2014 International Motorcycle Show

The 2014 Motorcycle Show is now running at the DC Convention Center, through 5:00 Sunday evening. The only EV manufacturer with a booth is Zero; BRD is still finalizing their Redshift, and Lightning and Mission are apparently still in custom territory. Still, Zero was well represented, with street, sport, and dirt offerings. I spoke with Mike and Kevin about 2014. Model Year 2013 saw dramatic improvements through the range, and the introduction of the FX (“stealth fighter”); this year’s crop is much less of a jump.

All models saw some improvement, but the big news is the Zero SR. While built on the S (street) platform and outwardly resembling it, the SR is no utility vehicle. The bike claims a 0-60 time in the 3 second range, sources vary. Forks and shocks are higher-spec; accordingly, the footpegs are, literally, higher.444dMore prosaically, the entire range received many new components. The battery pack and power switching are revised; the dashboard is now a custom EV layout, not an adapted ICE-bike part. Water issues are supposedly addressed, though of course one can’t tell at a convention center booth. Zero claims improved sealing and venting, plus a patent-pending moisture-control component. A revised chin piece looks like it should help. The final drive belt, already maintenance free, gets a longer replacement interval.

On the demand end, Zero offers an optional “power tank”- an extender battery that fits in the S, SR, and DS storage cubbies. Unfortunately, you must order your bike with a dealer-installed interface, and the battery module sounds a bit cumbersome for quick mounting/demounting- couldn’t try one. On the supply end, the optional external (parallel) charger is faster, though I was told it now requires a dryer plug instead of just a second NEMA 5-15 outlet. J1772 charging still requires an optional adapter.

Much more prosaically, I am told Zero is in a stable position. Though they resemble a startup, Mike tells me their capitalization is secure, and their revenue streams diverse. This includes fleet sales, which are multiyear and less fickle than individual consumers, and business-to-business revenue such as EV engineering. (Mike has a Tesla- can’t be doing too bad.)

There was one other electric vehicle… a third-party group had a Brammo Empulse, mounted in place as a wheelie simulator. Hopefully, many experienced their first “EV grin” at that high, responsive torque we love. Brammo uses a multi-speed transmission and clutch, though, which should introduce some lag and lash.

I’ll also note that, of four aftermarket battery vendors present, three were offering lithium as bike upgrades. The fourth doesn’t sell motorcycle versions. One even confided in me that not only were Indy/F1 moving to lithium for accessory power, but NASCAR was going lightweight for their starter batteries.

Overall, the convention crowd seemed receptive. I didn’t catch any backhanded remarks, or one outright lie, as I did at the Auto Show. Of course, the brand faithful in this market are right there with the Ford vs. Chevy loyalists. If the field continues to improve as it has, I would expect EVs to take a backseat to no one in many segments as soon as the 2016 or even 2015 show.

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