ZEV 7100 Alpine Report
I’ve had my Z Electric Vehicle Corp. 7100 Alpine for a couple of weeks now, so here is my initial report.
It made it through shipping unscathed despite all of the internal spacers being everywhere except there they were intended. Guess I was just lucky.
Mine is a red Alpine version, which is 8500 watts – ZEV’s most powerful production bike I think (for now). It’s supposed to be able to reach 80 mph, and I have not tested that yet. I’ve had it close to that as an indicated speed, but the speedo is optimistic, so I’ll wait for my Cycle Analyst to be installed before I give any top speed information. Range will have to wait for the CA too, since the fuel gauge doesn't inspire confidence.
Overall, the quality of the bike seems pretty good. The handling is great, with all the batteries mounted down low and some decent tires. It has plenty of power to keep up with normal city traffic on the 40 mph speed limit streets I frequent, which is such a relief after struggling to keep up with my EVTA Z-20b.
The ZEV’s have 3 “electronic gears", which are switched with a push button on the right handlebar (where the starter switch is on a gas bike). There’s an Led indicator for which gear you’re in, and that shifts in a 1-2-3-2-1 pattern; it resets to 1 when you roll to a stop. The Led’s get washed out in sunlight, so most of the time I just try to keep track of the gear. You can switch from 1st to 2nd or 3rd while at a standstill, and I often do that because I don’t like first gear.
So what is an electronic gear? I’m not sure and I’ll need to ask ZEV on the specifics. I think it’s just reprogramming the controller with some current limits or something similar. I think it’s supposed to help reduce battery usage. But 1st gear has some strange behavior; it starts out normally and the power peaks mid throttle, but when you increase the throttle from there the power decreases! Crazy and slightly dangerous IMO. So that’s why I usually use second. Third would only be required for highway speeds. I may try to bypass the gears altogether if I can figure out how to do that.
The biggest problem I have with the bike is the throttle control, which is really jumpy. It’s hard to maintain a steady speed, with micro-movements of the throttle feeling like an on/off switch; not very graceful. I solved this problem today though by replacing the stock throttle with a TNC throttle, $15 including shipping. The TNC throttle has an S curve shape to the voltage response, being flatter in the middle for less volts/degree. Throttle control with the TNC is pretty good (Thanks Chasbro).
The 7100 looks good, and there’s a storage bin underneath the seat just big enough for a half helmet. I’m riding it every chance I get and enjoying the hell out of it.
- Controller and motor seem rock solid and have plenty of power.
- Handling is great.
- Really good hill climbing capability
- Overall quality seems high (but then I’m used to a Z-20)
- Storage bin under the seat is nice.
- No trip odometer
- “Fuel” gauge seems questionable.
- Stock throttle response is jumpy.
- Led gear indicator is almost useless in sunlight
- 1st gear has strange behavior.
The pros far outweigh the cons. Getting the right motor/controller and handling is not something I would want to tinker with. Installing a Cycle Analyst and a TNC throttle will eliminate the first 3 cons. I believe range and top speed will probably be added to the pros as soon as I can verity with the CA.
You're very right about the charge level gauge. It's just an un-dampened voltmeter, and not as accurate as the one on my XM-3000. Whatever you do, don't rely on it to tell you how many miles you have left. It's mostly useful in showing you your current draw at any given moment. My 5000 was damaged in shipping, but even though the drivetrain seemed ok, I ran out of juice with little warning - maybe two miles, tops, from a reduction in speed to a dead stop. The gauge hadn't even dipped into the Red.
I should take this opportunity to warn ZEV owners that all of the models above the 4100 require the "high voltage" version of the Cycle Analyst, plus the heavy duty shunt that's sold separately. I learned this the hard way yesterday. It may be possible to modify the wiring of other versions to attach to the high current shunt, but if you want a clean installation you have to get the high voltage version. And if you want your Cycle Analyst to be shipped in a timely fashion, don't trust Green Technologies (I think that's the name the voicemail gave) to do it on their own initiative - they waited four days to ship mine, despite my request for next day express shipping (and a $30 charge for it) because it was out of stock despite the website saying otherwise. I had to call them to find out what had happened, because they sent me no notification of or explanation for the delay.
EDIT: it's "Grin Technologies." As in, "What, me worry about getting your order out quickly?" Although they did send the shunt out quickly, after a little prompting from me.
I did some experimenting today in 1st gear, and I'm now pretty sure what I posted above is wrong. The gears seems to be current limits. When I reach the current limit in first gear, which is at about 35 mph indicated on flat ground, additional throttle is ignored. At this limit in 1st gear, I'm about midpoint on the throttle, so from there to full throttle does nothing. I still don't like it and will most likely shift right away. I still think it's slightly dangerous; when riding a motorcycle your main safety lies in being aware and able to respond quickly to any given traffic situation - taking away additional throttle input runs counter to that. It might be OK for trolling around town with a 25mph speed limit where this is still some reserve. The fact that the limit is reached mid throttle is the problem.
I'm wondering if 2nd gear has the same behavior, but at a much higher speed, and at a larger throttle opening. So far I have not noticed that, but my normal top speed is probably 45 - 50mph, so the limit must be above that.
So I'm feeling much better about the gears. Shifting out of first quickly seems like a good idea unless the speed limit is low. It's value I suppose is as an aid in reducing the drain on the battery, something I'm not that concerned with since most of my rides are short. Maybe in time and with more experience I will learn to like it.
The purpose of the 3 speed controller is to reduce power consumption in the first 2 gears. 1st is for trolling around in traffic at 25-28 mph where it cuts consumption as much as 70%.
There is no difference between driving the 3 speed ZEV versus a standard gas bike transmission. You lose throttle response because you have already overrun the power. If you want more speed, shift gears. On your bike you are not going to see more than high 20s in first. 2nd will take you way past 60 mph - and still reduce power consumption compared to third by 20%. There is no "dangerous" no more than driving around in 1st or 2nd in traffic on a gas bike with clutch transmission, just punch the gear change when you want more power. The 8500 is ready to rip.
The standard throttle is a 1/4 turn throttle. the one you are considering is a 1/2 turn. We cannot use that as a manufacturer as we cannot get the supplier to make one that will pass the known cancer causing agents test required for certification. It has to offered as an "aftermarket" option. Many times manufacturers would like to do something, but cannot as they are limited by the enormous certification burdens, demonstration testing, and the demands for money by the various country certification agencies. Just changing the throttle makes a resubmission of certification in every country we operate in. 2ndly, you ordered the hottest combination we make at the moment in that chassis style. That does increase response. We have samples of 1/2 turn throttles we are sourcing, but until we have the chemical test approval in hand, we are limited to what we have - as installed here at the factory.
We just opened a Repair Shop open to all other brands of bikes given the number of requests by XM and other style owners asking us to get them back on the road. (one just left with a custom swingarm to mount one of our motors, a ZEV controller, and the radically bigger ZEV brakes) Once a bike has been titled, it is officially used, and we are free of the certification issues. So mods are not a problem then. So we are installing a Cycle Analyst for the customer who wrote above.
The "fuel guage" as you called it is not a fuel guage. As the manual states - It is a load tester. You read it by rolling on the throttle and watch where the needle drops to. If you are just setting still or cruising at no or low load, it will read optimistically. Whack the throttle and read it.
You have the most powerful version of the standard "scooter looking" bike now made. The 7100 Trail with its 50% larger battery pack can be had in 9200 watts. While the new 20 Kw is noted on the Events and News page of the website http://zelectricvehicle.com/11.html as having been through the testing, that bike design is still off until we get some more bodywork finished. The intent is for that bike to show up at the 2012 October Koln road race (also shown on that page)
Give me a call about your bike and I can explain in more detail how the controller is intended to operate.
Thanks for reading my review. I think the big difference between driving around at max speed in first gear on a gas bike and on the ZEV is that on the ZEV I’m only at half throttle; years of driving gas bikes makes my gut instinct tell me that more throttle will give me more power to the ground. With the gas bike, I’m probably at a high throttle opening, and then there are the audible queues which are unmistakably telling me I’m maxed out. The main safety “feature” of a motorcycle is that bike and rider “become one”; this allows for almost instantaneous responses to driving situations; situations that may require maneuvering, braking, or in some cases, acceleration. You can say it’s not dangerous, but at the very least, it’s “less safe” to be without the (intuitive) option of more power to the ground; maybe in time it will become intuitive for me to shift the electronic gears too. Of course, it’s only a problem if you are near the maximum speed in first gear; something I don’t plan to do if I can avoid it. Now, understanding how it works, it is a non-issue to me, and as I stated above, I may even come to appreciate the reduced power consumption. I ask you to consider whether the behavior in 1st gear is appropriate for a mass market vehicle.
The TNC throttle is actually about a quarter turn, just like the stock ZEV throttle. The improved throttle response comes from a different response curve: comes on sooner, flatter in the middle, and steeper on the end. It’s that critical middle section that is used for maintaining steady speeds in the 35– 45 mph range, matching common speed limits where I live.
As an early adopter, I expect to see some problems with the electric scooters. That I can address the major problems with simple aftermarket add-on’s means you got the hard part right. The bike is fantastically fun to ride and handles well, a veritable Ferrari in a field of VWs. However in order to Cross the Chasm into the main stream, the list of Cons must be addressed IMO. What will happen if Honda jumps into the fray and produces their own electric scooter? I’m not complaining about the bike, I’m listing perceived shortcomings in the hopes that it will spur better bikes in the future. I wish only the best for ZEV, Current Motors, Brammo, etc. That you’re here listening to feedback is definitely a positive in my book. The bike is not that far from being ready for the main stream buyer: better throttle response and a way to estimate range being the top of the list. Too bad regulations prevent you from installing a Cycle Analyst; range estimation seems like an engineering challenge.
It’s hard for me to imagine what the regulatory and financial burdens must be of developing an electric scooter. I certainly sympathize and wish you the best. I do know that the average consumer won’t care what kind of effort or tradeoffs you have to make. They will only be comparing your product offering to those of other companies. Godspeed.