Looking for Vectrix purchase advice...
I have been lurking for a long time, and have finally decided to post in hopes that someone can help me properly weigh my decision on a used Vectrix purchase. I have done all the research I can here and elsewhere, but perhaps a few bona fide experts can tell me what I really need to consider.
I'm wanting an electric motorcycle for use as an urban commuter. I travel 15 +/-2 miles each way to work, in a suburban setting in flat and sometimes hot central florida.
Option 1: A 2007 Vextrix VX-1 NiMH for $2500. Presumably well-kept by a friend of mine's father, but unloved as his commuting range is a it further than mine. I would of course inspect the batteries and systems the best I could, as this bike is 5 years old, and has only been ridden 500 miles. Your opinions and suggestions are welcome on what to look for.
Option 2: A 2012 Zero XU for ~$8000+. Lithium batteries, manufacturer seems more stable and supportive. I'd have to finance this, while the cash is available for the VX-1.
Consider: I'm an engineer with multiple advanced degrees, and so is my friend and his father (seller of the VX-1). If some issues came up, I could likely handle them, but the commuting downtime would likely tick me off. I am not opposed to updating the charging software, modifying the battery compartment for continuous-run cooling, etc... In the event that the VX-1 died after several thousand miles of use, I'm sure I could do a lithium conversion in a spare weekend.
Thanks in advance for anyone who answers my call... Hopefully if I get one of these bikes, I can be far more participatory in the future!
I own a Vectrix for 2 years now and am looking into the zero S. What I miss on the Zero S is the storage space for my laptop and other stuff that I take with me. I also miss that the Zero cannot carry a passenger. So you should also take practical stuff into account.
You could also go for a 2012 Li Vectrix?
Is there a Vectrix dealer around should you need spares?
The Vectrix will need time and money (CAN bus adapter, freddy charger) from you to get it and keep it (batteries) in good shape so be prepared for that. As a commuter bike it's perfect.
I would shy away from an old Vectrix .. but it sounds like you're describing yourself as adept at digging in to fix things if/when they break. I suspect the old Vectrix will be an ongoing Project Vehicle whereas buying a new bike from e.g. Zero you'd be buying a more reliable ride-it-every-day thing.
Why the XU versus the S? Price?
After a full charge, how many bars are remaining when red battery light appears?
That will tell you the condition of the battery
a 15 mile commute is fine for nimh, as long as you charge at both ends.
15 miles is around a 50% discharge
Just don't try to make the round trip
The nimh battery can have decent life, as long as there aren't any dead cells presently
my own nimh battery gave me 13'500km, after which the worst cell was 29Ah and had accelerated self discharge.
So there was still plenty of life left in it.
So you should get a fair bit of usage before upgrade time
Installing The Lairds nimh firmware will help aswell
One of the reasons I like the Vectrix is the battery box space is *huge* - that gives rather a few options come battery replacement time
$2500 for an original Vectrix with a good battery sounds about right
In this economy, I'd be reluctant to take out an additional loan for a new bike. With only 500 miles and no bad cells, the 2007 Vectrix VX-1 should serve you well for many years provided you're willing to put up with the known issues. Specifically, I'd expect to spend some time updating the firmware, replacing the main fuse, reconditioning the cells, and torquing down the 3-phase power lugs on the motor controller. Personally, I'd also recommend swapping the front brake lines.
All these are things that an engineer like yourself should be able to accomplish on your own, with very little cost for parts.
Personally, I just rolled over 20,000 miles, but my battery and motor controller were replaced under warranty two years ago. In my opinion, the biggest hassle with the 2007 VX-1 has been the down time due to part failure during the Chapter 11 resturcturing, but ultimately Vectrix came through in the end. Looking back, if I could have known what to expect when I first bought the bike and done the items recommended above, I could have easily avoided each failure, but I guess that's the price of being an early adopter.
So even now after over 10,000 miles on the new battery with the latest official firmware, I'm regularly commuting 20 miles each way to work with some significant hills and cold weather. Your results in Florida should be at least a good, provided the battery has been reconditioned properly.
I'm still a happy Vectrix VX-1 owner after 3 years and 2 months, with almost 15,000 miles (24,000km) covered. Haven't noticed any signs of reduced range or performance.
I ride for around three quarters of the year, daily commute is 27 miles each way. I charge it daily at work with a pre-charge cooling delay, always letting the bike carry out the whole charging procedure. I also have the latest 110km/h firmware update.
Only problems to date have been the known 125A fuse issue (replaced under warranty for 200A version at 6 months old) and I had to have the throttle sensor replaced recently which I damaged whilst being too close to a wall, getting used to using the centre stand.
HI HO0PTEY: I live in tampa and I say good buy get it before someone else does, it would be worth $25oo.00 for parts.
Think long and hard about it. If you are just looking for a cheap, short term EV experience, give it a go. But if you are looking for a bike that you want to ride for a long time, buy a newer lithium based scooter like a Zero or ZEV.
I was in the same boat as you. There was a $1500 VX-1 2007 for sale near me that had a weak battery from being in storage for too long. I knew that I could resurrect the pack by giving it a long, slow 0.3A charge, and would have a great, cheap bike. But I couldn't pull the trigger and buy it because a wanted a long-term EV solution with a simple but elegant design and readily available, reasonably priced spare parts. That isn't the VX-1. Read though the Vectrix posts: poor part availability, extremely expensive repair costs, overly complex/poorly designed, poor instruments (Cycle Analysts added by user). A complete set of replacement body panels for my bike is just $500. You would be extremely lucky to get one VX-1 panel for that if you could find it and probably would need to buy a whole spare bike. It is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish when presented with a cheap opportunity like we both were given; I struggled for a long time with the decision and I'm glad I didn't buy someone else's bag of problems when much better long term solutions are available today.
If it was such a great deal you would have just jumped on it and not asked the question here. Listen to your inner self; some part of you is trying to keep you from making a mistake.
Can you test-ride it? I had never driven or ridden an EV when I test-rode the Vectrix three years ago. It's a completely different experience from operating an internal combustion vehicle. For me it was love at first sight.
I just finished the Li-ion upgrade on my '07 VX-1 last month (just before the Zero announcement). Although the conversion worked fine I placed a deposit on the Zero-S. Why?
Because it's an addiction.
Three kWh was a tease, six is more practical, but nine? I can't tell you how many times I was riding along on my Vectrix with the EV grin in full swing... only to look down at the dash to see the red-battery light come on. This, despite the fuel gauge saying that I can ride another 15 miles. If only I could ride this thing further, I would think, I could go there and do that, and use less gas and save money and help the economy and help reduce global climate change and... well you get the idea.
Just my opinion, of course, but I think you will be happy riding electric - and happier riding further.
Oh, the Brammo Empulse (10kWh) is supposed to be coming out next year (with rumors of a 12 kWh option)... we'll see how long a 9 kWh pack satisfies ;-)
Real world range, or wishful thinking?
His statement is confusing,first it says range is 60km (37 miles) which is most likely then down at the bottom he says 100km or 62 miles. I think he is confusing the range with the speed.
I've been commuting for 6 months on a 2008 Vectrix with 4,000 miles when I bought it. My commute is only 12 miles each way, but half of that is freeway. I've had a few days where I've got on the bike only to find it didn't fully charge overnight - I don't have the option of charging it at work. On some really windy days I've found it has used more charge than expected on the way there, but by taking a slow speed route home I can easily get it home without the red light coming on. The only thing I haven't tested is how it performs in wintry conditions, but I guess that's not a problem in Florida?
I was worried about buying into the 'vectrix' thing and to be honest its exceeded my expectations and still does (even with the battery issues that people that are well known about)
I love it
If its not going to break the bank - buy it . You might come across issues - but then... you might with any vehicle !
Just my 2c worth
But if you are looking for a bike that you want to ride for a long time, buy a newer lithium based scooter like a Zero or ZEV.
I would think that the downtime for the newer lithium bikes would be lower,
however, they haven't been on the market for long enough to know for sure
For instance, even the nimh battery in the Vectrix took a good year for the issues to start showing up
The Vectrix was a major improvement over previous scooters, in nearly every way (including reliability)
at the time I thought it would be years before it would have problems
in summary - new doesn't mean no risk
I came up with this before I upgraded to Li-ion. I might have made it to 20,000 miles on the NiMH pack, but with shorter and shorter rides. The maintenance numbers are estimates based on what I pay for oil changes and tune-ups on my gas-guzzling Honda Shadow 750 [50 MPG ;-) ]
I did the comparison with the Honda Silverwing based on Honda's mileage claims (I don't have one).
I paid $8,700 retail for my Vectrix and received a $1,500 re-imbursement from the state (CA).
You can't include the purchase cost in something like that. Doesn't make sense. You can, however, include the difference between purchase price and current value...that is a real cost of ownership, just like the other costs you included.
I'm still a bit new to this, but come at it as a longer term scooter rider and green guy with a position which is likely to have more influence on future riders than most. I am part of a sustainability program which has received funding on a big community-wide movement to EV, including partnerships w Nissan and other EVs, and PV charging stations already up for public use, so want to be sure what I do sets a good example on the cycle side. But I loved my Vespa 300 gts off the line so wouldn't be happy with a putt-putt.
I similarly have my eye on a 2007 VX-1 new from a dealer at a good price, but am concerned about the NiCd battery pack. Assuming it works OK for awhile but I want to upgrade to Li, what can you and others say about the cost to do so and the likely performance compared to current bikes like the ZEV 6100/7000 or comps? Sorry if this info is already here, I just haven't been able to find it. I've read lots of good info here about various bikes and clearly things are evolving, but Vectrix seems to have held its own despite problems.
Thanks for the insights,
I loved my Vespa 300 gts off the line so wouldn't be happy with a putt-putt.
I similarly have my eye on a 2007 VX-1 new from a dealer at a good price, but am concerned about the NiCd battery pack. Assuming it works OK for awhile but I want to upgrade to Li, what can you and others say about the cost to do so and the likely performance compared to current bikes like the ZEV 6100/7000 or comps?
The ZEV bikes are a bit slow, so if a Vespa 300gts acceleration is what you are after, they probably won't cut it (peak power for them is like 12kw and they're heavier).
A better (more powerful) control would fix the "slowness"
A stock vectrix with a good battery will put 20kw to the ground (peaks at 70kmh, still ~17kw at 110kmh, weighs 260kg)
With a 40Ah lithium pack, its much faster due to less mass and a bit more power output (and ~$US 4500)
You can also get a brand new factory lithium Vectrix
CMC are another brand to look at, but I would be wanting at least 15kw to match that of your Vespa to get the same acceleration
The are also Zero, Roehr (50kw+ bikes), and a few others I may have forgotten
Thanks for articulating that point. Sounds like Vectrix can be a good performer, but in the end I'd spend almost as much w Li conversion as on a new bike. And I wouldn't expect quite as quick as the 300, that was a rocket, just don't want to get run up the backside.
So what about other differences in say a new vs 2007 Vx-1 w Li conversion? Are the bones and features similar or is there significant upgrade in other areas for the money as well?
But I loved my Vespa 300 gts off the line so wouldn't be happy with a putt-putt.
Unfortunately, the off-the-line performance of the Vectrix VX-1 is woeful. A good 50cc petrol scooter will beat it for the first 30 metres! After that, the VX-1 will fly past it....
The power output is heavily restricted at low speeds and the full power is only available above 60km/h.
However this is improved IF you dont use the seriously torque restricted latest versions of the controller software. Earlier ones have about 30% more torgue ! (thats a seat of the pants guestimate by the way)
However this is improved IF you dont use the seriously torque restricted latest versions of the controller software. Earlier ones have about 30% more torgue ! (thats a seat of the pants guestimate by the way)
Off-the-line I find them very similar, maybe identical. I think the power in the newer software is only further restricted at higher speed and at low battery voltages.
I might be wrong about this.
However this is improved IF you dont use the seriously torque restricted latest versions of the controller software.
There is a little truth to this,
The newer firmware versions have a higher minimum battery voltage
If your battery is marginal (has bad cells) then your acceleration will be reduced (the battery can't put out the necessary 22kw at a high enough voltage).
This limit is only really encountered above 30kmh (where the motor is able to draw more than ~6kw)
The starting acceleration is the same for either firmware revision
Having a look at the Vespa 300gt dyno plot,
looks like linear increase in power until speed reaches 25mph (40kmh and 16kw) then constant power till top speed
The Vectrix with a good battery has linear increase in power till speed reaches 50mph (80kmh and 20kw)
acceleration down low probably still won't be enough to match the vespa, but you won't get run over....
Given you have seen one for sale, I guess the best bet would be to take it for a test ride, see what you think
First of all, since this is Vectrix thread, I want to give my appreciation to individuals like the_laird, antiscab and others, who have made huge contributions to helping fellow Vx-1 owners with their complex scooter. We have some very honorable members on this site.
I want to make sure that my first post didn't come across as bashing the Vx-1. There are lots of happy Vx-1 members on this site. I just wanted to explain to potential new owners that the old design was very complex compared to newer designs like the ZEV, that you might spend much more for replacement parts, and some parts might be difficult to obtain. But at the same time it seems like a lot of old Vx-1s are being dumped on the market now for around US$3K-$1K, so it gets tempting to pick up one of these bikes.
Some of the complexity issues. The Vectrix Ni-MH battery sounds like it benefits greatly from the_laird's software modifications but you want to make sure you have a compatible controller version and charger. The software modifications lengthens the charging time (see that thread), but sounds like the cells are no longer over-heated as in the original design (in contrast, my ZEV charges in 1-3 Hrs depending on DOD with none of the heat or fan issues). Some members have requested the_laird to put in a function to provide fast charging so they don't have to wait so long, but that seems to defeat the battery protection through careful slow charging. You want to make sure to use an inrush current limiter if reconnecting the battery, as you might blow capacitors in the US$1,500 motor controller or worse. I cringe when I hear new Vectrix owners forget this step, so don't. Lately, people have complained of grinding noises from the gears, but it seems taking it apart and cleaning the encoders helps (my motor doesn't have encoders to worry about). Also, people have mentioned problems with some temperature sensor board in the bike (not an issue with the cool-running ZEV). Many posts on throttle getting out of calibration - some even during a ride (overly complex throttle because it handles forward, reverse, and regen vs ZEV throttle which is just forward) but many of the issues are caused by rotating the throttle when you shouldn't so read the threads on proper throttle use. Recently, there was a post from a Vx-1 owner in need of a new rear rim and the only response I remember was a mention of some guy in France that might have one. Somehow that doesn't leave me with a good feeling. But at the same time there are Vx-1 owners with few problems. So, it comes down to, do you feel lucky; will you need many spare parts. If you are like me, have some tech skills and good at scrounging old parts or making your own, you could do well with an Vx-1.
You can read my threads and see that on a trip where I'm traveling at 40-45mph I'm using on avg 70wh/mile. Compare that to other bikes and you will see that this is a very efficient bike; partly due to the motor/controller setup and partly to how light the bike is (~300lbs).
The Vx-1 is limited to 65mph so I'm told via some governor. The ZEV 8500 or 9200 will do 80mph; the 9200 just gets there quicker. I bet there are a few Vx-1 owners who would like to dump that governor as the bike could go much faster if allowed. The ZEVs have good acceleration off the line with no worries of being run-over. Even my little 6100 allows me to ride in the fast lane in our town/city streets with no worries.
Hooptey, your post didn't mention what speeds you are likely to encounter? Some folks are happy crawling along in bicycle lanes, while others want to do 75mph down expressways so it makes a difference in what bike is best for you.
Most of the ZEV bike owners I talked with have purchased directly through the company. It's nice being able to call the company and talk with the owner if you want. Also, because of all the options (such as a rediculous array of available colors) and to get the freshest batteries, most bikes seem to be built to order so expect a 3-month lead time from ZEV. With the way I ride, taking the ideal range numbers off the ZEV site and dividing by two seems to give a more accurate range gauge, but that seems to be a common rule of thumb. Someone riding on flat terrain would do better than me.
I bought the standard scooter but am starting to appreciate some of the trail bike features. It's funny, I've bumped into the "manly man" type that wouldn't be caught dead riding a "scooter" but they seem to like the more rugged looking ZEV Trail bike.
With the great tax credits here and ZEVs unadvertised referral program, I've ended up with a really great bike and expect my ROI to be next year. Reminds me of a take on the Dire Straights song "money for nothing and your E-scooter for free". We truely live in a great time.
Enjoy whatever you buy; we need more e-scooters on the road,
In defence of the VX-1
Having ridden bikes and scooters of every size from a 50cc stepthrough at 17yrs old through 125cc's and onwards to superbikes from the 70's 80's 90's etc (Suzukis GS1100's Yamaha XS1100s, BMWs - GSXR's, Harleys et al etc etc etc) and then looking at the electric bike options available, my reasons for the vectrix are lengthy but i'll try to summise after your lengthy advert for the ZEV
Firstly the purchasing of a bike for most people is an instinctive thing - Factors include -looks - style - features and it is definately a gut feeling thing.
Many of the electric scooters have a 'cheap chinese' not quite well designed look about them, and i sadly include the ZEV in this as it has exactly the same styling as many chinese manufactured scooters that are found in abundance on alibaba.com
Obviously not wanting to offend you on this and beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the vectrix with its system design faults still has a significant amount of 'style' which the ZEV just doesn't have.
Having ridden some of the smaller scooters before choosing one. I rode the EVT4000 and a couple of chinese electrics and then found that the VX-1's size (aproxminatley the same as a harley) means it has Road Presence which means irrespective of your choice of speed, people don't mess with you.
I am sorry but the Trail ZEV looks like something that came out of the USSR removing again removing a body doesn't make it attractive or desirable.
I realise that the ZEV on paper is possibly significantly better in figures than the VX-1 but lets be honest here.... If it were about figures - why would anyone buy a Harley over say a Yamaha cruiser or a Victory. There is an argument that the japanese or polaris built bikes are better on paper but don't invoke the same desire to own.
So.... I'm guessing most people who want a vectrix do so firstly on principle... its electric. Secondly as its a pretty well made and well engineered motorbike (well engineered parts such as brembo brakes - marzocci shocks) and then lastly when its seen in real life and ridden - it is solid to ride - has road presence, doesn't feel 'scooter sized' and is of course, just as importantly as everything else, is good looking.
Yes parts suppliers presently are hard to find in some 'out there countries - like NZ where i am' but in europe and america i can't see an issue now that the company has started up again.
so - there you go - my first thoughts defence of the VX-1
First I want to commend all of you for such a great blog. Clearly you are well-informed, reasonable and well-intended and understand the forward looking nature of the electric vehicle conversation.
I have read some great material about controllers and limiters and one can begin to see how manufacturers try to work that careful balance between performance and range. It occurs to me that performance is actually a little easier to achieve - sometimes with modification - while range remains almost entirely dependent on battery capacity. Maybe someday charger speed and availability could overcome some of that.
ofk210p comments about things like brakes and shocks, and it seems the vx-1 is generally appreciated for its structure. But buying anything without an Li pack these days seems to undercut so much potential, though of course Li cost is a factor.
Does anybody know what differences there are on a vx-1 Li vs the NiCd version? Is it essentially the same as the Li replacement kit or did they re-work other important components?
One clarification: The 2007 VX-1 is a NiMH battery, not NiCd. This is the same battery technology used in the Prius, and the lifetime is considerably longer that LiIon and has no memory effects like NiCd. While the energy density on LiIon is superior, I think as they age in the fleet that we're going to see more significant issues with cell capacity decreasing, particularly for these high-current applications.
This is the same battery technology used in the Prius, and the lifetime is considerably longer that LiIon and has no memory effects like NiCd. While the energy density on LiIon is superior, I think as they age in the fleet that we're going to see more significant issues with cell capacity decreasing, particularly for these high-current applications.
Actually the nimh used in the Vectrix is the same technology used in the NHW10 Prius, the one that has the highest rate of battery failures and was only grey exported outside of Japan.
Incidentally I have one of those with a marginal battery, still deciding which lithium battery to put in (GBS20Ah, or A123 20Ah or Enerdel 30Ah)
The prismatic nimh cells used in the Vectrix do have memory effect, though you only see that in the good cells in a pack that had some bad cells which limited the spread of a charge/discharge cycle.
The nimh batteries used in the later Prius models are very different (better cooling, reduced self discharge, better overdischarge and overcharge tolerance, etc)
The lab tested service life of the nimh batteries in the original vectrix shows a service life of ~1200 cycles, vs the lab tested service life for LiFePO4 cells as beyond 2000 cycles (for the cheap chinese large formats)
Both lab tests are at currents well below what is used in the Vectrix, so you won't see either battery hit that many cycles in real life.
I have had the opportunity to test every cell in 7 whole nimh batteries (714 cells).
Most of the cells still had ~30Ah capacity where they had come from bikes with between 3'000km and 13'000km on the odometer
Cells that came from the bike with 3'000km on the clock actually did better than 30Ah (1A charge for 30 hours, the discharge test was 15A discharge for 1 hr, then 3A discharge until the 2 cells reverse)
The cells weren't completely discharged before the initial charge.
The decision to stop at 2 cells had more to do with the final end use (no dead or marginal cells go back into a vectrix, 1 dead cell in a 8 or 9 cell rack goes into my hilux, 2 or more dead cells go into a grid storage application)
Curiously the battery that came from the bike with 29'000km on the clock, no cell managed to do better than ~25Ah
My own vectrix has done 25'000km on the LiFePo4 battery, with no measurable capacity loss.
Re design differences between the 2007 Vectrix and the new Li ones:
The chargers are different,
the 2007 vectrix used the old ESD charger, which has many design flaws.
The effect is it stops working earlier than it should, but while it is working its fine
the new Li Vectrix has a charger made by EVPS, which should have a longer service life
The EVPS charger can go into the older Vectrix
The 2007 vectrix as shipped with a 125A fuse, which has been known to blow for no reason.
the new Vectrix has a 200A fuse which doesn't false blow.
A replacement fuse is ~$60 (can be had on ebay), but is a bit of a pain to get to (its on the motor controller, and you have to remove the rear battery to get to it).
There's also different firmware
Aside from that, the bike is the same
back to the choosing a bike,
If you have a chance to ride them all, just go with the one that feels best
A second hand Vectrix will give you the most bang for your buck.
You might be able to get a second hand Lithium bike, but since they're newer may be harder to find/command a higher price.