Sneezin’ Cretins from the Electric Chronicles (And Thoughts on the New Year)

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I’ve been AWOL lately, and I apologize, but I got a little overwhelmed.  Things have settled down a bit, and I want to wish you all a great holiday season, and lots of Watts for the New Year!  The Electric Chronicles has really grown over the last year, lots of people have been reading “…from Fossils to Flux” and showing their appreciation to me, on the blogs and groups, and I very much appreciate it.  One of my projects is to go through all of the nearly 1000 posts here and make sure I have categories set up for easy access to the information you want.  Who knew when I started it, it would actually turn into something?

I took a look at my New Year’s predictions last year, and had a little chuckle.  I actually nailed a few of them, totally missed some and beyond that, had no idea 2013 would find me the Director of the Mt Washington Auto Road ALT Energy Summit, and finally starting up the Boston Chapter of the EAA.  Seems like the inmates are getting the keys…  The first project I’m tackling with the EAA is to get some charging stations installed  in the local area, including the Larz Anderson Auto Museum.  Stay tuned on that. It’s going to be as much about learning how to work the system as it is the end result.

Point by point, on the prediction post, yes, this year saw electric cars hit that critical mass of acceptance, with Tesla leading the way.  I have little doubt that it will continue to grow, and it seems like electric car owners’ groups are now the biggest and fastest growing EV force out there.  Note to self, on growing the Boston EAA – the owners groups, rather than the die-hard EV garage builders are where the muscle (and heart) is now.  How can we get them on board, and moving the EAA to where they want (and need) it to be is the big question.

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Zero didn’t build a superbike, but their 2014 models are pretty damned super.  Brammo, on the other hand, hasn’t even released specs for a 2014 Empulse, and their main site shows “2012” on the Empulse splash page.  Their race efforts seem to be up to date, however, and before you tell me it’s just a typo or an oversight, let’s remember how much effort they put into their Facebook posts (even when they have nothing to do with their product), IPO announcements and building new buildings…  yet they don’t seem to care about their main site?  Zero is on a pretty normal development trajectory, and Brammo seems to have been a splash in the pan with even the noise dying down – all but the hollow repetition of the same old blather.

Oh well.

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I’m sorry to see there was no big battery revolution, but there certainly has been incremental progress, with some prices dropping and some more accessibility to builders.  The Zero Z-Force® Power Tank pack almost trumps everything – if we could buy that pack off-the-shelf without having to do an end run through dealers, it may change the custom builder market pretty significantly.  …and honestly, it’s not that hard to get your hands on even now.

The TTXGP has all but completely floundered in the US, and it’s hard to figure what’s going on in Europe this year.  I frankly don’t even feel like giving it the bandwidth these days, what with all the mis-information, spin and politics, but we’re seeing some interesting grass roots efforts at what amounts to club racing – which is where I’ve always thought things should be anyway.  Those guys, painfully, don’t seem to understand much about promotion, (no main site, just a bunch of spamming Facebook and the groups) but, as one of the racers said to me, all it takes is for a bunch of guys to show up and ride, anyway.  Well, would that it were that simple, but, point taken, and here’s hoping they make something of themselves.  Hell.  It would be a lot of fun, if nothing else, right?  …and yeah, the IOM trumps all.

I didn’t make it into the history books, or learn CAD, but whatever…  there’s always next year, as we’re fond of saying in Red Sox Nation.  And transmissions?  Oh puleeeze, bitch.

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There’s one interesting thing of note that happened recently, that really, in my opinion, shows us which way the wind is blowing.  Wes Siler, at RideApart (used to be Hell for Leather, which was a MUCH cooler name, by the way) named the Mission RS as their Motorcycle of the Year.  I wondered if you were going to see that.  Wes has been an advocate of electric bikes for a long time, and I read his piece on the Mission where, it seemed, he finally was embracing the “Electric Ride”.  That is, the profound difference between riding a vibrating mass of machinery with a shifty-thing to transmit power, and a smooth, spinning torque-monster with no power band.  He liked it.  And finally started talking about it.  Domenick did a nice story on the story on Autoblog Green, here, with some of the videos.

Interestingly, my prediction about small, custom builders has somewhat missed the mark.  Most of the guys I thought would kick some ass have seen some huge hurdles, or have gone away entirely.  Check out my “Where are they Now?” post.  Brutus, for one, seems to be plugging along, and Lightning, (not really what I had in mind) finally released SN#0001, but it’s not what I was hoping we’d see.  Indeed, the straight-out awesomeness of the Zero, the promise of the Mission and the eCRP, as well as the all-out tech sophistication of what we’re seeing in the pipeline makes building a custom bike a little daunting.

I’ve been sincerely disappointed by what I’ve seen on a few of the forums.  For ElMoto, specifically, that local watering hole where you could get some great, and varying perspectives on concepts and decisions, some solid advice and some amazing examples of builds, 2013 saw it get winnowed away to a few regular posters with very insular experience and viewpoints and hair-triggers for picking fights, giving and taking offense*.  Besides that, there’s just not much more than the basic noob builder hammering through the usual learning curve.  Nothing wrong with that by itself, but there’s just not the depth of advice for those noob guys that we’ve seen in the past.

Endless Sphere remains the “Brain Trust of the EV Movement”, for all it’s noise, chaff and distractions for the electric motorcycle builder.  There is some amazing stuff there, and a few guys who are more interested in testing everything and finding out the facts than sounding like the smartest kids in the room.

I’m going to wrap this up, not with predictions, but with hopes and dreams for Electric Motorcycles in 2014.

  • I sincerely hope that Brammo takes its head out of it’s ass and starts showing a commitment and a focus to selling a product and not blowing off testosterone (and investor dollars) on the racing circuit.
  • I hope that Mission is for real this time.  If I won the lottery, it’d be a tough call between that bike and the eCRP, but I’d hate to make that call on the credibility of the company rather than the bike itself.  (Still, it’d be a tough call.)
  • I hope that one, or a few, of the Big Manufacturers come out with a statement that they’re releasing a bike…  a real bike, with real specs, and a reasonable time frame.  And I hope that this is a challenge that both Zero and Brammo can meet, and leverage to become better companies in their own right.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.  (You can bet that the RideApart story got some bandwidth at Honda and Yamaha…  you’ve got to wonder what they’re thinking now.)
  • I hope that there’s some race that is true to the ideal of motorsport racing.  Fresh, new, honest, and fun…  whether club racing or something more formal, it’d be great to see it, and I know a lot of people who’d jump on board, both as teams and as fans.  They’ve been doing it in drag racing for years now…

As far as some cool stuff to expect from The Electric Chronicles?  I’ve had a great time scouring the interwebs for bikes for The Electric Garage, and as a result, met some awesome builders and seen some amazing work.  I hope I can continue to post to that section, and if you see anything in your travels, please don’t hesitate to submit it.  You can contact me here, by email.

Stay tuned for some new product announcement in the coming days…  there’s one in particular I’m tooling up my remaining kidney to get hold of…  liquid-cooled luciousness in an plug-and-pray package.

As one of my bike parts suppliers likes to say,  keep it between the ditches and the shiny side up for 2014!

 

 

 

 

* The personal level of the discussion actually drove me to withdraw entirely…  “cold turkey” being the only way I could keep myself from constantly rising to the bait.  What was really sad is that it was finally the advice of an attorney friend who saw what was going on, and told me that some of the comments being made by others were exposing me to some pretty serious liability issues.  Before you say this sounds crazy, you have to consider how much it costs to protect yourself from even the most frivolous suit.  It’s enough to have a book out there talking about handling dangerous technology, but when people are saying you’re saying something you’re not saying?  Well, you get the idea.  And yeah.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  

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