glperham's blog

Scooter sold!

Done deal. Hope it ends up being more useful and fun to the new owner.

Selling XM-3500li

I never did try to find a buyer for my scooter, but I just got a nibble from a neighbor. We're going to take it to a shop on Friday to see if the charging problem can be resolved. I'm actually ready to sell as-is for a couple hundred bucks. We'll see how I feel after getting it fixed up. I really haven't wanted to use it more than a half dozen times in the past year or so. Western Mass (Northampton area)

Ready to sell XM-3500li

Well, it's been too much heartache and headache without enough gain for me. Can't get the thing to charge up any more. Charger turns off after 5 minutes. I never got enough use out of it to begin with, so I can't say the batteries have reached the end of their lifespan. Even if I paid to figure things out, I'd probably always be worried it was going to run low again quickly. Plus, I have had little use for it for some time now, so I haven't missed it. I just don't think it's worth the insurance, reg and taxes. I can buy a monthly bus pass and get further for less money. A number of hobbyists on this forum have seemed quite happy with their XMs. Maybe I'll be able to find a hobbyist in Western Mass who would like my bike as a new toy. :)

Researching X-treme Scooters Before You Buy | XM-3500li, 4000, etc

When I researched the XM-3500li from X-treme Scooters, I didn't find this forum or any number of other sites that might have warned me what I was getting into. I hope that someone doing their research will find this post and explore the resources I mention, in addition to other sources they find on their own.

Most of the discussion I have seen online is among hobbyists who, while annoyed by a low quality of manufacturing, have the resources and know-how to fix them up, many of them owning multiple electric motorcycles or other scooters from X-treme. I'm just an average consumer. I just wanted a non-petroleum vehicle as an alternative to my bicycle for getting me to work, the grocery store and home.

Do check out the threads on electric motorcycles in this forum (currently http://visforvoltage.org/forums/electric-rides/motorcycles-and-large-scooters). Look for mentions of X-treme, the 3000, 3500li, 4000li, etc. These are not all angry and bashing, like my blog. That's because most of these people understood what they were buying into and enjoy tinkering...or revamping, even machining their own parts in cases. That's not me.

Even my computer has a better warranty and track record than these motorcycles, and they cost about the same. That should be your first clue as to the quality of the product. I figured there would be some chincy pieces involved, but I didn't quite expect the host of problems I got.

Some of the batteries burned out, and I'm having trouble getting Alpha Products to replace (http://visforvoltage.org/blog/glperham/8051), but when I finally do, I assume I'll have the same problem again in a few months if I don't replace whatever caused the burnout. I see talk of a "controller" in the forums, so I am currently investigating that a solution.

The brakes are the other really big problem on my mind. They just sound awful. *squeeeaaaak* *squeeeek* every revolution of the tires. I really don't know how to fix it. Already had a shop put a new rotor on, but I think the whole wheel assembly is out of alignment. The back tire is wearing unevenly on one side.

Other problems with my XM-3500li are that the brake light pops on randomly while I'm driving along, causing the motor to cut out, or stays stuck when I release the brake at a stop light; the turn signal switch doesn't always work; the seat compartment lock...just sucks...and is difficult to open; the speedometer is inaccurate; the battery meter is way inaccurate--not even worth regarding. I watch the odometer and figure on 70km per charge. That is, I used to, until the battery problems got progressively worse.

In addition to the quality of the product itself, you will want to know about the quality of the customer service and the policies of the company you're buying from. X-treme Scooters is a division of Alpha Products International (API). The V forums are a good place to start, but here's an even better one: http://www.complaints.com/2007/november/11/xtreme_scooters__alpha_products_international__in_154314.htm. This is from 2007, but if my experience is representative, API has not improved since then.

If you do decide to buy from them after all this, I understand. It might be worth the gamble. You could get a good one. You know the potential problems and don't mind. A fully electric motorcycle is such a sexy idea! You so want to support this industry. Fair enough. So if you do, lastly you will want to be concerned with registering the damn thing. As I mentioned before, the manufacturer is Alpha Products International. The model number will be XM-3500li, XM-4000li, or whatever. Check with the RMV/DMV to see if you can register it, or if you'll have to go through hoops to get it registered. Some guys did the legwork already in California. If you live in Massachusetts, you'll be able to get plates. You're welcome. I think I read someone managed to finagle registration in Illinois cause his buddy works at the DMV. Also check with your insurance company to make sure they'll cover it. I called a bunch of places that said they just didn't have it in list of vehicles in the pull down menu on the computer, so they wouldn't write a policy. Again if you're in MA, Arbella will cover you. The agent at Whalen Insurance near me negotiated this for me very helpfully.

For me, all of this has been highly aggravating and ultimately disappointing. I started down the purchase path a year and a half ago, and so far, I've only had a couple months of use out of the bike, and much of that has been with my heart in my throat wondering it was going to die a few miles from home. It has definitely not been worth the time, money, and emotional toll. Stress and aggravation have been the overall tone of my experience, pock-marked by a few blissful rides.

Best of luck!

Battery replacement woes

My post to customer "support" ticket:

I can hardly believe it. I sent you two batteries. You sent me two pieces of a battery. WHERE'S THE REST?!

It's really too bad there aren't laws to protect us eager consumers, who would otherwise be your strongest advocates, from companies like you of such poor quality.

Do you, personally--the individual reading this--understand the mental stress having your primary vehicle held up in the shop for months on end after months of little problems getting worse and making the vehicle unsafe and unreliable? And then to have the manufacturer/dealer hide behind a laughable "warranty" is absolutely insulting.

GIVE ME MY BATTERIES _NOW_

More of the same from X-Treme

More of the same "it's out of warranty" line in boilerplate text response about the mechanical/electrical problems. The batteries have a separate, 1-year warranty, which they seem more willing to address...sort of.

This is from "John," who has been replying to me in X-Treme's support ticket tool, on Sep 14:

[F]irst check the condition of your batteries. Charge the unit normally, then let it set for 8 hrs while you are removing the seat, seat barrel and side fairings to expose the batteries. By using a digital voltmeter set to DC, measure each battery. Each battery will have a red post and a blue post, place your red probe on red post and black probe on blue post. You do not need to disconnect any wiring. Record each battery measurement and mark each battery like B1 = 2.30v, B2 = 2.50v etc. Post each battery measurement so I can diagnose.

My reply, posted the same day:

THIS IS RIDICULOUS! I buy a brand new vehicle from you, and in the first 5 months of operation it has all these problems--some present at shipping, and you expect me to pay for them with my own money and time?! Tell me: how are you going to provide me a functioning vehicle with minimum inconvenience. If this were a new car, I would drop it off at the dealer and pick it up when ready. That is minimum inconvenience. Obviously, I can't bring it into your shop, but I don't have the equipment, space, or time to figure out how to do these repairs myself. And to start dismantling the vehicle? The "manual" says nothing of this as part of owner maintenance.

Appeal to X-Treme support, part 2

After a terse, unhelpful and very unsatisfactory reply from X-Treme, I followed-up today (Sept. 9, 2009) with another appeal:

These problems began well within the warranty period. For example, the blinker was always a problem, but I didn't realize that was leading to failure! All the problems should be covered by your warranty. As far as that goes, I do not think it is just to lay on the customer the cost of labor for fixing, or attempting to fix, problems caused by poor manufacturing.

You need to reach out and be helpful to me here. These are safety concerns I'm talking about. Notice I'm not asking for new side mirrors. The ones that some with the bike suck, but can be replaced easily enough. It's an annoying extra expense, but I'm willing to shoulder that. The problems here are fundamental to the operation of the vehicle, being electrical and mechanical.

A safety review by the MHD would easily lead to a ban on your vehicles in Ma., as my 3500li is the first to be registered in the state, and I'm sure your scorned customers in Ca. would pursue a similar course if told how to go about it. I want a safe vehicle. That is what is expected at purchase, and that is what you must deliver.

The legal arguments necessary just to get the bike registered and titled are enough to demonstrate my willing level of perseverance. I will apply this same effort in addressing the safety concerns. If your company continues to neglect me, I will pursue the matter with state agencies.

As for the batteries, they are charged once a week or more. It is only in the last month that the cycle has lost its top speed, while the charge meter on the control panel has not properly tracked the voltage from the outset.

Any one of these problems would be excusable and maybe not more than the average level of difficulty and aggravation of vehicle ownership and maintenance. In aggregate, and in the short period of operation--especially those problem present at shipping--they are horrendous. I hope/expect that X-Treme will work with me to make things right and not leave me with a "lemon."

I will appreciate a fuller, non-terse response to this communication. If that means referring the complaint to a manger or to another department, so much the better.

Very truly yours,

Greg Perham

Many problems, but I want to love it

Submitted to X-Treme Scooters' support ticket platform Sept. 4, 2009

Hi,
I hope you can help me. I have a short list of problems with the scooter, all of which are getting progressively worse. While I purchased the scooter last December, I just put it on the road in April, and it only has 1688km on it.

I will start with the serious safety issues.

1. Since the very beginning, the turn signal has been difficult to operate. Sliding it either direction does not reliably effect a signal, which distracts me from driving while I check multiple times to see if it is on. Pushing in to turn it off is equally unreliable. Lately, I have thought several times that it was completely broken when I could not get the signal to come on at all. I would describe it as functioning intermittently (and I am riding very little because of it).

2. The charge meter is highly inaccurate. Several times, I have been driving along with the gauge registering half full and had the motor die on me. Lately, the gauge falls to half way after the first mile or two of a trip, leading me to believe it could give out at any time.

3. The scooter no longer achieves a top speed above 40mpg. If it can't go 45, it can't be registered as a motorcycle. In many states, including MA, this means it can't be registered at all, as mopeds must be mechanically limited to 25mph.

4. The brakes. Ugh. These have made a horrendous noise since the very beginning. During inspection, I was informed the rear disc was bent and needed to be replaced. I had this done at considerable expense, made worse by the fact a bolt that needed to be removed was frozen, broke in place, and needed to be re-drilled. I am always thinking, "What if one of these low-quality parts breaks while I'm in traffic?" The squeal or chirp both brakes make once every rotation has gotten louder over time, even after having the pads adjusted. It appears to me that the frame holds the wheels at a slight angle, which I cannot imagine is fixable by adjusting the brakes. Lately, a grinding sound has started to accompany the squeak. And, several times after releasing the brakes at a stop light AND EVEN WHILE I'M DRIVING ALONG without my hands on the brakes, the brake light comes on and cuts out the motor.

These may need to be reported to the NHTSA. If enough people are having these problems, I would expect a recall. These scooters are not toys or hobby crafts. They are registered, insured vehicles, and as such, I expect them to be as safe as any other motorcycle on the market.

The other problems are similar in that if this were a new car, would be completely unacceptable. They have also been present from day one.

5. The seat is difficult to open. I must jiggle the key in the lock, and push and pull on the seat to get it to open. A few times, this took so long to do that I wondered if it were stuck permanently.

6. The slot in the plastic body that the right side turn signal light attaches to is large enough that the signal assembly works through it and falls, leaving the signal dangling and twisting on the side of the bike. With constant checking, repositioning and tightening, I have avoided this happening on the road recently. I should not have to do this for a brand new vehicle, though, obviously.

7. There is no manual. A booklet came with the scooter, but the information in it is for another model. The specs given in the booklet do not match those of the 3500, the diagram of features is not for the 3500, etc., etc. A manual should accurately label the parts and features of a vehicle and provide electric and other specifications for maintenance, such as bulb replacement, care instructions, etc., etc.

It was a hassle getting my order in the first place after multiple delays. Then it was a huge ordeal getting it registered and insured. I was so happy to get it on the road finally that I hoped some of these things would work themselves out or become tolerable. However, they have worsened and made me fearful of using the scooter. The brakes could wear out; the brakes could turn on unexpectedly and cut out the motor; the batteries could die when I'm miles from home while the gauge reads high; the turn signals will not come on...and so on.

Please help me remedy this situation. I love the IDEA of having this electric scooter, but the reality is so far almost entirely disastrous.

I would love to be able to go back to the two bike shops that have worked on my scooter and tell them I'm impressed by your service. One of those shops has told me they're considering carrying an electric bike. The only one they knew of before I came along was the Volta Vectrix, but they would find a much larger market at the price points X-Treme provides for.

Sincerely,

Greg Perham

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