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Author Topic: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws  (Read 3780 times)

NoiseBoy

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #30 on: September 22, 2015, 04:41:59 AM »

Pinaz, I feel I should mention that there are discounted 2014 bikes available because of a fleet deal that fell through and not because they were 'gathering dust' unable to be sold.
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2015, 04:48:55 AM »

Pinaz, I feel I should mention that there are discounted 2014 bikes available because of a fleet deal that fell through and not because they were 'gathering dust' unable to be sold.

Good to know... I talked with a dealer about them, but no one mentioned this.  Thanks.  BTW, at the time I was told that there were only '14 DS and S models available; I might have figured ZF would be more popular fleet vehicle.  I guess it depends on the type of fleet.
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Cortezdtv

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #32 on: September 22, 2015, 04:56:36 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.



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.


I fall into a few of your categories, I know they are just general, but let me try answer a few of these points. My first bike, was a really really beat down 2010 that I bought from my neighbor it was there pit bike. I was young but it was a small little X and it served me well. So well I proceeded to beat it into the ground, beating the local trails with friends. Fortunately for me Zero is local and they were able to help me with a new bike, the old one  now by this time completely bald sprockets, not even 1 tooth, smooth.....but hey it never left me stranded even, after the sprocket gave way 5 miles from home, it was just a slow is trip, like a car when the tranny is blown and your limping to the shop to get it fixed. I cant complain about that bike, Zero was able to retrofit 2011 stuff on the bike and for a small fee got me up and running again.
I loved this bike so much i street legaled it then proceeded to buy another, and another, and well you can guess where this is going, to and another, until I basically had a fleet.


Let me touch on the "Zero" value point

That's not really true now that Zero gives the trade in, and even before, the bikes stayed around 2500-3500 for a really beat down one, lets face it, most beat down motorcycles sell for the going rate... 1000$ so to me they have held there value

Compare it to a 2014 CRF 450X  8500MSRP starting plus delivery fee 500 blah blah blah lets just say 9000
zero fx new 2013    13000 msrp fees inclueded

today     the 14 CRF on craigslist for 4500 all day around me
if you can even find a 2013 fx for sale
cheapest one Ive even seen was on here not too long ago, and he is a new member think he bought it in a day or 2..... at almost 6000 out the door, most Ive seen went for in the 7000-9000 range.... so that is very even with a gas bike of equal size
so even as a "early adopter" its not that bad, and most of the people who own zeros have them a long time, until they get another...



The support has been getting with every year, and with any bike past 2013 it is an un-describable amount easier to diagnose and fix them. When they went from a 2 wire connection at the motor to the 3 phase with encoder angle it changed everything about the bikes. From the trade in program offered they are clearly trying to help, what would seem everyone with a street zero, to get on a newer more reliable bike that any zero dealer can work on. Lets face it there are not very many dealers that know alot about the very early bikes (pre 2012), and from a companies stand point they cant sit and dwell over a "miss" design here or there, they have to move on and get ready for the next year of bikes.
 
From this point forward the platform is going to stay the same, so you will be able to use newer parts in the older bikes. You can already with many of the parts and its only going to expand to include the batteries eventually. You have to think if even if they were to leave the MY 13 bikes out, then they would be adopted into trade in when the 2017 bikes come out, something logical like they just did.

by offering the trade in it holds the value of any street legal Zero up as well.


as far as serviceability this is a big conversation... and honestly hard to even type its a huge topic of conversation.
Its pretty clear that they are trying to take the older bikes which had a lot random issues particularly the 2012's and get people to make the switch.... hard to rag on a company that would do that in my opinion, no other auto maker would even consider it.

And.... They have been more and more helpful as years goes on, you have to think the customer service staff is small as far answering phone calls, emails, etc, its only a handful of people, so they do do a pretty good job.



Your not allowed to touch your own Tesla, and they make you perform annual service, why should zero really be any different?


just to play devils advocate here from there prospective how can you guarantee that every individual is capable of working on their own bike. You go playing around with to many settings on a zero and you might end up in reverse, seriously.... and from a liability stand point they cant have that happen, well ever. Look at what happened to Toyota and the floor mat flooring itself issue, if first service point on any toyota is check list. CHECK DRIVER FLOOR MAT for proper placement blah blah blah

Zero doesn't want anyone hurting themselves on the bike, from playing with the settings, seems reasonable, ish.

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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #33 on: September 22, 2015, 05:18:49 AM »

That's not really true now that Zero gives the trade in, and even before, the bikes stayed around 2500-3500 for a really beat down one, lets face it, most beat down motorcycles sell for the going rate... 1000$ so to me they have held there value

by offering the trade in it holds the value of any street legal Zero up as well.

I guess everyone has different experiences.
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Cortezdtv

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2015, 05:59:50 AM »

That's not really true now that Zero gives the trade in, and even before, the bikes stayed around 2500-3500 for a really beat down one, lets face it, most beat down motorcycles sell for the going rate... 1000$ so to me they have held there value

by offering the trade in it holds the value of any street legal Zero up as well.

I guess everyone has different experiences.



Does your bike run? were you not offered the trade in? or do you just not want it?


Yes that is my experience, and my opionon, but show me where im wrong in the value category? If I am indeed of its not my much.

Show me how your bike is worth 0$....

Or well lets hear your experience.... I provided some validity  (or what I think is some) to the statements I made.
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #35 on: September 22, 2015, 06:23:13 AM »

Fortunately for me Zero is local and they were able to help me with a new bike

were you not offered the trade in?

Given your proximity to and direct dealings with Zero, you must be in California.  I think things are a little different there.  You have to admit that you have cherry-picked a more rosy market.

Even if I tried to sell out-of-state to California, the various motorcycle shipping options state up to 15 days to ship.  Zero's user manual says the battery can't be taken off the charger for more than 3 days.

The only local offer was to take a trade-in for a '14 DS/S, but that isn't a remotely similar bike to the XU.  Getting $3k knocked off the most expensive models in the lineup of a two-year old model doesn't mean the existing bikes have value.  The dealer was trying to claim that I could then sell the bike, but just the sales tax wipes out most of the trade-in, and then the '14 models are simply no longer worth their list price.

For comparison, when I sold my long-serving Suzuki GS500E a few years ago, I had multiple buyers emailing me within minutes of my Craigslist post.
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Cortezdtv

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #36 on: September 22, 2015, 06:34:25 AM »

Wasn't trying to rose the market, it's just what it is around here;

I stay on Craigslist because of my job so I look at bikes and cars a lot too....




Sorry your area isn't the same..... Or at least a little closer



Trust me I feel for you on the trade in, I wanted to do it as well but I want to trade in a non working bike not my working bike.... Why would I do that :(

And I'm with you I was offer the fx on trade in initially, that all changed real quick

Every company has some flaws....
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #37 on: September 22, 2015, 06:36:41 AM »

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!

It is more than aesthetics; what is troubling about conversions is that the motor seems to get placed where ever it will fit rather than what makes sense for the swingarm geometry.
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CrashCash

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2015, 08:21:31 AM »

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.

Actually, yes it is so. Look at the "Honda Common Service Manual" part #61CM001

This is a manual that details what a shop tech needs to know before he picks up the model-specific manual for his bike. It details such things as:
* what different types of ball/needle bearings are, and how to take care of them
* what the strength markings on bolts means, what torque value means, how to torque down a bolt, and why there are special bolts in special situations, ways to keep your fasteners from loosening, and 20 types of fasteners other than nuts & bolts.
* how the throttle, choke, fuel pump and crankcase breather work, and the oil pump on a 2-stroke.
* what valve clearance means and how to use feeler gauges, including ancient torsion-bar style valve springs
* what chain sliders, chain guides, guide sliders and rollers are, on a swingarm
* how to change brake & clutch fluids
* the difference between chain, belt, v-matic, and shaft drives
* how transmissions and manual and automatic clutches work
* how to do compression and leak-down testing
* how carburetors, fuel injection, and emissions controls work, including PAIR valves and accelerator pumps, and the theory of the idle, main, and high speed jets and needles, as well as the difference between constant-velocity and flat-slide carburetors.
* how to change a tire on a rim
* how front suspension works, including scooter Earl forks and various types of "forkless" front ends
* several different frame types, including stamped metal, welded tube, and aluminum delta box
* how rear suspension works, including single-sided swingarms, and dirtbike progressive linkages
* electrical fundamentals, including
   ** how to not crush wires
   ** what DC is
   ** what AC is
   ** what current/resistance/amperage is, and Ohm's Law
   ** how a rectifier works, and spark plug coils
   ** how a alternator, generator, or magneto works (and shows several designs of each)
   ** how a breaker point system works
   ** how transistors & diodes work, and how the CDI & transistorized ignition systems work
   ** how switches and safety cutouts work
   ** basic diagnostics such as what a DMM is, and voltage drop testing

There's a ton more, but I got tired of typing. It's well-written and easily $120 worth of entertainment, which is what mine cost me, I think.

I don't know if other manufacturer's have such basic "starter" manuals, but everyone said "you gotta buy that Honda one, it's a treasure"

You didn't think service techs magically knew all this shit, I hope? Of course by the time they go "I wanna be a bike tech" they SHOULD, but then I know a ton of "software engineers" that have no clue what a linked list is.

My earlier point is that there's currently no such manual for EVs because each EV (including Tesla, Brammo, Zero, Mission, etc) is unique in its computer systems and controller design. To work on them, you have to start with a ton of electrical and computer knowledge, then get access to the manufacturer's "super secret sauce"

This sauce is so secret because (like software source code) it represents all the hard work and all the expensive design, testing, failure, redesign, retest, etc that went into things.

At the end of the day, a Zero is a battery pack, motor, frame, some computers, and firmware. The firmware probably is 75% of the work of designing a Zero, other than sourcing and manufacturing the battery pack.

This means the ICE tech at the local bike dealer probably takes a basic course from Zero, and then the troubleshooting procedure is mainly "1-800-CALL-ZERO" and this sucks. I don't think it'll improve until Zero can spend money on a REAL tech repair course.

Part of the problem is also no one knows the failure modes. What are the symptoms of a bad BMS versus the bad wiring harness that my bike had? How was Zero able to tell the difference over the phone? How do you tell if the Sevcon is bad, or maybe it's just a bad CANBUS connector?

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?

Yup. I can easily see that as a software design mistake. I see crap like that all the time, like a customer service website that based everything on their registration number, but never gave them a place to enter it, or update it for new purchases.

Also, any industrial electronics are going to be potted in epoxy. This is for vibration and moisture resistance. Look at any motorcycle regulator/rectifier, ECU, or dashboard controller. Hell, I remember blowing a huge crater in a reg/rec once when my stator windings shorted, and it was over an inch deep in the epoxy.

I've seen Intel industrial evaluation boards back in the '80s that were program-once and toss the entire board.

However, I've seen the BMS board for my 2015 and it's not potted, which was a huge surprise to me.

Anyway, when these bikes were designed EVERYONE WAS AN AMATEUR. There were (and still are) very few electric bikes out there, and so they had to stumble across "oops don't do THAT" since they were the first ones to do whatever.

It's just like rockets in the '50s, when people realized "oops, don't let your turbine blades rub on the casing!", "don't put room temp fuel lines next to cryogenic oxidizer lines so they don't freeze" and "make sure your fuel lines don't vibrate until they snap!" - that's "common sense" only in hindsight.

Hell, the Russians, who are old hands at rockets, recently committed the "don't put room temp fuel lines next to cryogenic oxidizer lines so they don't freeze" mistake with the new Fregat upper stage design, and they sure as hell should have known better.

I have heard the military contract was a godsend, since the military beat the shit out of the bikes in ways a customer who had to pay for his bike never would, then gave them feedback on how it broke. It was a huge torture testing program for free.

Personally most of this is why I wasn't real interested in electric bikes until I saw Zero had ABS and real suspension. It meant they were perhaps not "grown up" but certainly past the "teenager" stage of being temperamental and throwing fits.

My Zero is fundamentally different from any bike I've ever owned. I don't consider it a motorcycle, but more as a battery powered computer network on wheels.

I consider it to be in the same era as ICE bikes in the 1920s. Read "Early Motorcycles, Construction and Repair" by Victor W. Page for an eyeopening look at the shit people had to put up with...

For example, one early "carburetor" was a set of cotton wicks in the fuel tank leading to the intake!
They didn't have clutches, so they had bicycle pedals to restart at every stop, or operated a sprocket to slip the leather belt.
They didn't have oil pumps, it was up to the rider to pump in oil every so often by hand.
Engines didn't have intake valve mechanisms, other than having suction open them.
An early ignition system was opening a small window showing the fuel vapors a flame.

I'm hoping we're kind of past that technical level of EV development. That's the lead-acid battery, 15 mile range level of EV.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2015, 08:23:03 AM by CrashCash »
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CrashCash

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2015, 08:34:10 AM »

God, I haven't thought of torsion valve springs in decades. I remember taking the valve cover off my first bike and going "where the hell are the valve springs!?"

Also, "where the hell is the oil filter?!" as it didn't have one! It had a cup in the middle of the clutch that gathered particles from the oil with centrifugal force, and cleaning it was a nightmare. Most people didn't even know about it, which is why the bikes didn't usually last past a year or two.

Now I need to schedule more trauma sessions with my psychiatrist...
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #40 on: September 30, 2015, 08:40:05 AM »

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?

Also, any industrial electronics are going to be potted in epoxy. This is for vibration and moisture resistance. Look at any motorcycle regulator/rectifier, ECU, or dashboard controller.

I think there may be a misunderstanding.  Just to clarify on the epoxy: I'm not criticizing the use of epoxy per se.  The problem was that there wasn't a mechanism to update the software once the PCB had been encapsulated in epoxy. 

I've seen Intel industrial evaluation boards back in the '80s that were program-once and toss the entire board.

To be fair... in the 80s, ROMs were "mask ROMs", program-once, or variants of the "program-once" in ceramic-packages with a window that could be exposed to UV light to erase it.  Such approaches became obsolete by the mid 90s.  Zero didn't design their ECU in the 1980s; their microcontroller has re-programmable NOR flash.
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peter

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #41 on: October 01, 2015, 06:02:46 AM »

As 1920s motorcycles were just raised - a friend rode his 1920something (1925 I think) Norton 16H 20+ miles each way to an historic motorcycle show last weekend. Anyone here think a pre-2013 Zero will be making a ride like that in 2100 or so?

Or, for that matter, 2020?
Peter

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peter

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #42 on: October 01, 2015, 06:03:38 AM »

And thanks, pinaz, for this thread.
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pinaz

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #43 on: October 01, 2015, 06:07:42 AM »

And thanks, pinaz, for this thread.

I'm glad someone got some sort of utility out of it.
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ColoPaul

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Re: taking stock of Zero motorcycle design flaws
« Reply #44 on: October 01, 2015, 06:47:24 AM »

As 1920s motorcycles were just raised - a friend rode his 1920something (1925 I think) Norton 16H 20+ miles each way to an historic motorcycle show last weekend. Anyone here think a pre-2013 Zero will be making a ride like that in 2100 or so?

Or, for that matter, 2020?
Peter
Absolutely!   Jay Leno is driving around a 1909 electric car.  I can certainly imagine someone taking pride in finding the oldest Zero they can find and refurbing it to show it off in 2100.   
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