SR Are Fast

Multiple units of the Zero SR are on the street, in the hands of customers.  Early reviews: “Wow” and “!!!”

In case you weren’t aware, Zero made big advances for the 2013 model year.  In particular, a new motor caused performance to leap over the 2012s.  Better air cooling let the 2013 “Z-force” motor deliver both higher horsepower and torque, still without liquid cooling loops.  My 2012 was being held back by the computer, cutting the juice when overheating was detected.

Now, for 2014, Zero took the street model (Zero S) and added the SR version.  The SR uses higher-temperature magnets, which can withstand greater power levels without losing their magnetic domains.  0-60 times are now in the sub-4-second zone.

Electrics are just beginning to fight.  2014 is shaping up, and I expect a lot more later.


Electron-Honda Follow-On

Before I do NAIAS… Honda could be called “He-Who-Ruins-Hybrids” from recent history.  Yet they seemingly “nailed the formula” with 2014’s Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid.  This, despite screwing up the ’06 Accord Hybrid; I tried a New Insight too, and was very unimpressed.  The current (heh) Accord Hybrid is being compared to the Ford Fusion, called the smoothest and best-engineered 2013 hybrid (despite being a big sedan, not an econocar).

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it’s the Chevy Volt that should be proud.  BMW poached Chevy’s staff for their plug-in hybrids; the 2014 Accord now takes a page from the Volt too.  While the Volt certainly has its issues, it now seems to me GM got the concept down, but whiffed on some details.  Honda, with the hindsight of a second (or  third or fourth) mover, sounds like it now got the details too.

Like Chevy and Ford, the Accord has a battery pack and 4-cylinder gasser.  Unlike them, the 2014 Accord sounds simple and mostly straightforward: Continue reading

Long-Term Mission?

mmlMission has announced their R and RS warranty:

  • 2 year/unlimited mileage “nose to tail” (can’t really say bumper to bumper, can we?)
  • Plus 6 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty

Let’s read between these lines.  Mission began as EV consultants, never selling to the public.  The (one?) rideable units were rolling ads for their expertise and tech portfolio.  Relatively recently, as highway vehicles go, they took the plunge, developing the R/RS for retail sale.

It now makes sense that they offer an “industry-defining” (their words) powertrain warranty, but modest vehicle coverage.  Mission had years to work on electric drives, and this one in particular, but is starting from scratch on production setups and processes, numerous suppliers, approvals, and… a dealer network.  Yeah, that little thing. Continue reading

Mud on the Leg(work)… ?

It’s Dec. 30.  BRD, an electric-motorcycle manufacturer, once claimed they’d have their RedShift bikes to sell in 2013.  On the way to being an actual electric-motorcycle seller, they’ve been quiet.  But recently they sent an update on their past ten (!!!) months:

By the end of 2012, our development prototypes had journalists saying things like “could be the best Lites-class MX bike on the market”… “a clear superiority” …Not a bad start, but not yet up to our standards.

Let’s see, how do we take this coffee?cat

1) At face value- beating all gasser MXers is hard
2) Not quite face value- the company is biding their time
3) Not at all- there’s an issue we don’t know about
4) Worse than not at all- BRD won’t make their own targets Continue reading

No One (Wheeled) Solution

Someone by me has a unicycle.  Actually saw him go about his day, not just around the block.  He finally got on public transportation.

That got me thinking: the “final mile” problem is real, and really needs multiple solutions.  To planners, “final mile” is getting to mass transit when you’re in a suburb or similar and can’t just walk.  With no final-mile answer, it’s tempting to just drive the whole way, if you had to drive to a train station.  In Japan, Toyota is demoing little NEVs (Neigborhood Electric Vehicles) in railroad suburbs.  These can’t do highways, and seat just one or two, but are perfect for the final mile.  With no highway range or speed, batteries are just fine, and the charge points need only be household outlets at the station and your house.

I walk or ride a bike; this guy took his unicycle.  A Segway has appeal for trips like this, but has the same issue as a bike: you need to lock it up, as it’s hard to take indoors or onto that mass transit.  A unicycle, kick-scooter (“Razor”), or skateboard, though, you just pick up.  I pondered skates for the final mile, and know a guy with an electric skateboard.  Skateboards have marketing issues, though, since not all can balance… and not all are twelve.  Besides e-bikes, electric unicycles and Razors exist, too; who will market the final-mile killer?



Image credit:

And we’ve got it.  Tesla has now completed its own “parallel Green Highway,” from Tijuana to Vancouver.  It is now possible to drive from the Mexican border, and well into Canada, on electrons alone… if you’re in a Tesla Model S, that is.  The new Superchargers in Northern California, and ones Eugene/Springfield and Grants Pass, Oregon, are a bit behind schedule.  But they now allow solid travel along I-5 for the entire West Coast.

Really, what does this mean?  Aside from some lucky people in Northern California and rural Oregon, not that much… but for the EV enthusiast, everything.  Psychologically, a West Coast Model S owner need not yield anything to some snooty gasser nut.  You can now drive from any major West Coast city, to the rest (oh, and Tahoe and Vegas too), plus a fair number of rural destinations and ski resorts, with no gas.  (Whistler and Snoqualmie, among others, have slower Level 2s; Sun Country’s Canadian units are quite fast CS-90s.)  The largest gap is now Centralia-Eugene, but that’s 202 miles… easily within the highway range of an 85 kWh Model S, and still quite doable with the 65 kWh pack if you’re mindful.  There are plenty of Level 2 sites in Portland and along Oregon’s stretch if I-5, if you’re really tight. Continue reading

(BD cont’d) How Hybrid 3a: Consider it Covered?

As much as Elon Musk loves to run his mouth (and boy, does he love to run his mouth), he is still, by his own admission, a few years from producing an affordable pure-battery EV.  And then, the supercharger deployment rate would have to jump by an order of magnitude or so.  Which means, aside from city cars and second cars, us regular folk (e. g., apartment/condo dwellers) are still living in an era of hybrids.

We are not even close to seeing what vehicle hybridization can do.  Except for expander-cycle engines (the Atkinson/Miller operating cycles), today’s hybrids have regular piston engines, just a bit smaller.  In hardware terms, the Atkinson/Miller Cycles only vary the cam profiles- you can barely see it.  Many other means can make electrification interstate-ranged, less charger-reliant, and more flexible.  As a field example, BMW’s 1.5L in their upcoming i8 is, by some metrics, their most advanced engine ever.

Why not jump directly to batteries alone?  Sure, there’s something to be said for simplicity, and for a clean break when the opportunity presents itself.  But there are reasons- some more plausible and pressing- why some form of consumable, “combustible” fluid still appeals, and won’t go away for a while:

-Emergency power and logistical redundancy
-Thermal power and conversion processes (or lack thereof)
-Mechanical transfer versus ‘the cloud’
-Daytime grid demand and infrastructure buildout Continue reading