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Author Topic: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws  (Read 4410 times)

Cortezdtv

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2015, 01:46:47 AM »

You make it sound pretty grim.  I'm a retired engineer myself, and still naive enough to think that something could be done with the basic platform of a 2011 Zero S - seems to me that it can't all be junk ....... !

Let me put it this way:

Buying a Zero within the two year from model year period assures you the possibility of warranty repairs (but be ready for unreliable operation and periods of inoperation).

Buying a Zero after that point is no better than buying a hobbyist electric conversion of a motorcycle.  Perhaps a conversion is somewhat better in that there is hope for buying standard maintenance components.

For example, the Delrin assembly that I despise so much (and which I got flack above as being "normal" for dirt bikes) is custom milled, not mentioned in the user manual as a wear item, and cannot be purchased like the "normal" dirt bikes that are being compared to.

As long as you are comfortable with the money invested being completely lost, I think it can be a worthy (if not fun) experiment.  I feel sorry for people who bought these on finance terms (appropriate for ICE motorcycles) under the mis-belief that the bike would survive that period.

How many zero bikes do you own? How many different models have you played with?

Sure have some bold statements I wouldn't even to go as far as saying and I guarantee I have more non working bikes than you have and I have more working bikes than you do as well....
I'm not even offered a trade in deal.... How do you think I feel.....
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2015, 01:53:01 AM »

As long as you are comfortable with the money invested being completely lost, I think it can be a worthy (if not fun) experiment.  I feel sorry for people who bought these on finance terms (appropriate for ICE motorcycles) under the mis-belief that the bike would survive that period.

How many zero bikes do you own? How many different models have you played with?

Sure have some bold statements I wouldn't even to go as far as saying and I guarantee I have more non working bikes than you have and I have more working bikes than you do as well....
I'm not even offered a trade in deal.... How do you think I feel.....

My opinions are my own.  My apologizes if I offended.  My statement was in the context of drumgadget's consideration of buying a 2011.
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ColoPaul

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2015, 02:43:05 AM »

If everyone had this attitude, we wouldn't get any new products of this complexity. Zero is not out to bilk you, they're trying to survive and grow. If they exhaust their budget serving one need (comprehensive serviceability), they might not break even or prove to investors that the next year is worth funding.
BrianTRice ...... +1

When I bought my Zero, I first thought to myself "hey, this is a start-up selling a few hundred bikes a year, they could go out of business any day.".  I'm quite pleased that they're even still around, providing some level of support for the older bikes.  Frankly I'm amazed and impressed they're willing to offer up newer bikes with significant discounts to the older bike owners.

After 3+ years & 22k miles my 2012 is running great, it's never stranded me.   I don't think I paid "a premium" for it, in fact it's saved me a bundlecompared to what it would have cost to put those 22k miles on my BMW (the 6000mi service now runs ~$1000 at the dealer!).   It certainly not worth "zero".

Regarding the list of 'design flaws' this thread was started on, my 2012 has no chain, I can switch between ECO/Sport on the fly without problems, throttle travel is reasonable, I've had no trouble with disparte metals on the frame, my battery charger has never been 'confused', and error codes are stored for reading later.   It wasn't mentioned but the brushed motor in the 2011's had a host of issues, and they replaced that with the brushless motor in the 2012. (Which had it's own set of problems, which they corrected in 2013)

All this says is that Zero made huge improvements from 2011 to 2012, and again in 2013.  Is that really a big shock given their size and the newness/changes in technology?

To be honest, it's HARD to design a motorcycle. Modern ICE bikes are so good because they've iterated the living fuck out of the design and learned what not to do, as well as what to do.
CashCrash ...... +1

Not everyone out there thinks Zero is out to lie, cheat and sucker people.
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2015, 02:53:44 AM »

Hey now ..... all cool ..... !  I have hopes for this forum as a place to exchange ideas as well as vent.  I can certainly understand the emotions that result from feeling as if you've been burned, but I'm still looking for positive ideas and solutions to problems.  And I never intended to launch flak at anyone .....

For example:  that infamous piece of delrin - my solution to that would be to make a replacement part myself ..... or have it made (I am a machinist).  I imagine that it is a milled chunk of readily available delrin.  Anyone who's ever owned vintage or classic motorcycles has had to make parts or improvise.  Of course, I'll admit that calling a 2011 model "vintage" is quite a stretch  .........
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #19 on: September 17, 2015, 03:05:29 AM »

Hey ColoPaul -

You've referred to problems with the 2011 Agni brushed motor.  Curious as to what those might be ..... I did a bunch of research before jumping in and had concluded that the '11 model had sorted those problems.  I considered a local deal on a clean 2012 (liked the IDEA of the brushless 3-phase drivetrain), but backed off because I could not get a clear answer from the owner re the recall service or any history of the dreaded "glitch".
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ColoPaul

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #20 on: September 17, 2015, 08:21:12 AM »

Hey ColoPaul -

You've referred to problems with the 2011 Agni brushed motor.  Curious as to what those might be ..... I did a bunch of research before jumping in and had concluded that the '11 model had sorted those problems.  I considered a local deal on a clean 2012 (liked the IDEA of the brushless 3-phase drivetrain), but backed off because I could not get a clear answer from the owner re the recall service or any history of the dreaded "glitch".

I am only going by various posts by people w/2011's over the years.  Here is a example:

http://electricmotorcycleforum.com/boards/index.php?topic=2667.0

I seem to remember the biggest complaint is with the brushes themselves, wearing too quickly.
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BrianTRice

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #21 on: September 17, 2015, 11:16:47 AM »

I'm just going to put this out there, as an ex-Navy Nuclear electrician (who worked on high-power IGBT and MOSFET-based AC-DC static electronic reversible power supplies for a bit), I waited very specifically for a brushless motor and a reliable design before deciding to commute on it.
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Zero: 2016 DSR, 2013 DS
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Cortezdtv

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2015, 07:15:27 PM »

As long as you are comfortable with the money invested being completely lost, I think it can be a worthy (if not fun) experiment.  I feel sorry for people who bought these on finance terms (appropriate for ICE motorcycles) under the mis-belief that the bike would survive that period.

How many zero bikes do you own? How many different models have you played with?

Sure have some bold statements I wouldn't even to go as far as saying and I guarantee I have more non working bikes than you have and I have more working bikes than you do as well....
I'm not even offered a trade in deal.... How do you think I feel.....

My opinions are my own.  My apologizes if I offended.  My statement was in the context of drumgadget's consideration of buying a 2011.


Everybody has opinions your not going to offend me, nor do you need to validate your reasoning; but I will call you out on it if you have/ or have not had one bike.... Which it sure seems like you avoided the question about exactly how many zero motorcycles you have owned..... If your in here commenting like that I would at least think you have has serious issues with at least 2 zero bikes....

I don't like people who spout all this shit about the bikes need this need that but have less seat time than my girlfriend..... Or some of my friends that don't even have bikes.....




There is a few things I would change with zero motorcycles one which happens to be the main issue with most bikes that have issues... And it hasn't even been mentioned in this thread...... Funny the thing that fails the most no one complains about....

battery Managemnt system needs work.....      The bms should not travel inside the battery period! To much work to have the battery taken apart every time you need to service one. It would be very very easy to do with the newer batteries, and then you could control fx packs externally and connect as many as you want while also controlling them more efficiently with 1 bms. Much like the monolith batteries.....1 bms 4 "bricks".  If the bms was located just outside the case or I top it would be a quick remove the seat, swap bms and done.... Well after programming...
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2015, 09:28:42 PM »

Cortezdtv -

Exactly the kind of positive info I'm looking for ..... thanks!  If there is one aspect of the 2011 build that I expect to have problems with, it's the battery/BMS.  I agree with your idea of an external BMS; seems to me that the battery design is the fastest changing part of the whole EV scene right now.  Separating the battery itself from the BMS would allow one to take advantage of the newest battery chemistry/packaging advances ..... such as the Nissan Leaf retrofit in the recent thread.  And I was only half kidding about the "Tesla motorcycle" ...... Elon Musk has certainly jumped headfirst into battery manufacturing.

Mike
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #24 on: September 17, 2015, 09:39:11 PM »

BrianTRice - interesting observation .....  I worked for years in the film special FX business with large motor driven systems that required accurate, repeatable positioning.  We started with stepping motors, worked up to PWM digital servo controllers using brushed motors, finally graduated to 3-phase brushless servos with Hall effect sensors for both commutation and position control.  They all worked pretty well ..... within their limitations!  The first two approaches were "home brewed", and as such, blew up from time to time.  And of course failure meant only doing the shot over, not suddenly losing power at 70 mph in the fast lane!

So ..... the 2013 design seems to have solved the commutation problem with the 2012 first generation 3-phase brushless design?
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CrashCash

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #25 on: September 22, 2015, 12:37:12 AM »

You have my sympathy.  Owning a Zero means paying a premium for a bike that is worth zero 2.5 years later.  Owning a Zero means a bike that either doesn't work for weeks or becomes disabled miles from home.  Owning a Zero means a motorcycle that can't be maintained/repaired because Zero doesn't document it and discontinues parts for any model out of its 2-year warranty.

Yup, I fully accept my bike will have absolutely no trade-in value... but guess what? I don't care.

First off, I understand these bikes are an evolving brand new technology, and a 2013 Zero is like an iPhone 3. It makes calls just fine and it still runs most of the apps, it's just long in the tooth. When it finally breaks, you pony up for an iPhone 7 or whatever. Until then, you use the hell out of it.

Zero only NOW has a semi stable platform to work from. This is kind of an important sea change. The yearly models are no longer individual bespoke customs, and they can now build upon previous year's efforts. I'm **REALLY** curious to go to AIMExpo on the other side of town next month and see the 2016 model.

Second, I'm not the sort of yuppie that trades in bikes every other year. I still have my '07 FJR and I traded my '08 SV for my '15 SR. Previously, I sold my '02 SV to buy an '08 because it had ABS and fuel injection. Guess what? I only got about $500 for that '02 because I rode the hell out of it and it had 88,000 miles and no trade in value.

> Zero doesn't document it

Yup, they're a very small company with little manpower struggling to get bikes out the door to make enough profit to stay in business.

People don't understand documenting stuff and doing it well enough for it to be a product by itself, is extremely difficult and time consuming. A good tech writer is expensive.

While I *really* hate not having a service manual, it doesn't need one, as I can replace the tires, brake pads & fluid, and the belt by myself. I do wish there was a pamphlet that discussed the trickier parts of these operations, such as the brake pad pin retainers that go "ping" and vanish forever if you don't know about them.

My Zero can be maintained just fine, and it's a hell of a lot simpler than ANY of the dozen or so ICE bikes I've ever had. There are a lot of little well thought out details, like the metal tire valves, the extra bleed valve in the master cylinder, the smart placement of the ABS HU behind the triple tree, the really nice-to-work-with front and rear axle designs, and the state-of-the-art ABS wheel sensor designs.

A standard service manual, to fully diagnose & troubleshoot something as complex as a Zero would be about a foot thick, especially considering they're starting from nothing with techs that know only internal combustion engines. They don't know electricity and they don't know complex computers. Zero would have to start wtih "... current is a flow of electrons in a conductor..." At this point in time it'd be a massive waste of effort.

Basically, Zero is stuck trying to get washing machine repairmen to fix desktop computers. That really "ain't gonna happen" so things stack up until a Zero tech is available to dial in.

Yes, this sucks.

If you have an economic, workable solution, I'd be glad to hear it. I'm also sure Zero would pay you a chunk of change to implement it.

In the meantime I'm riding my bike. If it breaks, I'll take it to the dealer and be prepared to wait.

For me, this really sucks because I'm the OCD type that works on every nut & bolt of my bikes, and none of them had seen a dealer since 2001, until my SR needed a new wiring harness.

But hey, that's how it works until the electric vehicle industry grows up. It's not just Zero. Try working on your Tesla. Or your Empulse.
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #26 on: September 22, 2015, 01:34:00 AM »

Thanks, CrashCash for your well-reasoned post.  You make plenty of good points.

Expanding from what you said, there do tend to be two broad categories of motorcycle buyers.  (This is a generalization, of course.)  One is the sort who just writes a check to the dealer for each maintenance (and possibly trades in bikes all the time).  The second type is the OCD type who works on every nut and bolt of their bikes (and possibly buys them to keep for longer periods).

I think Zero's emphasis is towards the former.  The dealers get information on a limited need-to-know basis; the buyers get nada.  If the owner is someone who just wants to ride the bike, such details are unimportant.

I very deliberately posted in the pre-2013 discussion, as my criticism is focused on the earlier models.  However, my reservation is that if Zero has a track record of pushing earlier bikes under rug after 2 or so years, will their behavior be any better with the newer models?

My hope would be that the 2013+ are less risky.  The saving grace may be that the 2013+ models have much more engineering effort invested; the platforms may be much more serviceable (subject to battery compatibility) even if Zero has abandoned them.

That unsold 2014 models are collecting dust when 2016 models are about to be released suggests to me that the market also has some concern about a window of support.

I don't agree with your assertion that a service manual must describe from the bottom up on the flow of electrons.  If this were so, internal combustion itself (not to mention highly complex carburetor operation) would need to be described in ICE service manuals, and this is simply not so.

Even a wiring diagram (routine for any vehicle) is apparently too much to ask for from Zero, and that doesn't sit well with me at all.

From a strictly business perspective, I can't fault Zero's strategy.  Documentation is hard.  Customer support is costly.  Doing without these cuts down on expenses.  (Also, venture capitalists always want a "barrier to competitive entry", and being as opaque as possible helps this cause too.)

However, the bikes themselves are evidence to buyers as to the care of the designers.  There were some really amateur mistakes in the early models that give me pause.  For example, I mentioned that operating the eco/sport switch on a 2011 causes the bike to come to a halt.  Apparently, they fixed this in the 2012.  However, what sort of self-respecting engineer programs firmware into an ECU module without any upgrade mechanism and then pours quarts of epoxy over the PCB?  (What sort of self-respecting engineer doesn't de-bounce a switch!?)  Zero would never even acknowledge the problem to me.  I presume they did that because their shortsighted design would necessitate shipping a brand new ECU with a software fix.  If Zero had handled such things better, I'd be more tolerant of being an early-adopter.
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #27 on: September 22, 2015, 01:48:09 AM »

CrashCash -

Well thought-out post, thanks!

And pinaz - same to you, especially your comments about a service manual.

My thoughts:
I agree with everything you say about the scale and pace of the tech revolution we are privileged to be part of.  You do have a choice:  play, or .... don't.  It's hard to accept depreciation on the scale of the Zero 2012 and prior models, but every owner of the "latest phone" or the "hippest laptop" has been there on a smaller scale.  The only cause for righteous indignation (as opposed to mere annoyance or disappointment)  would be fraud of some sort; in the case of the electric motorcycle, that would mean misrepresentation of features or performance, or hard promises  broken.  It is this latter thing that seems to drive the resentment - the lack of a clear upgrade path for the earlier models.  In the absence of an extensive trained dealer/service network, the burden falls totally on the small. struggling manufacturer ........ unless ....... said manufacturer makes a concerted effort to educate the knowledgeable owner with the goal of more user serviceability.

What I would like to see (and hope to see on this Forum) is cooperation between Zero and the many electrically savvy owners; a first step would be a "service manual" that at the least contained schematics, block diagrams, info about getting deeper into the bike than just the rolling chassis.  Granted, only a small percentage of (even) Zero owners are capable of delving into the high power electrics or the intricate interconnected digital control hardware, but for those few it would be a Godsend.  And the exchange of info would, I believe, have a synergistic effect that would only speed up the adoption of the electric vehicle.

I do realize that there may be liability issues here ..... but I'd hate to think that Zero are being stingy with information just to protect corporate "secrets".  Secrets ..... on the earlier "obsolete" models?

This is a great thread!

Mike
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #28 on: September 22, 2015, 03:13:58 AM »

Thanks, Mike.

As a purely practical matter, I suspect Zero can't afford the luxury of considering electrically savvy owners; I am pessimistic about Zero providing any information.

However, I do think that it is not at all unreasonable to see at least a wiring diagram for every model year and a "service highlights" to document the technical changes/improvements between model years.

To put things in a more business perspective (that might be more on the level of the Zero decision makers):

There are the "faithful" buyers that will happily pour money away to have the latest thing (and/or because they believe in the cause).  However, catering exclusively to those severely limits your market.  (I would argue that even the faithful would get tired of this eventually.)

To expand the business beyond that, one needs bikes that will have some market value even after the warranty expires.

Presently, when the warranty is up, the buyer is plain out of luck.  The resale value reflects this.  (I would suggest that the sell rate on the 2014 also reflects this.)

Even the 2013+ models, despite their superiority, have this issue.  Say a buyer has a 2013 model with a battery that is different from the 2014+.  What assurances (or even intentions) has Zero made publicly to make the 2013 battery pack for a period of time?

I do think it would behoove Zero to telegraph what their intentions are for supporting models beyond the warranty period.  It seems disingenuous to talk about battery packs that should last 300k when the bike itself is only warranted for 2 years.

If, at the end of the warranty period, the bike is worth nothing (I'm talking an "arm's length" metric here, not what personal value it might have to the owner whilst it works), I think Zero is going to struggle to grow its customer base.

Even a Certified Pre-Owned program featuring bikes with some additional warranty might inspire some market confidence without requiring any information disclosure.  Even smartphones are not thrown away; they get refurbished and re-sold.  An ostensibly "green" vehicle shouldn't be based on discarding it so soon.

I recognize that there is a Catch 22 problem here.  If Zero can't sell all the new bikes it makes, it doesn't want certified used bikes cannibalizing its sales.  However, it forever limits its market for selling new bikes if the older bikes depreciate so rapidly.  Tesla is no dummy here; they've kept the latest design improvements appealing to the "must have" crowd whilst not entirely pulling the rug out from underneath the buyers of the earlier variants.
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drumgadget

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #29 on: September 22, 2015, 03:44:40 AM »

All good points, pinaz .....

I can't disagree with any of it .......

But this "naive newbie" is still gonna stubbornly hold onto the faint hope that the exchange of information can ameliorate this situation.  A combination of user/owner reverse engineering, coupled with even a small amount of cooperation from Zero the company (or ex-employees) ..... could do wonders to improve the situation, in the spirit of sharing.  I also agree totally that this approach could be good for business in the long run.

Some years ago (before the "S" model came out), I considered hacking together my own electric conversion.  I decided that the ICE and the electric bike platforms were just too disparate to do this in an aesthetic fashion - this after riding several "one-offs" that all had their quirks and faults ..... not to mention NO support whatsoever!  My hope for the older Zero is that at least the rolling chassis has been designed from the ground up as an electric bike ..... yeah, I know .... not perfect, but ...... few ICE bikes were either!  I think the idea of coming up with my own upgrade path based on info gleaned from this Forum and others is pretty exciting! 

How's that for naivte?

Mike

PS:  ever build a custom-framed ICE bike, or maybe an "engine swap" like a Triton?
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