electric dirtbike question/outlook

I saw another thread on here about the electric dirtbikes, and whether or not theyd be able to compete. Maybe a week ago i saw this episode on speed makers and how this one exotic/sports car company was making 300 hp+ cars. Fully electric, and the motor was maybe the size of civics car tires now remember were talking 300 ponies, factory 450's are pushing alittle over 60? why cant this be made possible?

Weight and cost. Batteries are the limiting factor as usual - they are expensive and heavy. An electric bike would have to compete with already light gas bikes and be able to do a full race on one charge. The technology just isn't there yet.

On Saturday morning I went to a ZERO Motorcycles demo ride. I'll get this out of the way first, as it had nothing to do with the product, but they advertised 2011 models but had a 2010 DS (dual sport) and a 2009 dirt bike model. We met up in a middle school parking lot, and the owner of the "dealership" was dicking around on the dirt bike and almost flung it and himself into my SV. He landed on his hands and had to leave to take care of his wounds shortly after I arrived. However, his partner stuck around and I got to mess with the bike.

I'll also preface this with I'm a 300lbs guy who has only ever ridden a 50cc scooter and an '07 SV650. My experiences are limited to this.

I rode the dual sport model, which was my first experience with a dual sport, too. After mentioning a disturbing number of times that the "2011 models have actual motorcycle components" I took it out for a spin. I can see why he mentioned that...the brakes were soft and a little on the iffy side. I wouldn't want to have tried an emergency stop from the (disappointing) top speed of 67 mph. Despite this, I thought the suspension felt excellent. Handled very well and took some tall speed humps like a champ. It also helps that the bike weighs 250 lbs.

The controls were very familiar. Turn signals, horn, even a kill switch on the bars in the universal spots. Obviously missing the clutch lever. Brakes in the normal places for a motorcycle. Gauges were simple...speedometer (analog and digital), dummy light, and "fuel" (charge) indicator. Aluminum frame that seemed well put together, fairings and a long seat reminiscent of a Suzuki DRZ. I'm not sure if this was me or the bike, but I noticed I was always sliding to the far front of this kind of seat, which made things feel a little odd being right on top of everything. But I don't typically ride a completely upright bike.

Since it is a single speed with a rear sprocket designed to hit the highest speed in their engineers' efficiency spectrum, it was interesting compared to a gasoline bike and even a scooter. A little sluggish off the line to a steady pull, whine of motor and chain pulling you easily up to 40mph. Slower than the SV, but quite faster than a scooter. The torque of the electric motor treated hills as if they were flat land. The dirt bike (which weighed a good hundred pounds less) had no problem lifting the front wheel up on hard acceleration. This is likely due to the much shorter gearing, something they couldn't do on a street-going bike. One slightly disturbing aspect, there was no engine braking, leaving a full neutral coast which caused extra reliance on the sub-par brakes.

It looked like a motorcycle, it felt like a motorcycle, and it acted like some sort of scooter/motorcycle hybrid. It certainly didn't sound like a motorcycle, except for the noise of the chain (which they have eliminated in 2011 by switching to a belt). It all felt very familiar and nothing out of whack besides having an existential dilemma with the clutch and shifter. I suppose that is a good sign...it felt similar enough that I had to keep reminding myself I didn't need to shift or grab the clutch at a stop.

There is no regenerative braking. This is a "work in progress" at ZERO, due to current regenerative brake systems that would easily lock up the brakes on the light motorcycles. He also mentioned something about changing the motors to generate electricity when coasting (which would also restore an "engine braking" feel).

ZERO advertises a 58 mile range, which the guys clarified as "40-60 miles" and "in the 30s" if they were mostly highway miles at or near top speed. I also asked about the 67mph limit, which was determined to be the maximum of efficiency due to wind resistance and capacity of the batteries. Anything faster would plummet the range.

4 hour charge time, cut in half if you use two chargers. Total estimated cost of ownership (electricity and maintenance) is around 1c per mile. Comparatively, I calculated fuel costs in a scooter to be about 3c/mile.

As I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone: electric bikes are not ready. If I had money to burn and a shikataganai () mindset about the world, I'd consider it versus a scooter for a 5-10 mile commute and probably not be disappointed. This is also considering I live in Colorado (about 50% tax credit off the cost of the bike) and already had my M endorsement. Insuring it as a motorcycle instead of a scooter (for some reason Progressive quotes DOUBLE what my SV costs to insure) would also be painful, since the performance is not much different.

In my opinion, I'd need at least 80mph top speed and 60 miles out of it at that speed. Its getting close, but not quite there. Currently a decent scooter alternative. But $5k (after tax credit) is a pretty expensive scooter. However, I think it would be a great (albeit pricey) dirt bike as long as you didn't mind bringing a generator out to the dunes (efficiency equivalent to 197 miles per gallon...yes I realize the irony in using a gas generator to charge your electric bike, but its not a terrible idea).

I went on longer than expected...hope its worth the read. I can try and answer any questions, too.

From another forum but it stands true.

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