Some Notes from the 2009 Motorcycle Dealer Expo in Indy
I was at the Motorcycle (and Scooter) Dealer Expo show in Indy this weekend (Feb 14th & 15th). It was a great show for me to attend and I was a little surprised that we didn't see more of the "mid-level" electric scooter makers there (folks like RMartin, Electric Motor Sport, Zero etc.).
What we did see were four distinct classes of electric scooter manufacturers/importers:
1) At the high end there was Vectrix and E-Max. There's no doubt in my mind that both these manufacturers offer a great product. In my opinion they're both saddling themselves with too much cost because they both chose to design their bikes from the ground up. With this higher base cost they've both opted for cheaper SLA batteries (silicone). Personally I think that's a mistake - but time will tell. They both talk about LiFePO4 coming out soon and talk as if there's no reasonable solution right now to explain why they don't have LiFe today. That's a bit of a self-defeating argument when they're using Silicone based SLAs which are "new tech" when it comes to SLAs. It's not that I think new tech is bad - but why can they bring silicone to market quicker than SLAs? However, as I said, they have the best bikes out on the market right now. We saw the VX-1 (NiMH), VX-1E (SLA) and VX-2 (SLA) and the E-Max 90 (SLA) (the VX-2 is a "re-skinned" E-Max. We also got to talk to Klaus on the E-Max stand (technical brains behind the E-Max) and it's clear he really knows his stuff. I was a little disappointed to find out that the fuel-gauge on the E-Max is just a voltmeter - rather than an Ah counter of some sort. Apparently Klaus' focus (aside from a LiFe version) is to produce a controller that doesn't require hall effect sensors. A couple of interesting tidbits from the Vectrix stand: (a) they have 83 US dealers and hope to double that in 2009 - their target is to have around 700 dealers (just like Harley who are the US market leader for motorcycle sales) & (b) the price of batteries is killing them - he quoted some high cost for the price of Nickle per ton, he then went on to point out that a Vectrix has 100lbs of Nickle in its batteries. Ouch.
2) At the mid-level we saw two manufacturer/importers: X-Treme and Vekken. Didn't spend much time on the X-Treme stand because I know their product pretty well. But they did have an impressive display of many different electric models - including an XM-5000 (which said it had 100Ah batteries - but the version on the floor had 60Ah - wasn't able to get to the bottom of that discrepancy). I know many of you will dispute that X-Treme is mid-level but I categorize them this way because their product is on the road and is usable. I didn't spend much time on the Vekken stand - in my not so humble opinion a hybrid motor scooter is a TERRIBLE idea. Sorry.
3) At the low-level we saw at least a half dozen bikes based on the same frame as the XM-5000, XM-3500, E-FunD etc. These bikes were normally displayed by importers who imported just about anything. They also usually had some pretty outrageous claims. I'm sorry but I just don't believe that a 48V, 2000W bike the size of an XM-3500 will go 50 mph. Also, by the very nature of these importers they have no specialized knowledge in EVs. They're just out there to ride the wave. Buyer beware!
4) The last category is the pedal-assisted bikes. There was at least one VERY well put together bike that looks a bit like a modern interpretation of a Puch Maxi. Sorry, can't remember the name right now. Also there were a couple of cute foldable bikes. One had a very easy to remove seat and battery meaning that you could lock it up on the street and take the battery inside to charge. However, the other one was even smaller and lighter so you'd take the whole bike in. It was interesting to see these bikes at a motorcycle show.
What we didn't see:
1) We didn't see (and we scoured the entire show very closely) any of the new mid-level or high-level vendors. No RMartin, Electric Motorsport, EVCUSA, EVTA etc. This is THE show to be at if you're a manufacturer looking for dealers. The absence of these guys could mean a couple of things:
(a) their product still isn't ready (and you know which one of that list I'm referring to!)
(b) they don't want a dealer network they just want to sell direct
(c) they do want a dealer network but are building it another way. Note that for the companies I listed to be a dealer you need to jump through a fair number of hoops at the state level (in Michigan it's at least a $50K per year proposition to be a dealer)
I'm not sure if you'll see REV at the show next year. We went with the assumption that we'd be there next year - but came away wondering if an alternative dealer network could be built up in a different way to attract a different customer base.
2) We didn't see viable electric motor scooters from any of the quality ICE players. SYM, CFMoto, Q-Link etc. don't seem that interested. SYM did have a prototype on display - but with a 1000W motor it's not going to set the world on fire. I wonder if they've looked at Vectrix's rather troubled initial performance and decided it's either not worth it or too soon to jump in on the game.
Finally for the teaser. We did see something that we got excited about as the basis for our REV 2. So many ideas - so little time! ;-)
All in all it was a fun show to attend and we learned a lot - well worth it.
Nice Job, John. I had a report from the show, but it was focused on a non-electric portion of the market. It's great to hear how the EV side of things is moving!
I've confirmed that the 5000's controller pushes 100A - and as you've said, the battery is 60Ah. That could be the source of the 'oops' on the display material. Minus 4 for lack of attention to detail.
Pictures! Where are the pictures? :)
Thanks John for that report. I hope you have great success with you're Rev. I would love to be a customer some day.(I just want to go 65mph with a 200 mile range. No problem right?)