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Archive for the ‘Electric’ Category

Electric motorcycles and scooters, as the type name implies, run on electricity. Obviously, the two wheelers don’t have a very long extension lead plugged into a socket, but instead they run on batteries.

But normal 12V motorcycle batteries as we know them will not supply enough power to propel the bike any further than a mile or two. No, to be able to ride a reasonable distance on an electrically powered two wheeler, you need more batteries, and these batteries need to have a higher energy.

Take for example one of the top American electric motorcycle manufacturers, Brammo. This is what a Brammo will look like if you cut it open:

Brammo-Batteries-1

Those blue things are the batteries. They are Lithium-Ion batteries, and they are not 12V but 103 Volt (with a max voltage of 117.6V). They supply a total capacity of 9.31 kWh, with a peak of 10.2 kWh.

Brammo-Batteries-2

It’s the battery pack capacity that counts for electric motorcycles. The higher the number, the more power it has.

But to recharge so many batteries requires special equipment. Depending on where you plug your bike in (known as Level 1, 2 or even 3 charging) you can fully charge your bike in 3.5 hours or 8 hours (in the case of level 1, your household electrical socket).

But all those batteries make the bike heavy. If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see that the engine is the smallest part, in sharp contrast with its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cousins. The biggest volume is taken up by the batteries. In total, the Brammo Empulse weighs 460 lbs (some 213 kilos).

But despite the heavy weight, the Brammo can still deliver an incredible 90 Nm of peak torque, more than most sportsmotorcycles.

Even electric scooters use similar large amounts of batteries. Take for example the BMW C-Evolution:

BMW-C-Evolution-Batteries

Apart from the 12 cells (which by the way come from the electric car from BMW, the i3), there is one “normal” 12V battery located in the front housing which takes care of the normal electrical functions (dashboard, horn, etc).

The engine’s batteries, like the Brammo, are Lithium-Ion and supply 8 kWh. Recharging these batteries using a standard domestic 12A socket takes 4 hours (if it’s a 16A socket, it’ll take 3 hours).

The 12 cells supply 60 Ah and 133V, and the whole scooter weighs 265 kilos. But despite that weight, you get a torque of 72 Nm which is available all the time.

So as you can see, batteries take up the biggest amount of space on an electric bike. By far! Over the next few years, even decade, the batteries will start becoming smaller, lighter and packing more punch, allowing for longer rides. But until then, you will need to content yourself with riding 60 to 100 miles before requiring a charge. Far enough for a daily commute, not far enough for a weekend ride of the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap.

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“Necessity is the mother of invention” as the proverb goes, and as mankind, we have a lot of needs, and therefore a lot of inventions. Here is the example of a creative man who had the need for a small and portable transportation vehicle to get around town without needing to have a bulky motorcycle or scooter. Something small and compact.

The man in question is a farmer in Hunan, China and during 10 years he tinkered on his majestical idea of putting a motorcycle inside a suitcase so that he could take it anywhere and not have to worry about parking it, and worse, that it might be stolen.

Suitcase-Motorcycle-1

So the farmer created the first ever motorcycle suitcase. With three small wheels, and collapsable steering wheel and even equipped with a fully functional GPS, the suitcase motorcycle is functional. And the design objectives were met; small and compact. The vehicle runs on a rechargeable lithium battery, so it’s even ecological.

The “suitbike” speeds through town at 20 kph (12 mph), though it has run 50-60 kph, but speed is not the issue. The whole thing weighs only 7 kilos (15lbs), so once he has arrived at his destination, he just lugs the suitcase inside, just like any other suitcase. The suitbike can ride up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) on a full charge. And if you’re traveling with someone, it can accommodate 2 people, so you can bring your pillion.

Suitcase-Motorcycle-2

I just wonder if the airlines would accept this as checked or cabin luggage. Imagine arriving at your destination airport, sitting on your suitcase, and riding away. Priceless.

What a great idea. Click here to see a video of the motorcycle suitcase.

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Electric motorcycles have got their share of nay-sayers. Although truth be told, more and more bikers are seriously looking towards the electric motorcycle. With Harley-Davidson’s recent introduction of their LiveWire electric motorcycle, the e-motorcycle suddenly got thrust into the limelight.

Harley-Davidson LifeWire

Harley-Davidson LifeWire

Before, it was the likes of Brammo and Zero to carry the electric motorcycle evolution torch, but these startups do not have the market power that the Milwaukee brand has, and it was obvious if you followed the news; any news, since all TV stations around the world talked about it in their evening news. Even TV stations in Outer-Mongolia showed the Harley-Davidson.

But one place where electric bikes are starting to make their mark is in the motorcycle racing sport. And one race where they are doing so is at one of the most craziest, dangerous and spectator-drawing races: the Isle of Man TT race.

The Isle of Man TT race is a very long track using public roads on the Isle of Man (an island located next to England). And when I write public roads, it means that they take the normal road used by thousands of cars, trucks and buses and close it for a few hours to let motorcycles race on them. Roads that had previously seen mud, dirt, oil and even cattle droppings. All that while the motorcycles race at speeds of up to 150 mph! If you want to read more about the race and the atmosphere of the TT race, I highly recommend the book TT Full Throttle from author Nicole Winters (it’s a novel not a biography book, so the story never happened but the surroundings and facts are all true).

At this year’s IoM TT race, the current champion and TT legend John McGuinness on his electric Mugen Shinden motorcycle raced around the island, setting a new lap record for electric motorcycles at 117.366 mph. That’s an average speed, not the top speed! Below you can see the onboard video of the amazing run. The electric motorcycle is almost as fast as the ICE equivalent motorcycles (Internal Combustion Engine), which stands at 132 mph. The only difference is that the ICE motorcycles do 3 laps, while the electric motorcycle can only do one lap.

But watching the video, you know two things for sure: 1. electric motorcycles will in the next few years become mainstream, and 2) IoM TT racers are crazy and suicidal.

So maybe you are deadset against electric motorcycles, but 100 years ago people were against internal combustion engines, preferring horses. But that changed, didn’t it? So why wouldn’t electric motorcycles become mainstream?

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Traditional thinking see a motorcycle have two wheels, three if it is a sidecar. By why limit yourself to traditional thinking? One company did just that and came up with a single wheel motorcycle (other have as well, but for this article we are concentrating on this one).

Ryno-1

Using more or less the innovation that the Segway brought to the masses, Ryno Motors uses a motion sensing computer to judge whether you are not riding straight up, in other words, about to topple over, and then automatically readjusts the vehicle. So it is the computer that enables you to ride on one wheel without continuously needed to do a balancing act.

You use your body to turn; shift your body mass a bit to the left, and the bike turns left, body to the right, and you bike turns right. It’s very much like riding a normal two wheel motorcycle, shifting your weight causes the bike to turn. Want to accelerate? Shift your weight forward. Slow down? Lean backwards. People who have ridden a Segway should be comfortable with this machine. The “bike” does have handlebars, so you can ride it like a motorcycle.

Ryno-3

Needless to say, the Ryno is an electric motorcycle. Its top speed is pretty low, about 10 mph, and you will not ride an endurance race with it; 10 miles before the battery goes flat (it takes 6 hours to recharge, but it does charge from your car’s 12V outlet). But if all you need is something that would replace a Segway, so short distances without the need for speed, this could be interesting. It requires very little space, and for the motorcycle-die-hard fans, it still feels like a motorcycle.

It costs $5,295.

Ryno-2

So would this be the future technology? Will it replace motorcycles? Have a look at the video below to give you an idea.

No, no way. Not at the price, nor at those speeds, nor at those ranges. But it can and will replace Segways. If I were to require a Segway, I would go for one of these.

Would this vehicle tickle your fancy?

Source: Ryno Motors

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When the weather gets cold, really cold, and the snow is on the ground, most of even the hardest of hardcore bikers will leave their motorcycles in the garage. Only a very few will go out in winter conditions on their motorcycle; some because of their passionate love for riding a motorcycle, some because they have no choice.

Heated-LinerBut whether you ride in the winter or not, the advantages of owning heated jackets (and even trousers and gloves) has advantages that many have not considered.

First of all, if you do decide to ride in the winter, you really need to keep very warm. If your body cools down, you are going to lose your focus and when you do, you are going to have an accident. Wrapping yourself up in layers of clothing is good, but probably not sufficient. Read these articles (part 1, part 2, part 3) we wrote about winter riding to find out more.

Putting on electrically heated clothing is going to make you feel very comfortable. So if you are planning to ride in the winter, plan to get some heated jackets at least. There are male and female versions. Heated gloves are going to be pretty much in demand as well.

An Advantage You Will Not Have Thought Of

But there is another advantage of owning heated clothing you probably will not have thought of. And that is to use it when driving your car!

snow-car

When your car sits outside in the cold, and you arrive in the morning to drive to work, all shivering, you start your car and put on the heater. Then you drive off, and all the time you wait for the heater to get to a proper temperature. And this takes quite some time, and then when you’ve reached a proper and cozy temperature, you’re probably already close to work, and your windows are fogged up.

If you put on an electrically heated liner for example under your coat, plug it in when you enter your car, you’ll find that the heat builds up almost instantaneously. So you will be warm and cozy even before you drive out of your street.

The other advantages are that your windows will not fog up and you use less power to heat your liner (and maybe gloves) than your conventional heater. Motorcycle heated clothing are made to be used on motorcycles where there is less power than in a car, so electrical consumption is far less, so you use less gas.

So now you can drive your car in the winter while feeling nice and warm, all by using your heated motorcycle clothing.

Be ecological, and use a heated motorcycle jacket in the car.

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This is part 2 of a long review of the Scala Rider Q2 Pro Helmet Headset, a wireless communication device for motorcycle helmets. Click here to read part 1.

Music
I turned on the iPhone’s music. The Q2 Pro is equipped with the A2DP/AVRCP Bluetooth profiles, meaning you get a very good quality stereo, and it showed. The sound was excellent, close to being in a concert hall. It’s a very enjoyable experience, listening to music while riding. And if your music player doesn’t have Bluetooth, the Q2 Pro has a standard audio jack into which can plug your player.

The advantage of the Q2 Pro is that sound is priority driven, meaning that while you are listening to your favorite music, if your pillion starts talking to you on the intercom, or your riding partner does, or even if your GPS has navigation instructions to give you, the music is interrupted until the other party is finished. Then music is turned back on, and all this is done automatically.

Obviously the same applies to your phone. If someone rings, your music or conversations are interrupted, and you can talk to whoever is calling you. BUT, please pull over to continue your conversation. Talking on the phone while riding is VERY dangerous.

The Q2 Pro is also equipped with a decent FM radio with a RDS function (that’s a feature that bikers love, since if a radio station has different antennas located in geographically parts of the country, the Q2 will select the transmitter with the strongest signal; No need to “dial” the best station, the Q2 does it for you). 6 stations can be pre-programmed, and selecting the station is relatively easy, a question of pressing a button sequence.

Battery
The Q2 Pro battery is slated for a total of 8 hours continuous operations (and 7 days in standby mode). Our experience is more or less that. We did spend most of the day on the road, had lunch, continued riding, and in between we did turn off the units. So we can’t tell you 100% if the 8 hours were met, but if they didn’t, it was close. But do remember that the older the batteries become, the less long they go.

Charging the units takes about 3 hours, so easy and quick.

Scala-Rider-Q2-Pro-3

Summary
The units worked very well as advertised. Sound was crystal clear and loud enough at any speed. The intercom usage was great, even fun. Music was beautiful, the range of notes that can be played through the speakers was very good. It made the riding experience, whether riding with others or solo a more memorable experience. If you’ve never tried riding with music, TRY IT.

The Q2 Pro can be used with other Scala Rider units, which is an advantage; It means if you buy it, you can continue using it even if your friends have upgraded to more advanced Scala Rider units.

On the downside of the Q2 (and other Scala units) is that using the models requires you to memorize button sequences (it does have voice commands, but it’s not very practical). Often it’s not a question of pushing one of the four buttons, but a sequence. And that makes it more difficult when riding, when your brains are focussing on the road, it become difficult to remember what to press.

My suggestion to Scala is make a remote control unit that gets placed on your handlebars (like the Parrot SK4000), or maybe even an application for the smartphone to control the units.

But for the rest, I really liked the Q2 Pro. And for the price, you can a full biker entertainment & communication system. What’s there not to like in that?

Click here to buy the Scala Rider Q2 Pro.

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There’s something to be said about riding your motorcycle with only the sound of your throbbing engine, wind blowing over your helmet and the whistling of the tires on the road. You’re on your own, and nothing and nobody to bother you in the solitude of your ride. But then there are times that you would want to communicate with someone while riding.

Many of us bikers ride with pillions or with other bikers. During the ride we do want to talk to them. For example with your pillion; “do we stop now”, “should we go left here”, etc. Same with your riding buddies: “watch out for that SUV!”, “I’ll wait for you at the gas station”.

There’s also a large population of bikers who like listening to music while riding. Many bikers can blast music through rainproof speakers, but that’s not very friendly towards other people who are sharing the road.

One way of doing all of the above is by using a special headset that gets fitted into your helmet. The unit communicates with other devices, including music players, without any wires. The wireless technology is called Bluetooth, something most modern smartphones are equipped with, and many electronic devices use as standard.

One of the undisputed leaders in the field of biker wireless communications is Scala. They have a range of Bluetooth headsets called “Rider”. For this review, I decided to try out their best selling Q2 Pro model.

Scala Rider Q2 Pro

Scala Rider Q2 Pro

Before you begin using the Scala (or any other manufacturer’s model) you need to install the unit inside your helmet. Most of them are stereo, so you’ll need to fit two (usually very flat) loudspeakers, a microphone (make sure you’re ordering the right one for your type of helmet) and the control unit/battery. For some it’s going to be easy, for others it might be more of a problem.

Test Ride
For the review I went for a ride with Jake, who was on his Harley. He has a similar Scala Rider Q2 Pro fitted in his helmet (NOTE: Bluetooth communications devices will only work with other units from the same manufacturer, not with other ones; you can not mix & match units from different manufacturers).

Both units were paired to each other (pairing is a way to inter-connect units to each other and to other devices, and it basically involves pressing a button sequence), and my Q2 was paired with my iPhone. My iPhone has, obviously, music in its “iPod” part and a TomTom GPS navigator software. All these items can be accessed through the Q2 Pro, including the phone.

Scala Rider Q2 Pro Devices

Scala Rider Q2 Pro Devices

Bike-to-Bike/Intercom
The bike-to-bike communications function is billed to work up to 2300 feet, but that’s the theoretical range, not the real working range. The real range will depend on where you are riding and what the atmospheric conditions are. In our case, when we had an open road with little traffic the range was pretty good, some 1900 feet, which is pretty impressive. In the forests, range dropped to 1300-1500 feet, and in the city we would be lucky with 900 feet. But despite the range being lower than what it’s billed for, it’s still very good. It beats shouting.

Talking to each other is a great way of riding. Sharing the fun is twice the fun. Sound is loud & clear (you can turn the volume up sufficiently), and the communication with Jake, even at the limits of the range, was very good and clear at all times The noise cancellation microphone works very well. Not a single time did the communication channel get opened because of outside noise, something older units suffered from.

An important aspect of Bluetooth communications is that it’s not like the good old CB radio or walkie-talkie days. It’s not one person talking and then saying “over”. The transmission is full duplex, in other words, both parties can talk at the same time.

The Q2 Pro will only handle one intercom; your pillion or your riding partner. If you need to handle multiple bikers, either go for one of the bigger models (and more expensive), or get a Bluetooth equipped walkie-talkie.

That ends part 1 of the review. Click here for Part 2.

Click here for more info on the Scala Rider Q2 Pro.

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