Zero Plus Thirteen… Plus One

More thoughts on the 2013 lineup of Zero Motorcycles:

-I completely forgot to mention the storage space.  2012s don’t have any (not even under the seat), but 2013s will have a cubby in the “tank.”  Not just a nook for your wallet and phone, but a good-sized volume.  Even better, you can pull out the storage container, for security, or just to clean out the bottom.  Moto storage is something you don’t miss until it’s gone… and now it’s back ‘in a big way.’

-The seat height decreased significantly, but other dimensions increased.  The 2013s will simply feel more substantial than the equivalent 2012s.  Whether this is good or bad depends on your dimensions.

-Chain/belt tensioning goes to an explicit tensioner wheel.  For 2012, you literally shifted the motor forward and back.  A separate tensioner is one more component, and probably won’t help belt life.  But not having to unfasten and refasten the big torque producer is probably a net benefit.

-Lots of people were wondering just how the networking (pairing with iPhone/Android over Bluetooth) would be implemented.  Would a liable company really let people mess with a powerful, open-air vehicle on public roads?  More details are now out.  The phone will act as a second dashboard, showing more stats.  You will also be able to tweak regenerative braking, and detune horsepower and torque.  No, Zero won’t let you do anything that might cause damage.

-Speaking of dashboards, the regular one is externally similar to this year’s.  However, internally there are two changes: the analog gauge now shows rpm instead of speed (which for 2012 was redundant with the digital number).  Of course, on a one-speed vehicle, rpm is still redundant with speed.  Also, there’s an additional warning light, for some battery function.  This should save one or more of the existing battery status lights, which today can only be read while stopped, dismounted, and stooped in front of the vehicle.

-The internal charger gains throughput, going from 10 kW to 13-15 kW, depending on which source you believe.  13 kW gives you little leeway on a 15-amp circuit breaker.  15 kW gives you almost none, and would require a 20A breaker.  Don’t know if you can dial it back.

-The big news- CHAdeMo charge capability- is less clear.  It now appears optional, with no word on how much extra.  I’m guessing it won’t be too much more, since CHAdeMo locations use an offboard charger to bypass the internal charger.  Still, the CHAdeMo connector must be mounted securely and reliably, and it’s not a common part.  Note that bike charging with CHAdeMo is slower than car charging, despite bikes having much smaller battery packs.  I’m guessing the Zero packs don’t have cooling loops or even fans, and CHAdeMo is then limited thermally.  Let’s hope Zero doesn’t pull a Nissan here…

-I complained that the ZF6 size was gone, which was appealing to lower market categories.  Instead, the Zero S ZF6 was effectively replaced with the Zero FX.  For the same price, you get more power and torque, even lighter weight, a similar battery capacity and range, and more aggressive tires and styling.  It’s essentially an urban supermoto, and can still go off-road.  Too bad the headlight looks lame- they tried to rough it up with a headlight surround, but it’s clearly just a trim piece.  I see a lot of FX riders buying aftermarket headlights.

-The Zero FX, MX, and XU with pull-out batteries split them into two half-packs, and can run with just one half (though with reduced performance, of course).  This makes carrying, charging, and upgrading a lot handier.  I can see buying, storing, and swapping a third half long before I’d try it with a full 5.7 kWh pack.

-All reports are that the brakes are way better.  Nissin calipers (someone we’ve actually heard of) should- no, must- feel better.  Also, at least some models will link front braking with the level of regenerative braking in the rear.  Not much change in the suspensions as far as I can tell, though.

Overall, some qualifications, but all improvements.  It’s a shame that CHAdeMo costs more money, because that could be a major leap.  But the Zero FX took me by surprise- it’s in this sort of filthy niche that I predict electrics will really match, then beat gassers.  It’s also a (relatively) cheap entry point into electrics- I see tuners and hackers getting into this bad boy.


One thought on “Zero Plus Thirteen… Plus One

  1. Pingback: Receptacle Roundup VIII: CHAdeMO | cableflux

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