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Roberts

Electric Sportbikes

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I have been a little shy about bringing this up, but after careful consideration I opted for the 2020 Zero SR/F over the BMW S1000RR.

It's a little bit of a shocker, I know, and I am worried about being kicked out of the club, but for the area I live and ride in, that's what I chose.  The dollars were nearly identical, so not a consideration.

Ok, that's over.  Now the questions begin.  First off, is anyone else running this bike?  I have not had it to the track yet, but I will in the spring.  In the meantime it's all roads, and let me tell you that there are a few issues.

First issue...no clutch, no gears, no engine sound.  That means no natural indicator of approximate speed, which means you have to guess your speed by the landscape flying by, or sneak a peek at the large digital speedo.  Most every time I look, I am waaay faster than I thought and usually too fast for conditions.  It is VERY easy to get in trouble.

Second issue, strangely enough, is the missing clutch.  You can't just disengage the rear when you get in a tight spot.  I have spun the rear when the tires were not hot enough. losing the rear, only to have the tires heat up and lock up, propelling me in direction and speed that was not in my best interest.  No clutch, and chopping the throttle does you no good in sport mode.  Years of off-road experience helped with that little off-road excursion, and it ended well, but the issue remains.

Third issue:  This machine drives like a Volvo off idle.  Smooth and safe and unassuming, and then it's a hot rod, and then it's a superbike, and then it's a speed management issue, and all with just a twist of the wrist.  That sounds terrific, and it is, but the natural result is that you can poop around town all safe and sound, and then get out on the country roads and get smoothly and quietly too fast for conditions before you realize it.

These are my issues, and I am working them out.  How about you?  Any 'ah-ha' moments to share?  Do you find yourself over-driving your site distance?  Do you switch modes to regulate your performance?  Do tell.

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If you bring this to the school, please come and say hello...need to get more info on this.

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I will be on your bikes again this year, but i will pack the Zero down with me. You need to get a leg over one of these.

they are not coming, they are here, and they will only get better with each advance in the technology.

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Congrats on your new bike!

Can you disengage regen so that the bike is free-rolling when you close the throttle? I know electric cars can be det up for no, some and full regen, and the affect on engine braking is massive. 

Also,, as it is likely RBW, you can probably reprogram the throttle for a more linear operation. 

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You can adjust the regen in a few ways, and the effect can go from nominal to pretty forceful engine braking.  The issue here is that you can't adjust it on the fly, so what you set is what you get.  I have mine set at zero regen when in sport (max everything) mode.  Like any bike, once you work your way up to max horsepower, max torque, max speed, you never really want to dial it back.  I only change it down for rain at this point.  The throttle is very smooth and linear.  If anything, that's the most dangerous attribute.  It's so smooth that you really have to pay attention to your velocity.  There is nothing to shock you back into reality if you let your attention drift.

I sure would like to hear someone else's opinion on this.  CSS needs to commandeer a test bike.  I can't imagine that Zero would pass up the chance to let the CSS team take one for a track day test.

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Having no clutch should not be too much of a problem if the throttle hardware is smooth enough from zero power up, as well as the rider's twisting input.

For a tradicional combustion engine, both the delivered power and the engine braking effect come from pneumatic compression in the cylinders, which works as a shock absorber in certain way: there is a time/magnitude lapse between control input and max power and almost none for max engine-braking (as internal pressure of gases inside the cylinders grows or gets reduced with time after throttle input).

To complicate things more, there is a minimum number of turns (rpm's) that an engine can achieve before stalling and turning-off; hence the need of the mechanical clutch, which also works as a magnifier of the finesse of the throttle application (opening and closing).

An electric motor does not suffer any of those problems, it works based on rotating magnetic fields that are pretty solid (minimum or zero field-rotor slip), eliminating the shock absorber effect between control input and rear wheel reaction.  It can also be slowed down to 1 rpm and still delivers immense amounts of torque.

Not having had your practical experience, I assume that an electric motorcycle could use more finesse on the brakes and the throttle inputs, even a simultaneous combination of both in some slow maneuvers.

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One of the great benefits of the CSS experience is that they have carefully researched and intentional reasons for doing things on a motorcycle. I personally adapt to my machine and riding environment in a thousand unconscious ways, and there is considerable effort required to trade habits and feel for science. My point being that there must be an optimal setup of suspension, power, regen, and technique, especially technique, that capitalizes on the different attributes of these new machines.

i will say that this is the best problem a guy could ever have.

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Agree electric bikes are here and will only get better as technology continues to advance, especially for track riding. Troy Siahaan wrote a couple of excellent articles recently in Motorcycle.com on the Energica Ergo Corsa and Lightfire LFR19. Worth a read.

Roberts, very interested in your thoughts on the Zero SR/F's weight (498 sounds) and center of gravity when you are riding at a quick pace and flicking the bike from side to side. 

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Hi CoffeeFirst.

I have two street bikes.  A 2014 RnineT, and the 2020 SR/F.

The SR/F is the heavier of the two machines, and it feels significantly lighter.  The center of gravity is very low and centered, and first thing to contact the ground on either side would be the rider, so no clearance concerns.  The 'problem' I have been harping about is that Force=Mass X Velocity.  Without the auditory or physical reminders of your speed, and the linear nature of the torque curve it has happened many times that I become aware of the mass of the machine only as I realize I am running out of real estate.  It is extremely easy to over-cook a corner.

The other concern is tire load.  The bike came with Pirelli Rosso IIIs on it, which spec out pretty good, but with under 1,000 miles on them they are melting away pretty fast.  I think this is a 2 sets per season bike if it's just ridden on the street, and I would expect to go through a couple sets a season on the track.  there is a price to pay for all that mass.

So, short answer is that you never notice the weight until you need to slow down, or when you look at your rubber after a hot ride.

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One more thing...

Since there is no clutch and no shifter, your left side has a lot less to do.  I use very little rear brake, so I can literally set my feet and lock my legs in and never need to move anything below  the knees, ever.  That may sound a little strange, but the bike is very slim, and there is zero engine heat, so you can literally mold yourself into the bike with no discomfort.  Add the fact that it is impossible to blow a shift, or be in the wrong gear, and that you always have 100% power on demand....always the 'sweet spot', so you can loft over any rise at a moments notice...well, it's just mesmerizing.

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Hi Roberts,

Thanks for the insights. Very helpful feedback on center of gravity, velocity/comprehension dynamics, tire wear challenges, and the ability to lock in body position and focus with fewer physical action distractions. As CSS has taught us all, the less of our $10 of attention we spend on distractions the more we can focus on what matters (wide vision, throttle control, RPs, POT, hitting the apex, elevating our speed, etc., etc.). And the notion of a "constant sweet spot" is a pretty compelling idea. Thanks again. 

Dave

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Haven't ridden an electric bike yet but just to chime in some thoughts I've had before: There will definitely be some big advantages -- low end torque and no need to handle gearing lets you focus on the other skills more and gets performance wins. Given race scenarios the battery requirements also will lead to some really light track-oriented electrics at some point. But there's something about handling shifts that just feels like such a part of riding; I adore the BMW shifter blip but I still am making the trade off calls on when or if to shift (At CodeRACE last October I placed second by .002 because I shifted to 2nd while 3rd made the call to stay in 1st to avoid the risk of losing speed in the shift).

 

I'm sure I'll eventually get over it as they spread but still :P

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Hi Roberts

I agree the future is here, but it also sounds like the future can kill you easily... and in complete silence!!

I've yet to throw a leg over one, but there is a Zero dealer nearby having a demo day in a few weeks so going to try it out (will heed all your warnings!)

Some interesting points, especially about going off road and not being able to de-clutch.  Obviously, it is still under power, and braking off road is risky - can I ask how you dealt with that one?  

I suppose the issue with slowing down all that mass is using traditional tyres and brakes with new, heavy technology.  It would be interesting to see if any of the tire manufacturers have taken the extra mass/characteristics of these bikes into account.  I guess as new battery technology is refined the weight of these machines will drop dramatically, rather than having the need for lots and lots of Li-Ion batteries.

The other thought I had was with the constant improvements in engine efficiency and the likes of BMW having to conform to Euro 5 emissions regulations by using lower friction pistons, lighter components, etc, do all of these changes cut down on the amount of engine braking available?  Has anyone at the school passed comments on this with the 2020 bikes?  Or are the changes imperceptible?

My only other thought extends to a brake upgrade? Or,  really embrace the future with a heads-up display helmet to aid 'reality reminders'! 

 

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Hey Vic,

So, it is easy to dial up the engine braking to whatever level suits you.  It's 'Regenerative braking, and you can (on this model) adjust to whatever you want prior to moving, but once on the road, you pretty much have to ride whatever settings you selected.

As for my escape from a body cast, I have literally decades of competitive off-road riding experience, so I am accustomed to rapidly choosing the least painful way to crash.  In this case I just barely made a driveway/sidewalk transition, rode between a power pole and it's guy wire, then through the shorter part of a hedge and right back onto an empty roadway, all while up on the pegs like a dirtbiker do.  four serious chances to bite it, four narrowly missed.  I had to pull over and have a serious talk with myself.  Something about being too old to do stuff this freakin' stupid.

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????!!!!!  Sounds like four lives used up too!  There's something about the best lessons always being the hardest ones, still, good you came out the other side ok.  

I'm a bit surprised that the regenerative braking isn't adjustable on the move. Considering on most bikes you can adjust rider modes on the fly, which is somewhat comparable to the regen-braking.   The only EV experience I have is in a Tesla, and I was surprised that you can roll that thing to a stop on a downhill without touching the brake pedal (probably on maximum regenerative braking for test pilots like me!)  Still interested in these and have a demo lined up.  

I see they have now released the SR/S - a faired version to reduce drag, ie,  go even faster😮

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