000. On the other hand you could ask how much did the bike cost to design and build. Well Zero don't break that kind of figure down, but they've received 24 million in venture capital and produced somewhere around 500 bikes that sold for about 10000 each. It's said that they're close to breaking even some time in the next few years. So from that point of view my bike cost around 58000 dollars to make. So I got a bargain then. I don't know. I do know it brings a big smile to my face every time I think about my new bike.

It's the next day. Been out with the boss to buy a pillow. It cost 165 dollars. I also bought a desk fan for the bike. It cost 15 dollars. I no longer understand the value of money. The fan has a cardboard box printed in 3 colours, moving parts, plugs, leads, three switches, a metal safety cage and cost 1/10 of a lump of foam in a plastic bag. No riding today.

26 November, 2010

If you cut me, do I not bleed – Day 9

Odo 292

There's been a lot of talk about poor brakes on the Zero S/DS. I couldn't see it myself, they seemed fine. However a few days ago I did a hard stop and then afterwards the front brake was just as described. Long travel with nothing before it took up. Then it got better... Don't you just love machines that “get better”. I promptly forgot all about it.

Yesterday (I forgot to mention it in yesterday's entry) I tried to get it to do a stoppie for the guys at the bike shop. It failed to come up on one wheel, but afterwards the problem returned. I think it's got something to do with the unusual cable routing. The brake line goes up and over the headlight. I've never seen a brakeline do that before. When you put the bike on the stand with the bars turned all the way to the left it does seem to fix the problem. I'll keep an eye on it and let you know how it goes. Still, even when it's not quite right, it's ok. Yes the travel is too long before it takes up but it still works.

Well I wrote that last night, today I went out again for some more static shots. The front brake is now quite unacceptable.

I just rang Phil and he handed the phone to a guy who's name I sadly missed. (edit: Richard Kenton)  Turned out he's the head of technical training and development or some such impressive title. Anyway he's the guy who knows everything. I described the problem and he knew exactly what it was. They'd outsourced their brakes (as all motorcycle companies do) and the supplier had put in sub standard fluid. I'd boiled the brakes, which is a first for me. Anyway the fix is to replace the fluid with Motul 660. All the new machines are being delivered with that fluid but mine was the last of the poor fluids. So change to that and it should be all good. He wants me to let him know how I get on. They were happy for the dealer to do the change but my dealer is 300 km away, I've changed brake fluid many many times and am completely confident about it. It's far cheaper/easier/quicker for me to mend this minor problem myself than take it down to the dealer.

So how's that! Try having an issue with your honda and see if you can speak to the factory's head of service with just one phone call.

Cut to 4 hours later.

I've been to every bike and car shop in town. There are a lot of them. I found one place that could sell me a vacuum brake bleeding kit, for 129 dollars, plus an air compressor to drive it for just another 200. Hmmm, the Mityvac kits on the internet are about 40 dollars and vastly better. I've found the bike shop will order me in the Motul 660. It's the best brake fluid money can buy (ideal for carbon ceramic brake systems under highly stressed racing conditions according to the blurb). $50.00 Oh well I've ordered some anyway. The bike shop also quoted me $20 to bleed the brakes. With the right tools it's a 5 minute job. I think I'll get the tools and do it myself. That way I can do it again as needed.

Of course the brakes have got better by themselves again.

25 November, 2010

Art for Art's sake - Day 8

Odo  221

The little bike that couldn't. Couldn't go anywhere without drawing a crowd. I went to buy a new helmet today. New bike deserves a new helmet. I looked inside my dirt helmet and it is 10 years old. I'm afraid to look inside my road helmet. They say 5 years is the maximum, so 10 has to be good value. I found one that fits and it's the same colour as the bike. Now I match. It's the first time in 30 years of motorcycling that any of my gear has matched any other part of my gear. Other than when I just wore all black of course, but I didn't wear all black out of any sense of fashion. It just didn't show the oil stains.

So a simple trip to buy a helmet, it's only 15 km return shouldn't take long. I found the helmet I wanted in my size straight away... 2 hours... 2 hours to go 15 km. Everyone in the shop from the owner to the apprentice came out to look, to touch and to ask questions. Even the guy from Snapon downed tools and wanted to know all about it.

I while I was riding I got a call from the magazine guy who wants to do an article on the Zero. (I could hear my mobile ringing while I rode along, how cool is that?)  He's taken ill and can't make it this week. So I thought I'd do some static shots of the bike, just to see what I could get. I nearly rode out and took some shots in front of a substation. You know, electricity, get it... I took a couple in front of a Nature Reserve sign. Making the link between nature and zero emissions. That was just as hokey.

Then I went home and thought about it while the clouds gathered just over my town to make it impossible for me to get any sunny outdoor photos.

So I took it indoors. Put it in the loungeroom. Why not? It doesn't smell, doesn't drip oil or fluids. No worse for the carpet than someone walking over it. I even parked it on the good rug (which matched the red black and white colours).

Suddenly I realised. This is a bike that fits *into* your life rather than you fitting your life around it. You don't need a garage. You don't need a house. It will go up in the lift just like a mountainbike. It even looks good on the polished floor next to the dining table. It's like a mobile phone. Just plug in where ever you happen to be. Take it with you when you go places. Seinfeld had a bicycle on the wall of his apartment for the whole series. He never rode it. He didn't have to, it was something that added to his apartment rather than subtracted from it. The Zero is the same. Even if I never rode it again, just looking at it in the dining room would be a joy. It's art. As art it doesn't have to be useful. The fact that it is amazingly useful is just a bonus.

24 November, 2010

Still not much happening - Day 7

Odo 205

Looks like it might be a dull old blog, the bike just keeps churning away, getting me where I want to go with no issues at all.

I didn't give quite the full story about charging at work. There were a couple of email exchanges, one of which included that there had been a previous similar request that had been refused at a nearby company site. So just on the off chance, I emailed Doug and asked him for the name of the fellow electric motorcyclist. Perhaps we could go for a ride together? No, apparently the other person who's request had been refused, thereby setting a precedent was actually Doug getting “confused”. He said that he'd thought I was at the other site, so he was thinking of me when he was telling me that he'd already refused my earlier request.
No, that doesn't make any sense to me either. Perhaps you, the reader, can figure out what Doug meant by that. Answers on the back of the envelope that you sent to yourself last week.

23 November, 2010

Not much happening today - day 6

Odo 194

Just rode to work. Not much happened. As I noted in my earlier post I'm not longer allowed to charge at work, so this was my first day of no topup charges during the day. It's 10 km round trip. Today I was late for work, so I rode as fast as I thought I could get away with and no gentle starts. Throttle as a switch.

During the day I couldn't get in touch with my partner. She'd been asleep when I left home and I started to worry. So I asked if I could pop home. So flat out ride home, (she was ok) flat out ride back to work. So 15 km ridden like a pizza delivery rider. (which I was in a former life). Then I decided to nip home for lunch. It's a close run thing if I can fit in going home in my half hour break, so flat out home and flat out back again. Now it's 25 km flat out. The battery light was blinking a bit but it recovered ok. Then a gentle ride home (still 60-75 km/h). So 30 km of pretty hard riding. Put it on charge and got changed, but then popped out again to show the bike to a friend. Demonstrated some more fast riding for him. So it's ended up with adding nearly 50 km to the odo on 20 minutes charge and there is still some charge left.

I also got a call from the magazine guy that I mentioned yesterday. We're going to do some photos next week and I'll link to the magazine when I have some more details.

22 November, 2010

Interesting developments at work – Day 5

Odo 145

I don't like to mention work. As they say, don't post anything on the internet that you wouldn't like to see posted on the notice board at work... So I'll stick to the facts and you can guess at my opinions.

Before I considered charging at work I emailed my boss's boss and asked her if it would be ok. She checked it out with Property Services. They responded with an email back from a guy called Doug that said it was ok with them from a safety point of view and so my manager's manager gave her ok to charge at work. That was on the 9th. Since then I've recharged at work twice. Today, the 22nd I get an email from this Doug guy. He says that he's “just noticed” that I have an electric bike plugged into company power and that I need to disconnect it at once. I wrote back saying I was confused. I'd asked for permission to plug in this equipment and he'd given his ok in writing on the 8th of November. How come he's “just noticed” now? Was he overruling the call centre manager? So he wrote back and said that he'd only given permission for it to be used occasionally and that “it appears that you're using it continuously” hence permission was “withdrawn henceforth”. So apparently plugging in twice in 12 days is continuous...

Seems that arguing with him would be pointless. So as it happens, I work for a government owned electricity company and the NSW government has an “Electric Vehicle Taskforce”

“The NSW Government has established an Electric Vehicles Taskforce to explore opportunities and barriers to electric vehicle uptake in NSW. The taskforce is reviewing the technology, infrastructure, policy, and legislation to support the uptake of electric vehicles by NSW motorists.”

Now it turns out that my company has a representative on the EVT. So I rang him. He couldn't spend much time on the call as the company was flying him to Canberra for a meeting on ways to promote EV use. He was *very* interested in the fact that I have an EV and even more interested in the barriers that I'd encountered. He asked and I've sent him a copy of all the emails that have passed between me, my manager and this Doug guy. I'll keep you posted on the outcome.

So on to happier things. I got a call from Phil today. I had emailed him to say that there was no owners manual for the bike. He wanted to let me know that it's going in the post today. He also wondered if I would lend my bike to a magazine for a road test. I think that would be ok, so the guy from the magazine is going to call and tee something up. I really just wanted a quiet low maintenance bike to use around town instead of the car. However like most EVers I've ended up a true believer. I sure wouldn't be lending my bike to a magazine for a test ride if it was a normal petrol bike. These things just convert you from a consumer into an evangelist.

21 November, 2010

I manage to annoy the neighbours - Day 4

Odo 135

I took a ride out today to a mountain bike track. I got waved down by one of the neighbours who informed me it wasn't for motorbikes only for mountain bikes. I was polite but did say “well it's barely a motorbike”. Perhaps the lack of engine noise won her over and by the end she just asked me to ride carefully (which I promised to do).

Oh well, the mountain bike track was too hard anyway! The switchbacks were too tight and needed 3 point turns. Not much fun. Was ok on the single track or slightly more open turns.

So this afternoon I headed out for some nearby firetrail action. It's a trail that I'd never bothered with on the KTM, too easy. Well on the DS it was easy, but so enjoyable! Not far from home and suitable for an after work bumble round. Riding slow seemed to heat up the motor a bit, but 20 km/h seemed ok. After about 20 minutes I saw something that I'd never seen in 20 years of dirtbike riding. A Dingo on the track! I was stunned. I've only ever seen one wild one before when walking.  Normally the noise lets them know you're coming and they're off long before you ever see them.

The track started to go underwater. At about 150 mm deep I started to think perhaps I should turn around. No problems there except I got my feet wet. As this was Claytons trail riding (the trail riding you do when you're not going trail riding) I was wearing running shoes which are not the most waterproof of riding gear.

I had ridden out about 10 km plus about 10 of light trail riding and I still had about 80% charge showing. So it was flat out on the way back, see what she will do. 107 km/h was it, absolutely flat tack. I think it must have been a voltage limited thing as lying flat on the tank made no difference. So after 10 km slow, 10 km sandy trail, 10 km flat out I still had 2/3 of the charge showing! I'm impressed. A very pleasant afternoon out and no servicing to be done on the bike when I got back other than washing it. I did discover that the plug needs some sort of cover. I'll need to figure something out for that before the next ride.

20 November, 2010

Going Nowhere end of day 3

Odo 95

No riding today.  Popped down to Newcastle to see my daughter and take her ice skating.  She's as natural an athlete as I am I'm afraid.  Poor girl.  Fell over backwards twice and then was too sore to continue.  As I went down and back with my partner Lynne and we had to ferry around child while there the bike was out of the question even if it had 600 km range (which of course it doesn't).

Put 95 dollars worth of petrol in the Dinoburner.  At off peak rates that would have bought me 1000 kWh.  Enough for 250 charges or 25 000 km travel on the bike.  Even at peak rate it is still enough for 10 000 km. 

If only it had 5 seats and was rain proof. 

Still when we got back we decided to go out for dinner.  Could have rung to book but I went out on the bike.  10 minutes there and back, cost less than a phone call and a lot more fun.    No time spent warming it up. No petrol smell in the house.  Would have been quicker but I got held up by a car that I couldn't pass due to all the chicanes.  I ride through them at 60 km/h, the cars do 10.

19 November, 2010

Semi Legal - end of day 2

Odo 90

It's pouring with rain, typical.  New bike, desperate to ride it, day off, Blah.  Still there was some progress.  I want to charge at work, I also want to blag charges along the road.  WorkCover in NSW demands that all plug in electrical devices used in workplaces be tested and tagged.  I wasn't super keen on having my new bike plugged into some sort of "machine" that would test it's resistance to earth and breakdown voltages or something.  Anyway yesterday I blagged a new cord (IEC C13 if you're interested) from Harvey Norman for nix.  What cool dudes!  It's only 3 metres long but it doesn't have the AUS to US 3 pin adaptor so it fits in a pocket of my bike jacket.

Today I drove the dinoburner down to the local tool repair shop.  For $4.50 they tested and tagged the new cord.  I asked them about testing the bike and they said that for plug in equipment (as opposed to corded gear) the only requirement is to test the cord.  How cool (and absurd) is that!  I can have the bike glowing in the dark with misdirected electricity but as long as the cord has a tag I'm good to go.  So I'll be charging at work as well from now on.  I've found a place that sells 10 metre ones so I'm going to buy one for on the road charges.  I also need to figure out some sort of megga impressive locking thing.  I park in a garage at home and in secure parking at work, but I'm not sure about parking it anywhere else.  Leaving it for 4 hours to charge up alone makes my hair (or the bits where I used to have hair) stand on end.

The other small win is that the headlight is wired to be on all the time.  Apart from drawing 75 watts all the time (it runs the 55 watt headlight, plus the parking light at the front, plus the tail light) it's dangerous in late afternoon and early morning when the sun is behind you.  Car drivers just can't judge the distance away that you are.  I was having a moan about it to a friend who's also a mechanic and he said, "why don't you just pull the fuse".  So I did.  It's easy to get to without tools while sitting on the bike.  There's a spare fuse holder right next to it, so I just pulled it out and put it in the spare spot.  Job done.  If I want to ride at night it's 10 seconds to put it back.  So I'm safer and I get an extra 2% range.  Sure it's only about one km extra, but that's one km that I won't have to push it when the time comes!

I don't know if there will be an entry tomorrow as it's predicted to pour for 2 days.

18 November, 2010

The slowest bike on earth - end of day 1

Odo 75

Well it's the end of day one, I've now had the bike for 24 hours.  I picked it up with 30 km on the odo and now it's at 75 so I've covered 45 km.  I have no doubt that this is the slowest bike on earth.  In order to cover those 45 km I have spent no less than 3 hours talking to random strangers about the bike, and a few minutes riding.  That means it is averaging less than 15 km/h. 

I just can't believe the level of interest in this bike.  People are stopping me in the street.  Someone emailed me at work to tell me that they'd seen this amazing bike at the lights.  Co-workers are standing around my desk on their breaks.  I got no lunch today. 

I don't know how much longer I can keep this up!  I'll be needing brochures at this rate!

There's a few raised eyebrows when I tell them the price, but when I explain the normal costs associated with motorcycles and the fact that it needs no oil changes, no services, no filters, no air cleaners...  Well everyone gets it completely. 

If you want to meet people, get this bike!

17 November, 2010

I've got it!

I'm so totally stoked!  I've picked up the bike at last.

First impression...  Mixed, it seems fast, but the speedo is telling me that it's struggling to get to 60 km/h before the end of the block.  Then I realise that the speedo is still switched to mph, so it's struggling to get to 100 km/h before the end of the block!  Hmm, nothing like riding at twice the speed limit 100 m after getting on the bike for the first time.

The launch seems very mild but I think that might be something to tame the jerkeyness that the early versions were said to exhibit.   Wheelstands may be difficult/impossible.  Might make it unusable in the bush.  Actually I think it is unusable in the bush.  It seems to be a road bike with off road styling.  Maybe an unsealed road bike.  No bash plate, just plastic.  Suspension is very stiffly sprung.  Might make a supercrosser but it's far too hard for trail riding.  Funny as I usually go for stiffer springs on everything I ride.  The tyres (well the front anyway) look off road but they're not.  The knobs are short and the tyre is very stiff too.  It's really a road tyre feeling thing but with little knobs to give it that dirt vibe. 

The build quality is outstanding.  You could just stare at it for hours.  Photos just don't do it justice.  It's the most lovely bike I've ever seen and abounds with details and careful thought.

12 November, 2010

Less waiting

Got a call from Leo at Grahame Boyd Suzuki.  They've sorted the paperwork, the bike is now ready to pick up.  However I've missed my window of opportunity to go down today and get it.  So it will be Wednesday before I can get down there.  I may actually hold 'till Saturday and pick it up at the same time I go down to visit my Daughter.

Oh well.

More waiting

There's a hold up with the paperwork.  The government authority that deals with these things hasn't processed the new vehicle details notification.  The result is that the VIN for my particular bike won't come up in the RTA database so they won't register it (despite it having the compliance plate).  The legislation is actually that the plate is all it needs, but that doesn't matter to the RTA.  Looks like Wednesday now.

05 November, 2010

Blow by Blow

Got another call from Phil today.  Small hold up on the docks, expect customs clearance on Monday now.  This is still much faster than I expected.  I'm amazed that they're updating me at every stage of the process of getting my bike to me.  I can hardly wait.  Now ETA is next Friday.   What an incredable company to deal with.  I hope this isn't just first date stuff and they really are as great as a long term partner.