Zero Plus Thirteen

I was writing up some other posts, but what the hey: big news from Zero Motorcycles.  The 2013 lineup has been revealed.  Highlights:

-POWAAA!  Power rises greatly, from 2012’s measured 17 hp at the rear wheel, to 54 hp (40 kW).  Not 24… fifty-four.  It’s not clear whether that’s motor output, or power at the rear tire.  But with simple drivetrains and few losses, an e-moto has both numbers very close to each other.

-Torque is not so dramatic.  But it still goes from a measured 40+ ft-lbs, to a claimed 68 ft-lb (92 Nm).  Still more of a gain than you’ll see in a piston engine from year to year.  Or even generation to generation.

-All told, top speed goes from 88 to 95 mph.  Not huge, since aerodynamics is still an issue… the issue.  I don’t doubt you’ll get to 95 faster, of course.

-Styling is subjective, obviously.  But the bodywork is cleaner, and looks less tacked on.  Won’t help the drag too much, since the rider causes most of it.  Drag should still decrease somewhat, though.

-The seat is an actual street seat, not a motocross-spec salvage.  Height has eased greatly, from 35+ inches to 31.3″ (794mm).  It looks more comfortable, but of course what isn’t more comfortable than motocross.  A ride will tell.

-Passenger pegs appear standard instead of optional.  Or maybe the publicity deceives me.  At least, they’ve thought of it; this year, the extra pegs weren’t even sold (or pictured) until midway through riding season.

-While we’re on accommodations, the frame spars are smoother.  Should be easier on the knees and thighs.

-Networked connectivity.  Finally.

-Mirrors are more useful than they appeared… but the big news is…

CHAdeMo.  The bike can now quick-charge at public CHAdeMo stations in an hour.  That’s one hour from empty, to 95%.  That last five percent must be slower, to avoid overshooting and possible damage.  Still, that’s a step change from before.

-Meanwhile, the ZF6 battery pack (i.e., 6 kilowatt-hours) has been dropped.  Instead of ZF6 and ZF9, there are ZF8.5 and ZF11.4.  Possibly to avoid apples-to-apples comparisons with the 2012 ZF9.

-Those packs will give you corresponding ranges, compared to each other and to 2012.  The gains seem to have been put into sprinting, not marathonning (yes I know that’s not a word).  ZF8.5 now claims 103 miles city, 70 highway (166/113 km), with a new spec of 53 miles pure highway (85 km).  For 2012, the highway claim was not a steady-state cruising range but included some traffic.  Slower speeds mean lower drag and longer range.  The pure-highway figure now represents, well, a pure highway, and dirtier aerodynamics.  The ZF11.4, then, gives 137 city, 70 pure highway, 93 highway (220/133/150 km).

-Prices, too, correspond.  The ZF8.5 pack runs $14,000, which is even with the 2012 ZF9 when you consider all the revised specs (let alone CHAdeMo- not negligible).  The ZF11.4 is $16,000.

-Weights, too, correspond.  The ZF8.5 is 350 lbs (159 kg), about what the ZF9 weighed.  ZF11.4 = 382 lbs (173 kg).  Any efficiency gains were apparently eaten by the additional features.

All told, a huge improvement if you live in a CHAdeMo region (the entire Pacific coast, Chicagoland, Houston/DFW, the Tennessee Triangle).  If you don’t have a CHAdeMo station in range, well, then you get the best urban-assault motorcycle ever in the ZF8.5. The ZF11.4 is a strange beast without a quick-charge location nearby.  It’s not truly an interstate machine, but it’ll get you well out in the country.

I don’t see Zero’s endorsement settling the charging issue for CHAdeMo, by the way.  The total number of Zero motorcycles sold is around a good month’s worth of Leaf sales for Nissan.  The total mileages racked up are probably a similar story: anyone who can afford a Zero can afford a daily driver, either a cage or a gasser bike.

I do see Zeros swinging people into the electric world.  Between this, available Brammos, and the Lightning option, there is now a motorcycle for most categories of serious riders (not 18-year-olds and dabblers).  I just wish there was still a ZF6 option for locals.  If this leapfrogging keeps up for 2014, the category of electric motorcycles will soon apologize for nothing substantive, and actually demonstrate utility beyond gassers.  So, there will be a better one in 2-3 years


9 thoughts on “Zero Plus Thirteen

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