The future is electric they say.  I agree, sort of.  I am on my second electric pedal assist bicycle and have test ridden a Zero FX.  I was impressed. I would have bought the FX right then and there, but negotiations stalled over the usual dealer charges for their overheads.  Sorry dealers, but I have had enough.  Do not advertise a sale price that won't roll it out the door.  Anyway, it gave me pause to reflect on electric's weakest link, batteries.  

But before I rant on batteries, my experience with electric motorcycle and bicycles have convinced me electric motors are the future of transportation.  Electric motors with electronic control systems are so much better than petrol powered engines.  Electric motors eliminate clutches, transmissions, most required maintenance, smell, vibration, noise, excessive heat  and all the power wasted on noise, heat and vibration control.  On my test ride I did not miss any of them.  The instant torque, and the ability to enjoy the ride without all the manipulation to keep it  happening was surprisingly liberating.   The only thing holding electric power back is batteries. 

I have always had a love hate, make that mostly hate relationship with batteries.  The disposable batteries of my childhood that lasted a few hours and died.  I soon learned that if a toy had batteries I did not want it, our house had no battery fairy.  Rechargeable batteries came along when I was working construction.  The only power tool I needed all the time was a drill, which also needed a hundred feet of extension cord. W hen building buildings the last thing that gets put in are power outlets that have power.  My new Milwaukee cordless drill was up to most of the stuff I needed it for back in 1980, and would usually last most of the day.  The cordless worked great so long as I charged it every night and used it till it was dead  at the end of the day.  

When I stopped using it regularly the NiCad batteries got weaker and weaker until they were useless.  The batteries were built in, so that was the end of that drill.

My current smart phone still has the Lithium Ion battery it came with 5 years ago, and it still has most of its charge left at the end of the day.  So I was confident that the world was ready for battery power.  I bought a pedal assist bicycle.  I treated it like my phone, charged the lithium ion battery fully whenever I used it, but only used the bike occasionally.  Big mistake.  Pretty soon that battery went the way of my old Milwaukee drill.  I bought a new battery for one third of what I had paid for the bike, and read up on the proper way to store lithium ion bicycle batteries. Which is never leave them fully charged for more than overnight.  Charge to about 80% capacity if the battery will not be used daily.  I did not get a chance to find out how well that worked as the bike was stolen. Bicycles and cars left running are about the only things that gets stolen around here.

Every discussion about electric motorcycles always ends with range, and the time it takes to recharge.  For me that is not a big deal, especially during the last two years, with Covid restrictions, the open road has lost its allure and I have already have a motorcycle that will take me anywhere I plan to keep for a long time. The Zero FX would be an entertaining city bike, especially in cities with broken roads like mine.   Hoon around for a couple of hours, stick the bike on the charger and it is ready to go again in a few hours, no biggy.  

While waiting for the Zero dealer to reconsider their wicked ways I did more research on Zero battery maintenance.  I then discovered that the batteries could be damaged by temperatures below -20 C, which could void the five year battery warranty.  Big red flag.  Where I live -20 C and below is the normal winter temperature.  Replacing the Zero battery would probably be about 6K, and like my old Milwaukee drill the battery is built in, not removable (There is an FX version with removeable batteries, but it was out of stock and unavailable for the forseeable future).  The dealer did get back to me with an improved offer, but by then I had come to the conclusion that Zero batteries  may not quite be ready for prime time.   

I definitely will get an electric motorcycle someday. Frozen battery prevention is doable.  But battery preservation does raise an important issue.  Right now all batteries have a finite lifespan, and it does not seem to matter how much they are used, in fact the opposite appears to be true, a rechargeable battery seems to last  longer the more it is used and recharged.  It is a fact that if you store a gasoline powered car or motorcycle in a shelter for say, five six or even ten years, it will generally fire right up when you want to use it again; provided you replace the battery, which will almost certainly be beyond recovery after long storage.  Right now batteries are the most expensive component of electric vehicles.   When used daily, replacing battery packs after a few years is probably acceptable, but finding that your battery operated whatever that has been sitting for months and finding out it will not charge any more is not.

Electric cars will probably be used daily, and their owners will be happy.  Motorcyclists who live in climates that prevent year round use, and ride more for fun than transportation will not be happy until battery technology, or some other method of storing electricity is improved.



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