Today I rode for the first time after reprogramming the controller in my scooter. I had lowered the maximum power from 80% to 70% and reduced the maximum speed as well. Making the change was relatively easy once I properly configured my windows xp installation running on Parallels on my Macbook Pro. The application itself was a free download.
Most important, was testing the range, the issue which has been most difficult for me. I’ve previously attempted a 16 mile round trip only to complete the last couple of miles in “limp mode” when the maximum speed is only a few miles an hour. This time I fared much better, riding 22 miles before I limped the last few feet home. Twenty miles is enough for pretty much any ride I would undertake without having the opportunity to charge in the middle. i can now easily visit friends in Alameda without a problem, though the furthest points of Richmond might be pushing my luck, especially if steep hills are involved. For those who may be reading this and who are located in a less hilly region than Northern California, note that I had some serious hill climbing in these 22 miles. The most noteworthy was the steep climb up Pleasant Valley Road from Broadway up to Piedmont Avenue. In a less hilly region, it might be possible to squeeze a few extra miles. When time allows, I may try a flatter ride to see what difference it makes. In the meantime I’m grateful to have the extra range.
But how much did I give up in terms of power? My maximum speed at 80% power was 50mph which I only hit a couple of times. 45mph was a more realistic max. Now that has been reduced by 10mph to just 35. Fast enough to maintain the legal urban speed limit, but occasionally a bit slow to keep up with traffic. It’s a compromise for sure and I can always tweak the power setting a bit to 73 or 75% if I decide its necessary.
I’ve been thinking about purchasing a two-wheel electric vehicle for a couple of years. Now that I’ve gotten rid of our second car — and my wife generally gets use of our only car, the justification finally exists. Besides there is no greater way I can learn about the practicality of using a zero emission electric two wheeler day to day than by actually owning and using one. In my decision process I considered the Zapino which is sold by Zap Motors in Northern California but is actually just a private label of a scooter made by a large company in China and sold under many different brand names globally. Something about having something mass produced, not serviced locally and with a lot of known problems didn’t appeal to me. I also found it rather expensive for the fit, finish and performance. The fact that Zap hasn’t updated their website since their 2008 Zapino Demo model sale wasn’t confidence building either. Add to that fact that the only dealer local to me closed over a year ago sent me looking for something produced locally. The current pricing of the Zapino is around $2600 so I wanted to find something cost competitive.
In doing some research on the popular VisforVoltage Forum I discovered that Electric MotorSport made some compelling scooters and was only a few miles from my home. EMS’ scooters are custom made in Thailand by Tiger Motors, who incidentally, makes frames for Kawasaki as well as their own branded motorcycles and scooters in Thailand. Final assembly in done in the United States and in addition to a reseller network, EMS provides service in their own shop in Oakland.
I was initially drawn to the Lithium Ion version of the Z6 which while very compelling, was beyond my budget at $3850. I also considered the Z1.5 which is more similar to the Zapino with it’s rear hub motor and underseat storage, but is a bit underpowered. That would have translated into long range, but a lot of trouble getting up the steep hills I often need to climb. Once I found out I could purchase a Z6 with lead acid batteries for a much more affordable price I set my eyes on it. I also saved a bit by buying a model they had on the “showroom” floor and ultimately purchased it for less than I could have found a Zapino.
The Z6 is a powerful machine compared to the Zapino. It’s sold as a 6000watt vehicle, but actually peaks at over 8,000watts. The eTek motor that it includes is the same as comes standard on the powerful GPRS motorcycle, though it is driven at a lower voltage. EMS configured the Z6 at 80% power, as 100% would result in the rider doing unintentional wheelies and is really more power than is safe in a vehicle of this kind. That said 80% of the max is still a lot of power. My Z6 tears up the steepest of hills without hesitation. It’s rated for up to 25 miles of range but that depends on how it is ridden. Upgrading to Lithium Ion in the future would effectively double the range. A tempting but expensive option.