On Wednesday, two very cool things happened.
Firstly, Zero Motorcycles announced their 2015 model range. After winning huge praise for this year's model, its logical that they addressed some minor criticisms and made a few small tweaks for 2015. Price, performance and range have all improved slightly but, crucially, the new models come with ABS, Showa suspension front and rear and better Pirelli tyres straight off the production line.
I recently had a 2014 Zero SR for a few days and took the chance to ride it around Sydney, in what turned out to be the wettest day in about a 1000 years. Even my tried and tested wet weather gear couldn’t stand up to the sideways rain, and I was utterly drenched by the end of it. But riding the flagship model in peak hour madness on slimy, windy roads was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
So what is it like riding an electric motorcycle that can do 0-100kmh in 3.3 seconds, in the rain?
Fascinating, scary and then ultimately a total pleasure.
I started out in sports mode and was reveling in the ability to spin the back wheel with a twist of the wrist; roundabouts, traffic lights, they all copped a test in the name of physics. This was fun for a while but in traffic and rain my brain did eventually engage and I selected 'eco' mode (on my Zero app enabled iPhone) to soften the power. This made riding the SR simple and super smooth. I managed to maintain this for 20km or so before my inner hoon took over again and reverted back to sports mode. Exiting the gentle rise out of the Sydney harbour tunnel, I gave it a handful to pass a car and heard that all too familiar sound of the rear wheel spinning its head off before I modulated a bit more carefully using my wrist, and this is when it dawned on me – the huge delivery of torque is manageable on this bike because it is delivered so smoothly and progressively. Even in atrocious conditions the throttle response is so good that this is one of the easiest wet weather rides I’ve ever experienced.
However, the new model with uprated tyres and suspension will undoubtedly help and make an even better ride when they start shipping to Australian in the first quarter of next year. (Although new models are always tempting, the good news is if you can’t wait I can arrange an astounding deal for you on 2014 models if you are quick; contact us here if you want to get on the road with a Zero for summer.)
The other exciting news from Wednesday was that I finally got to ride the Zero of cars; the Tesla Model S. Tesla has some demonstrators in Australia and I was invited to drive one by Tesla Australia – and only had to be asked once.
So I spent that morning learning about the wizardry of Tesla around Pyrmont in Sydney and, let me tell you, it lived up to all my expectations. In trying to describe it to young Tesla sales rep (who has the best job in the world just joyriding in a Tesla every day) I could only sum it up as “like a Porsche; but better in so many ways”.
Tesla’s proposition is similar to Zero; both have luxury price tags. Both are utterly remarkable. But both are quite simply this: available, very well made, immensely desirable and very, very real. Drive or ride one and you’ll start to agree with everyone else that the future has arrived.
The Tesla was furiously fast, plush and suitably kitted out with a vast array of technological wizardry; this thing makes a smartphone look plain dumb. We fiddled with pretty much every setting we could during our short drive trying out every combination of drive set up, monitoring and display systems, and accompanied it all with an astounding stereo systems that max’s out at 11 just for fun.
Two things really struck me though; one was that it that for a relatively big and heavy car it doesn’t feel it and secondly that it is luxuriously comfortable and has a huge amount of space because of course, it has two boots (front and rear). It really is very practical.
In terms of performance well, I have been lucky to drive some pretty fast cars in my time including some very nice Porsche’s and the Tesla is (unsurprisingly) very, very fast. Like the Zero it has brutal acceleration and we managed to get the traction control kicking in a couple of times (again, in the name of physics). Interestingly, I got the sense that it was a little more brutal than the Zero (although the 0-100kmh time is almost a second slower) which is probably logical because you don’t have to worry about flipping it and have the benefit of traction control.
Fun, luxurious and practical – assuming you have a lazy 100K or so.
The other bit that stopped me in my tracks and totally blew my mind was the innocuous fast charger that has been installed on a nice green post in the carpark where the test vehicle is kept. I almost walked straight past it. Tesla’s fast charger looks cool and at around 300mm long is very compact, so I asked the question “that would be about 2kW, right?” “Nope; that’s our 10kW (40A) home charger”. OMG. I almost walked past this charger which is about five-times smaller and more compact than anything I have ever seen before in my life. I could find out very little about its manufacturing details except a YouTube video, which shows its incredible compact size and simplicity.
In the last few weeks I have had some great conversations about EV storage and chargers, but Tesla have taken this to another level and this is where things get really exciting because with chargers this small and light the world of powerful onboard charging just got a step closer, potentially leapfrogging us right past the need for infrastructure solutions to the problem. Of course, you need an outlet that can handle the current but that’s pretty much every single coffee shop, launderette and mechanical workshop in the country, just off the top of my head.
There’s more big news coming soon from us on Zero bikes and EV-to-grid so stay tuned.
Nigel Morris is director of Solar Business Services.