05:03 October 25, 2010
The Intermot motorcycle and bicycle fair rolled around in Cologne earlier this month with a lot of focus clearly beginning to shine on the area of electric bikes, scooters, bicycles and even smaller devices...
The world’s fastest electric scooter, the 7100 watt ZEV
I also rode the world’s fastest electric scooter, the 7100 watt ZEV, and I can tell you that it is a rocketship fast enough to safely get you through hostile urban traffic and more than quick enough to pull you clear of traffic at the stoplight Grand Prix. It and the top-of-the-line Vectrix which is only slightly slower, offer just about everything you need from an electric commuter. The ZEV has two stages of braking – the first offers regenerative braking from the rear wheel and essentially slows the bike quite rapidly, but a bigger handful of the brake lever brings in the front disk and ample enough stopping power for any situation.
The ZEV also has three speeds, operated by a sequential shift button on the throttle grip – 1-2-3-2-1 style just as in Formula One cars, though with a few less ratios available – and the combo offers better acceleration than almost any car. I spoke at length with ZEV founder and chief engineer Darus Zehrbach and Darus was quite clear about his intentions with the brand and future developments.
“We have the world’s fastest production electric scooter and I intend to keep it that way – if you build a faster one, I’ll build another that will be faster than yours.”
Darus was also clear on his intentions to eventually develop the brand into a full range with high-performance electric motorcycles at the high end, and electric bicycles and mountain bikes at the lower end. It was patently clear that more power and range on the way for his scooters too.
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American manufacturer ZEV has issued a fairly blunt challenge to other electric motorcycle manufacturers such as Vectrix, Zero Motorcycles and Brammo, by claiming to have the fastest and most powerful production electric scooter on the market in its US$7237 ZEV7000. "We tell them to bring their street legal production bike and to bring their betting money. There can be only one "fastest" street legal production electric motor scooter or bike in the world."
It's a big call to say your vehicle is the fastest on the market and call out your competitors like ZEV is doing - and it's an even bigger call when your bike's top speed is listed simply as "+113kmph/70mph."
For reference, when we test rode the impressive Vectrix electric scooter a couple of years back, that bike hit 110kmh fairly comfortably on the freeway too - despite the fact that it's only advertised to have a top speed of around 100.
Still, the ZEV7000 looks like a quality product, so we'll leave it to the competition to tackle or disprove any of ZEV's big claims and just take a look at the machine itself.
As its name suggests, the ZEV7000 puts out a continuous output of 7kW - with a peak output around 8kW and 14kW of standing start/launch power. Claimed peak torque, however, is a sky-high 184Nm, which would certainly help get it off the line with some gusto.
ZEV claims its secret recipe for massive torque is as simple as using large-diameter, multiphase motors, with a heavy emphasis on component cooling. Cooling the hub-mounted motor using an oil bath arrangement lets ZEV run a large motor at high speeds without the power sapping and motor-destroying effects of excess heat. The oil also helps ward off corrosion on the magnets - and this is part of the reason why ZEV offers a 2-year warranty on all its machines.
Range for the ZEV7000 is similar to the Vectrix at between 55 and 70 miles between charges, which take 25 minutes for a 75 percent top-up, or around 2 hours for a full charge. You can extend the vehicle's range or choose to access higher power by using what the company calls its "electronic transmission" - a switch that lets you choose how many amps the engine is running at. Low amps means low power but extended range, higher amps will drain the battery faster but give the bike substantially more beans.
Naturally, the ZEV7000 has also got a two-way throttle that can be rotated forward while on the move to engage regenerative engine braking and help get a bit more juice back into the battery.
One area in which the ZEV clearly stomps the Vectrix is in weight. Where the Vectrix comes in at a porky 200+kg, the ZEV tips the scales at a svelte 134kg. That's certainly going to give the ZEV a clear advantage on the dragstrip.
And the price tag is considerably leaner too, at US$7237 after tax credits to the Vectrix's RRP of around US$10,000 - although the Vectrix does bring with it a swag of top-shelf Italian braking and suspension componentry from Brembo and Marzocchi, as well as sexy looks that outclass the more utilitarian ZEV.
All in all, ZEV looks to be putting a fairly strong case forward as a commuter vehicle. The lithium battery should last upwards of 3000 full charge cycles, significantly more if you're putting it back on the charger without running it right down - so it should be good for upwards of 10 years of daily use with virtually no maintenance besides tires and fork oil.