Zero XU gets removable battery

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As urban transportation, all current electric motorcycles share the same achilles heel — if you don’t have a garage with a plug, it’s difficult to charge them. No longer. The Zero XU’s 2kWh battery pack slides out of its frame and can be brought inside for easy charging in just two hours. Genius.

Update: cost, weight and other details on the removable battery pack.

The rest of the XU embodies that same spirit of common-sense improvement and adaptation. It’s essentially a Zero X with new body work and road tires. As such, it’s considerably smaller than the Bay Area-based electric motorcycle startup’s first road-legal models, the Zero DS and S. Less battery capacity, top speed and range too. With half the larger model’s 4kWh battery pack, the XU can only travel 25-30 miles on a charge and hit a max speed of 51mph.

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Of course that means it’s cheaper too. The XU matches the X’s $7,995 price, coming in at two grand less than the S.

That price equivalency is a good indication of of the XU’s mechanical spec. It’s essentially a lowered version of the X wearing street tires and road-legal equipment. That both good — at 218lbs the XU is seriously light, just slightly heavier than the X — and bad — the XU is saddled with the same 19-inch front/16-inch rear wheels meaning tire selection will be limited over, say, a nice set of 17s. Like the X, the XU will also be absolutely tiny. The seat height is just 31.8 inches, 1.5 shorter than the X. You sort of get the feeling that even if the battery wasn’t removable, you could just pick up the whole thing and carry it up your stairs.

The removable battery pack brings other advantages than simply enabling you to ditch the chain of extension cords running out your window. Customers will be able to purchase second battery packs enabling them to quickly swap a depleted battery for a full one without waiting for it to charge. That may be financially impractical for the typical consumer, but makes the XU friendlier to fleet operators.

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The XU is going to suffer many of the same criticisms as the X, namely components which  tread the line between mountain bike and motorcycle. Spec-ing such lightweight parts is part of how the X manages to be so light, but also helps play to the strengths of electric power. The wheels, for instance, are lighter than standard items, decreasing the mass the motor has to get rolling every time you twist the throttle. dinky brakes and suspension are all that’s necessary to endow the bike with capable handling and stop it from its relatively limited top speed, so why fit anything heavier when it’d only serve to slow the bike down and decrease its range?

Removable battery or no, the XU is ultimately going to meet its strongest competition when the Brammo Empulse reaches market this summer. The cheapest Empulse, the 6.0, triples the XU’s battery capacity and can reach speeds of over 100mph. At $9,995 it’s considerably more expensive than the XU, but potentially considerably more appealing too. The Brammo Enertia Plus is already on the market with a 6.0kWh battery pack, an 80-mile range and a 65mph+ top speed. It’s priced closer to the XU at just $8,995. The lilliputian market for electric motorcycles is a crowded one. Is an electric dirt bike with street tires, a limited range and a removable battery really enough to stand out?

Here’s details on that battery pack from Zero:

Second Power Pack with Quick Charge (Upgrade/Accessory):  $2,995 MSRP
- Is bundled with second charger for quick charging and to ensure that the packs stay in top condition during storage.

Replacement Power Pack: $2,495 MSRP
- This option is not for customers who simply want a second pack. It is only for “replacing” a power pack that over long term usage or non-factory fault has resulted in the need for a new power pack. All warranties are void on the any Power Packs if the recommended care/charging is not followed.

What is the weight of the battery pack? – 50 lbs

How is the pack secured to the bike in terms of preventing its theft? Tamper-proof fasteners (the owner gets a special security tool that works with these fasteners).

  • aristurtle

    I like the idea, but is there a lock keeping that expensive battery locked to the bike when it’s, for instance, in a Baltimore parking lot rather than in my driveway?

    • Mr.Paynter

      +1

      In South Africa it’d be gone in miuntes and powering someone’s shack, no jokes. Car battery’s are some (impoverished) peoples’ sole power source!

  • Adrian

    Until electric motorcycles can realize 150 miles range at WOT, I’ll keep my internal combustion engine.

    • seanslides

      Most IC bikes wont do that. I’d be lucky as hell to see 120 miles out of my GSXR 600′s tank on the race track, and the throttle’s closed 1/3 of that time.

      • Trev

        True, but another feature of the ic engine is that you can “recharge” in a few minutes. Something that you can’t do with the current set of electric vehicles.

        My thinking of how the electric motorcycle (and vehicle) will survive over time is to change how we ride until the technology can let us ride how we currently ride.

        Now that we got the plug-in part down, how about making more “ingenious” features to push these bikes along, while using a current motorcycle frame to allow them to just worry about the technology and not about frame design (which most kind of get wrong).

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler
  • MotoRandom

    All it needs now is a trendy stressed leather carry bag for the battery to really sell it to the hipsters. I guessing there will be a lot of gripes about the price but when gas hits $7 a gallon in the US and $15 a gallon in Britain it might start looking attractive. I don’t know if I will ever get used to how quiet they are. It’s almost creepy. I like motorcycles that rumble. Why does the paradigm shift have to happen in the midst of my enjoyment of fossil fuels?

    • Myles

      You like things that rumble because things that rumble are fast. We’ve associated the sound of a ripping IC engine with ridiculous speed, because the two have always gone hand in hand. Was the sound of 13k rpm a big reason in me getting an inline-four? Hell yeah. I love F1, I love wankels, I love MotoGP, I love shit that revs to the moon. But when I think about it deeper, what do I really love?

      I love going fucking fast. I love the huge rush of power when an engine really goes on cam. The feeling of controlled acceleration is addicting. If the next generation grows up with electric motors that are fast as hell, I think they’ll associate IC engines with awkward power bands, silly gearing, and a lot of compromises to gain speed. They’ll laugh at turbochargers (lag in throttle response?!?! Blasphemy!), cylinder deactivation for fuel savings (lol wut?), and clutch levers (you needed all that to accurately control power to the wheel dad?).

      At the end of the day, is it a bad thing to lose the sound? If we gain power, efficiency, control, and higher limits? I don’t really care, I’m not a musician – I’m a motorcyclist.

      • Kevin

        Best argument I have heard (or not) for silent power.

      • MotoRandom

        Um, no. I think you may be comparing apples and oranges. Things that go fast are more in the screaming banshee category. An in-line 4 at 13k rpm doesn’t rumble. Yes, I like to go fast but I am not addicted to the quest for ludicrous speed. The nearest track-day option for me is 2 and half hours away. The speed limit is 65mph for half of the way, 55 for the rest. Aerodynamics don’t come into serious play until you get over 70mph. I don’t know how it is where you live but in my state if they clock you at over 120mph on public roads, you will be arrested and your bike impounded. So, what? I’ve got to buy a trailer and drag a bike around for 5 hours just to enjoy it for what it was made for? A motorcycle that is capable of 180mph plus is useless to me. I’ve got better things to do with my license than lose it. Like say, riding on public streets. In this environment, a twin with gob loads of torque works pretty well. And at idle and at reasonable, somewhat legal speeds, they rumble. I find the low frequency vibes to be more enjoyable. It’s part the experience for me. There is an excellent book on this phenomenon titled “Bodies in Motion: Evolution and Experience in Motorcycling” by Steven L. Thompson. I highly recommend it to anyone interested understanding more about why we ride. (Guess what? Some of us do it for totally different reasons!)

        Electric motorcycles are clearly the wave of the future. But something that has been a huge part of the motorcycling experience for the last 100 years will fade away. Some of us still like the rattling mechanical adventure of reciprocating pistons and clattering valve train. You probably don’t notice this as you push closer and closer to the 200mph barrier. The difference between the whine of an electric motor and tiny cylinders whizzing at 13k at these speeds doesn’t likely matter much. If that’s what your in to, then fuckin’ A, go for it. Speed is a huge part of the motorcycle community but it does not define everyone. Some us like riding on public roads, but amazingly enough, a lot of professional racers refuse to do just that. Something about it being too dangerous. In that environment, a nice thumpy twin suits me fine and I don’t think I’m alone on this view.

        • noone1569

          I think you both have some seriously good logical points in your arguements.

          I do associate that sound of the ICE buzzing, rumbling, whirling, whatever it does, with speeds. Whether that is on my thumpy twin with gobs or torque or my flat four turbo boxer revving up and turbo whirring. The sound is part of what makes it so intoxicating, but the feeling. . . the G-forces being pulled, are what really makes it exciting. Not necessarily extra-legal speeds, but just the speed in general. Not being surround by body panels and a metal cage exacerbate that feeling so much so that even a 250R seems break-neck fast as you dive into that decreasing-radius turn. This is why I ride.

          I would love to check out that book though, sounds extremely interesting.
          HFL book reviews? heh.

        • Myles

          I don’t ride a repliracer – I ride a Honda 599 (Hornet) with lower gearing so I get to bounce of the limiter all the time but not be going 468 mph. I ride on the street too, mostly because it’s a pain to get to a track and I suck at riding.

          Regardless, the sound is something that’s a cool part of motorcycling because it comes from a motorcycle. It’s like a condom rapper, it’s really cool if you wake up and there’s one on the floor – but not because the rapper is cool. It’s great because you got laid.

          • MotoRandom

            Props on the ride. The Hornet is a pretty versitle street bike, way more that a 170+hp repliracer. I guess we’re closer in riding style than I would have suspected. I would again recommend the book I mentioned. It really provides some deep insight into why we got pulled in to what is admitingly a dangerous activity. Sound and vibration are extremely related to the experience.

  • Myles

    Huge news. I live 5 miles from my office but don’t have my own garage. This bike was built for the dc metro area. Low seat height, low weight, no gears? Built for fighting traffic.

    I would like to see this at 6k instead of 8, but its still a hell of a bike. How much for an extra battery?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I’m checking on the weight and price of the pack.

      • Tony

        Weight was my big question. I know that generally, the electric bikes seem heavier than more traditional bikes of similar power. I’m assuming most of that weight is battery with some of it motor. I think it’s a great idea, but if the weight is even close to that of a traditional engine, it’s not going to be a piece of cake popping it in and out and carrying it around.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Yeah, hence checking. They’re in CA and aren’t in the office yet though.

    • Uncle Fluffy

      Same for me… DC metro, 9 mile commute, traffic hell.

      • Surj

        Me too. Live in San Francisco, park in the basement parking garage in our building – no outlets.

        Of course, I’d like more range and speed, but that’s really just whining – this would be awesome for around town.

  • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

    The existing X and MX models have the same swappable battery. And the X has the road-legal option as well. Not that this doesn’t make the XU a worthwhile model, it’s just not anything new.

    Unfortunately, to get the 10% federal tax credit, an electric motorcycle must have a 2.5kWh battery. That means you NEED to buy the second battery pack (at $3K, I believe) to qualify.

    Still, had I the money to burn, I’d buy a road-legal X in a heartbeat.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yep, the X and MX can get plated for the first time in 2011.

    • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

      @Eben said, “That means you NEED to buy the second battery pack (at $3K, I believe) to qualify.” Are you sure about this? Extending this logic would mean that my daughter’s Barbie Ferrari would qualify, if I just bought 118 battery packs for it. I’d bet that the statute provides that the vehicle must have 2.5 kWh on board and usable.

      • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

        I got that from the HFL announcement about the 2011 models, which presumably was pulled from a press release:

        The Zero X starts at $7,995. A Federal tax credit can be applied to the street-legal versions of the off-road models if they are purchased with a second power pack.

        From Zero’s website, the clarification of the 2.5kWh requirement:

        This is a tax credit in Section 1142 (H.R.1, pp. 214-217) which changes IRS Code Section 30 to allow for 2 wheeled electric vehicles to be included as a “qualified plug-in electric vehicle” in the overall plug-in vehicle tax credit. These vehicles which need to be able to drive on public roads, streets, and highways and have a minimum of 2.5 kWh of batteries, are eligible for a 10% Federal Tax Credit up to a maximum of $2,500.

        • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

          I see that. The X and the XS … and any other of their streetbikes with the standard pack are eligible for the tax credit. The XU isn’t. The language of the statute (I just checked) is that the motor must be powered by a “battery which has a capacity of not less than 4 kilowatt hours (2.5 kilowatt hours in the case of a vehicle with 2 or 3 wheels)” I don’t think it’s eligible.

          • http://vtbmwmov.org Eben

            The X has the same 2kWh battery as the XU, so if it does indeed qualify with a second pack, the XU should too. Zero specifically mentions the credit in their XU press release:

            http://zeromotorcycles.com/press-releases/mar-01-2011-zero-xu.html

            Maybe they don’t know what they’re talking about, but I’m inclined to believe them.

            • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

              Ah, I am wrong. The X (don’t know where I came up with “XS”) and the MX are not eligible for the federal tax credit. Only the S and the DS are, with their larger packs. I see that Zero said it in their XU press release. Too bad they didn’t include the disclaimer that appears on their website, e.g. “this is not tax advice, etc.” Now, basically anyone who buys an XU with two battery packs and who applies for the federal tax credit and is denied, might have a decent case against Zero for misrepresentation. But, IANYL, so if you want a XU – go for it.

  • Glenngineer

    That guy has some serious elbows.

    • robotribe

      Truly. What’s up with the Popeye handlebar hold? Is it the rider or the bad ergos?

      • Barry

        I think somebody told him to “look racy”, and that’s all he had for them. Either that, or he’s got weasels lodged in his armpits.

      • Justin

        i was wondering the same thing.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    Ha, picture #3 is perfect!

    • Devin

      Great catch. I was too distracted by the blonde to notice him parked on the wrong side of the sign.

      Also, what is with the triple paniers on a bike with 30 mile range?

    • Scott-jay

      #3 makes it plain that Zero is about the same size as a Honda 750 and a scooter.

      New ‘look’ of motorcycle and its tote-bag battery are improvements.

  • Liquidogged

    This is nitpicking on a cool bike, but those mirrors are slightly horrible. Nice round bar ends, wouldn’t that be better? To go with that nice round headlight.