No-strokes to the fore

No smoke or noise? Elec­tric bikes take the lead

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Two Wheels -

ELEC­TRIC mo­tor­cy­cles are about to be­come zero-emis­sion he­roes with some ma­jor leaps for­ward in tech­nol­ogy.

Cal­i­for­nian com­pany Zero Mo­tor­cy­cles claims its 2012 line-up is ‘‘ game-chang­ing’’.

New fea­tures in­clude a range of more than 180km, a top speed of 114km/h and bat­tery life of al­most 500,000km.

This is a huge leap from the pre­vi­ous mod­els avail­able in Aus­tralia, with range of 80km and a top speed of 110km/h.

Zero Mo­tor­cy­cles Aus­tralia di­rec­tor Phil Wilkin­son says the bikes are sched­uled for de­liv­ery in the United States in Fe­bru­ary.

‘‘ I would ex­pect to see bikes here shortly af­ter,’’ he says.

‘‘ Prices have gone up slightly— how­ever, it is hard to ig­nore the value that the new bikes of­fer in terms of range, per­for­mance and ca­pa­bil­ity.’’

The model line-up com­prises the S street bike and DS dual sport, both at $12,995, and the Mxs­port ($10,000) andmx Ex­treme ($11,000) off-road bikes. Wilkin­son says the S and DS will come as ZF6 (6kwh) and ZF9 (9kwh) vari­ants with up to $1000 premium on the lat­ter. Themx­mod­els re­main about 4kwh but with al­most dou­ble the bat­tery ca­pac­ity.

The ma­jor im­prove­ment in range ca­pa­bil­ity comes from adding re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing, which har­nesses ki­netic en­ergy to recharge the bat­tery.

Zero also claims the pow­er­train does not re­quire any rou­tine main­te­nance, ex­cept for the low-noise, low­main­te­nance belt drive.

Wilkin­son says the big­gest hur­dle has been bat­tery life.

‘‘ About 90 per cent of our cus­tomers ask what the re­place­ment bat­tery costs,’’ he says.

‘‘ With the new model you get 500,000km out of it, so you wouldn’t ever need to change the bat­tery.’’

The bikes can be charged from flat on a stan­dard do­mes­tic 240V/10-amp mains out­put in four hours; a sec­ond charger will halve that time.

They can also be plugged into the new quick-charg­ing sta­tions in some cities.

Zero Mo­tor­cy­cles Aus­tralia be­gan sell­ing non-reg­is­tered off-road bikes in 2009 and added the street-le­gal S and DS last Novem­ber.

Wilkin­son says the 40-bike ship­ment has sold out.

‘‘ They’re not huge numbers at the mo­ment. It’s a very chal­leng­ing mar­ket,’’ he says. ‘‘ I’d think we could dou­ble, even triple, (our) sales.’’

Wilkin­son says the com­pany is ex­pand­ing its dealer net­work.

Deal­ers are Ac­tion Mo­tor­cy­cles in Syd­ney, Graeme Boyd’s Suzuki in New­cas­tle, Jef­fery Mo­tor­cy­cles in Mel­bourne and Bill’s Mo­tor­cy­cles in Ade­laide— with Bris­bane and Perth deal­ers yet to be an­nounced.

The per­ma­nent mag­net brush­less DC elec­tric mo­tor uses one-tenth of the steel and half the cop­per of com­pet­ing DC mo­tors and, cru­cially, re­quires no main­te­nance.

Zero Mo­tor­cy­cles uses sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion lithi­u­mion cells to pre­vent fire. The Z-force power packs fea­ture a cell mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that con­stantly tracks the volt­age and tem­per­a­ture of each cell to pre­vent over­heat­ing.

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