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.


  1. Hi Jason, so you have done some work on the bike in terms of the brakes. How is the chain going after 1000k's ?

  2. agree on your ideas with powersockets and the new bikes. for a roadbike wouldnt mind lower centre of gravity and will try out the lower Corbin seat soon.

  3. Yes, done a bit on the brakes, covered in the posts:

    I'm getting to the point where I'm about to start thinking seriously about adjusting the chain. I should have cleaned it, it's been run through the dirt several times and lubricated once. That's not the right way to care for a non-oring chain. Currently 40 mm of slack in the chain. It's supposed to be 32 mm so it's not far out.

  4. Hey Jason,
    David here - I'm curious about your comment regarding the belt drive vs. the chain. I haven't ridden in the dirt since I was a kid, but it seems like the oil on a chain would be more likely to accumulate dirt than a belt drive. What is the advantage of the chain over the belt?

    As far as the weight - when I looked at the specs on the website it said 135 Kg. This may be heavier than last year's model, but compared to my Vectrix (234 Kg!) the Zero still seems quite light. Do you think the extra 10 or so Kilos will make that much of a difference?

    I'm more interested in the street 'S' Zero, actually. The extra weight might be an advantage on the freeway, especially on a windy day. Do you ever ride on the freeway?

  5. Yes David, you're right 135 not 132. I don't know if that's changed or I got it wrong first time. I really think that it will make a difference. Certainly in the world of dirt bikes a decision to buy or not will often be made on just a few grams difference. The only way a manufacturer would get away with adding 10 kg is if there is a huge difference either in price or reliablity that buyers could see the difference. I know my KTM is very different with a full or an empty tank and that's less than 13 kg.

    I know it's a lot lighter than the vectrix, but you'll note that I didn't buy a Vectrix! I'd expect a much better bike for that much weight (or a much cheaper one). You can have cheap, light and fast, but never all three. So those are the three measures and one hopes to get at least 2 of them. This year's Zero is down on all three. The Vectrix was of course even further down (at least here in Australia as the Oz dollar was weak when vectrix came in)

  6. Belt drive's not good on dirt bikes because they don't like stones. Compare for instance the BMW F650 and F650CS. The F650 gets a chain for the dirt, the CS gets a belt for the street.

  7. The prices in this post are not right. The Zero website appears to now auto detect my country and gave me local prices. Strangely it used to show an Australian phone number if it was Australian prices (that's how I could tell which was which) but now it gives Australian price and US phone. While they have gone up by 500 dollars, it's not the large increase I thought. As well, there is now an option on the Zero website to have the chain drive on the DS. So I take back a lot of what I've said.