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!