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Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Search For The Perfect Electric Vehicle - Harry Ends Up In Morgantown WV

Darus Zehrbach - Darus Zehrbach - and Harry - posing with Harry's favorite bike - the T Series. This one - the T6100 - could go 62 MPH - 85 miles range - with lithium batteries - for $8200. This bike is presently being tested in Holland for city patrols.
Last week - I made a trip to Morgantown WV to visit ZEV - Z Electric Vehicles Corporation. Darus Zehrbach and Darus Zehrbach design and build a long broad line of electric scooters. Prices range from $2000 to $14,000. Top speeds go from 15 MPH to 80 MPH - driving range varies from 140 miles to 40 miles. Batteries go from Lithium Ion to Lead Silicate. 

The top selling Sport Series could be had with a 7100 watt motor - 75 MPH - 100 miles - $8900. I drove it with lead batteries  - 5000 watt motor - 62 MPH - 54 miles - $4500. 
I have been searching for a really dependable electric scooter for years. In 1975 - we bought an Arenthetic Scooter to use while working with the The Tamaqua Paper. It went about 20 MPH for 20 miles. Then you had to plug it in overnight into a 110 volt outlet to charge its two large lead acid batteries. 
The LRC boasts a 10000 watt motor - 78 MPH - 140 miles range  - $14,000.
Presently I own a Club Car golf cart and a Nissan Leaf 4 door sedan. The Club go can go about 25 miles on its four large 12-volt lead acid batteries at about 18 MPH. The Nissan Leaf can go 97 MPH but for optimum range of 80 miles - you should only go 55 MPH. It has Lithium Ion batteries and it charges in a couple hours on my 220 volt garage charger. Its 24 kilowatt hour battery has an 8 year warranty. Supposedly - the company will replace for free any cell that fails during that time. 

Electric vehicles are elegant. Mainly - there are three basic components - batteries - controller - and motor. The motor has very few moving parts. There is no transmission - no exhaust system - no oil to change - no fuel system to tune - no ignition system to fail. There is no pollution produced by the car - but of course you need to make the electricity somewhere. The power company uses usually coal - oil - natural gas - or uranium. Some of our power is made by solar or hydroelectric dams. Here in Tallahassee they make the electricity with 95% natural gas and 5% from a large dam west of town. 
The B-4000 Cargo. It boasts a 4000 watt motor - 40 MPH - 60 miles range - $2800 - This bike can handle a 500 pound load. It has a big motor - big frame stand - and a seat that turns into a cargo bed. The battery pack is not installed on this unit as shown.
I had an electric bike that had a small electric motor that drove the back wheel by chain. It worked very well - but the chain was noisy. I also had another electric scooter that had a motor in the back wheel - it was very nice but underpowered. So my search has continued for the perfect electric vehicle.

Getting back to the ZEV Corporation - they have a shop on Ohio Street in a suburb of Morgantown WV called Westover. They design their components which are then mostly built by factories in China. The parts come in large containers - and they are assembled right here at the West Virginia shop on assembly lines. They are constantly testing new configurations - the right mix of controllers - batteries - brakes - motors - frames - and body parts. 

Darius allowed me to test drive anything I saw. I was leaning toward smaller less expensive bikes that I would like. They wanted me to drive their top of the line flagships. 

Their shop is about 2 miles out of town - across the river from downtown Morgantown and the West Virginia University. So I did most of my testing on or near the campus. There are some giant steep hills that would challenge any vehicle. I did not come away disappointed. 

General - the lithium ion battery vehicles were much more nimble - mainly because you can get almost twice the amount of power out of 1/2 of the weight. The lighter the weight of a bike - the faster it is and the easier it is to handle. Although they like to keep the batteries low - vehicles with lead silicate batteries are a little harder to handle at slow speeds. 

Lithium batteries can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a vehicle. Supposedly - Nissan spends $16,000 on the battery pack of one Leaf. Fortunately - you can replace bad cells individually and easily. The same with these scooters.

Do I want one - YES - YES - YES. Money is not the problem either. My garage is full - 3 cars - 2 scooter - 1 golf cart - 1 riding mower - 1 gas frill - 1 table saw - 1 lawn sweeper - 2 garbage cans. It is really hard moving around in there - I have to make some choices. A least a car- scooter - and golf cart would have to go - to make room for my dream bike. 
A very attractive gauge system - digital speedometer - large battery gauge at left.
The biggest problem with electric vehicles is always battery range. Face it - presently you can't take them very far. Sunday we went to visit our friends Josh and Melissa in Havana FL driving our Nissan Leaf. It is 25 miles from door to door. When we left home the gauge said 70 miles left. At Havana - the gauge was down to 45. We seldom take it down that far. If I would have had my charger plug along - I could have plugged into Josh's car port - probably a gross thing to do. After a wonderful dinner - we got in the car with the gauge reading 45 - and when we arrived home it read 20 miles left. I think that is as low as we ever ran the car but there is no noticeable drop off in power. The only time you notice the gauge moving is when you turn on the air conditioner - you lose 10% of your range. So really - the paranoia in your own mind is the culprit. They say you really aren't paranoid if everyone is out to get you :-)

I rode these bikes all over West Virginia University.The hilly campus was quite a test.
Supposedly a Tesla has a range of 300 miles. They also supposedly have a fast charging station network every 100 miles - that can give you a full charge in 20 minutes. Since we seldom run our Leaf down to 40 miles - ours charges on a 220 volt plug in less than 2 hours. A full charge would take 7 hours. 

After a full day of riding electric scooters and watching them assemble a few bikes - I hopped in my rental car and cruised 200 miles to stay with my son and his wife in Washington DC. Although electric vehicles may be the future in America - I doubt that I will ever be able to make that trip in my Leaf. 

Wide tires and big disk brakes - these bikes can handle a big load and also stop a big load. 
Disk brakes and a big kick stand.

With lithium batteries - this one costs $8000. It is a serious every day driver.

Giant armatures in the motors provide gobs of torque.

This B-750 Cargo (750 watt motor) - is tuned down to stay below 20 MPH. With its pedals it usually can be driven without a license or a tag. Here it is in cargo mode.

Here is the B-750 in passenger mode.

The grass is greener in West Virginia. This Sports Bike can be had with  a 5000 watts engine - 6100 watts engine -  and a 7100 watt engine. As speed goes up - range goes down. 
A night at the opera on your electric scooter.
It looks like any other cycle - just no exhaust pipe - and no noise.

Taking an electric to a basketball game

Giant motors (10000 watt - 7100 watt - 6100 watt - 5100 watt) - motors are in the rear hub

disk brakes

The black box is the controller. It sends the right power to the motor. 
The front disk brake and the back disk brakes are the same size

Biking along the Monongahela River.

The seat back can fold up for cargo - down for a passenger. 
The LRC is 10000 watts of turnpike cruising power 

This LRC will take 2 passengers almost to 80 MPH

Digital dash. Green means power on. No sound.
ZEV - Z Electric Vehicles
My dream bike - the T-7100 - 7100 watt motor - 84 volt lithium battery - 100 miles range - 75 MPH - $8900.

For more information -
Darus Zehrbach - President
32 West Jefferson Street
Westover WV 265505

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