Random thoughts of the week: Tesla and more 2013 Zero S vs. Empulse

There’s a few things about Tesla that I want to say.  First, I am learning what a junior high culture the stock market culture really seems to be.  Elon Musk tweets some cryptic tweets and stocks jump?  Really?  Explains a lot really.  But I’m not going to bother guessing what its about since everyone else and their uncle already has.  Well, OK, one or two guesses.  During the SuperCharger reveal it was mentioned that the Superchargers could put out 120kW, 30 more than the 90kW they max out at now.  And/or they are going to add other standards, such as CHAdeMO, to the chargers so other cars can use them.  Anyway, a lot of talk has been about Tesla possibly licensing their charging standard.  I asked Brian Wismann about this in my last interview with him, and they hadn’t really considered it as they didn’t think Tesla was offering it.  But they liked the SAE’s combo better as it was compatible with an AC and DC charging standards, with the AC J1772 being already in use.  If you had a Tesla plug you’d have to have the J1772 adapter that Tesla owners use now on the bike somewhere, but you would still be able to use the J1772 AC chargers.

But the bigger Tesla thing is a new video walk through they have done.  You can watch the whole 28 minutes or they break the whole video in to chunks.  The thing I was most interested in was the steering wheel video.  In all the reviews we have seen people talk very little about the dash and steering wheel buttons and little scroll wheels.  The are all going on about the big screen and how distracting it is.  One thing that annoys me is when a GPS screen is stuck in North up.  But 90% of all that stuff on the 17″ screen is available on the dash, and the GPS instructions are in the “bird eye view”.  Everything is available on you dash with little movements from your thumbs, with two separate info screens on the dash either side of the speedo.  There is little to no reason the driver should have to look at the big screen for anything.  I don’t believe all of this wiz-bangery was available until some software updates were made, but this makes the arguments against the big screen seem more trivial then they already were, and the Model S even more awesome.

Empulse vs. 2013 Zero S, extra

I saw someone type that the Zero was definitely the better value on one of the forums the other day.  At first I thought they may have a point, The R is $2000 $3000 dollars more than ZF 11.4 which is the same price as $1000 less than the standard Empulse which is almost 30ft-lb of torque down, which is $2000 $3000 more than the ZF8.5.  And the Zeros are lighter, offer more torque, and much less maintenance in comparison.  The Empulse literally splits the two in pack size.  But, and I eluded to this in my big post about comparing these two, The Empulse come with more stuff standard.  First off the Empulse comes standard with a J1772 AC connector.  Big deal, you say.  Only $400 for a J1772 socket that bolts right on to my Zero S.  Yes, bu the Brammo comes with a 3kW charger, the Zero comes with a 1.3kW charger.  Basically you won’t charge any faster with a J1772 charger than you will from a wall socket that has nothing else on the circuit.  Other than making charging a bit more convenient, it simply doesn’t improve charge times, either way it’s a 6 (ZF8.5) or 7.9 (ZF11.4) hour wait from empty.  Where as standard on the Empluse it cuts your charge time in less than half.  But wait, you can buy a CHAdeMO charger ad charge the bike in an hour from empty .  Yes you can, for $1800!  This now makes the ZF8.5 only $200 less than the standard Empulse (which has a larger pack), and the ZF11.4 the same $200 less than the Empulse R which is very similar in power, and by all accounts faster.  But the CHAdeMO chargers, if you have them near your, do make these bikes much more practical.  So, not only does the Empulse split the pack sizes of the Zero S, it also splits the standard and optional charge times of the Zero S.  More accounts say that the Brammo is definitively the better handling bike, but that the Zero is more than adequate.  What we don’t know is what these bikes are like when they’ve been run hard for a long period of time, or exactly how much faster the Empulse is than the Zero.  It could very well be negligible.  My point is not that one is better than the other.  If you want a sport bike you get the Brammo, if you don’t get the Zero.  Easy.  But my point is that the Brammo has a lot of value standard, and saying that the Zero is flat out a better value is a false statement.  I really think it’s so close and the bikes are just different enough you can’t make a definitive argument either way.  It’s like asking which is faster, MotoCzysz at the Isle of Man or Mission at Laguna Seca?  How are you supposed to answer that?

Update:  I forgot to mention Zero’s $750 2X quick charger you can buy for your garage.  FF8.5 in 3.6 hours and the ZF11.4 in 4.6 hours from empty to 100%.  I am assuming it is simply and extra 1.3kW charger making the total still only 2.6kW.  And it’s big.  not something you want to carry with you unless you are Terry Hershner.

3 thoughts on “Random thoughts of the week: Tesla and more 2013 Zero S vs. Empulse

  1. It’s worth considering that there are likely people out there who simply don’t care about charge times. Or maybe handling. I know my consideration of an elmoto (is that the right use?) would be strictly for those outings that I need to make that don’t require me to carry anything (or much of anything) along. In that instance, in my mind, absolute range is a far greater consideration than charge times, because in my mind I see me getting back home and plugging the bike in and not worrying about it for several hours, at least.

    Then I think about the fact that there are Leaf chargers all over Nashville, which really is just up the road for me. Yep. I’d want to be able to use those….

  2. Empulse base is $16995, Empulse R is $18995.
    Zero S ZF8.5 is $13995, Zero S ZF11.4 is $15995.

    I don’t think it makes sense to compare either Zero bike to the Empulse R. If the adjustable suspension, RR-linked Parker motor, or the carbon fiber farkles of the Empulse R appeal to you, then Zero doesn’t have much to offer you. Yet.

    Speaking of yet, the base Empulse isn’t available. We should see it shipping soon (April?), but if you have money burning a hole in your pocket it’s not an option yet.

    Perhaps that’s the short answer. If you want a sporty, aspirational bike .. buy an Empulse R. If you want a bike that’s inexpensive to own, simple to ride, has tons of range .. buy a Zero S. Both bikes are great.


    Presumably the base Empulse will get almost identical range to the Empulse R. Comparisons below assume combined half steady highway miles, half city miles.

    7.5 kWh S ZF8.5 gets 9% less range than the 9.3 kWh Empulse @ $3000 less.
    10 kWh S ZF11.4 gets 21% more range @ $1000 less than the base bike.

    The range gap between the ZF11.4 and the Empulse widens in highway riding (+25%), narrows in city riding (+13%). Like the extra sportiness of the Empulse R, the range differential alone may be enough to clinch a decision for some riders. Either way, the Zero bikes certainly give you more miles for your dollars .. but perhaps the Empulse gives you more smiles.


    Zero charges faster on 110V (1.2x as many miles/hour), Empulse charges faster on 240V (2x as many miles/hour!). For overnight charging either is fine, but it’s worth noting that a home J1772 charging station will cost around $600-1000 or more to install .. roughly the same cost and charge speed as Zero’s “2x” charger.

    J1772 charging is nice, it’s definitely more future-looking than feeding 110V into a C14 inlet .. J1772 is fine to charge outside in the rain, for example. If you have a J plug nearby to an activity you were going to anyhow – catching a movie or eating a sit-down dinner – then you can pick up a significant amount of charge at zero schedule cost. This can make ~100 mile trips somewhat reasonable on the Empulse, where they’re frankly not feasible on the Zero without additional chargers a la Terry Herschner.

    In fact, Freepz @ Brammoforum did just that, 117 mile ride home as the maiden voyage on his Empulse. That’s just not reasonable to do even on the ZF11.4 IMO.

    However, for trips much longer than a hundred miles you either need very powerful AC chargers (again, see Terry Herschner) or you need DC charging with an offboard charger. The CHAdeMO accessory ($1800) for the Zero bikes is aimed at this use case; a 30 minute charge will give you about an hour of 50-55 mph riding, where the smaller AC charger on the Empulse would require about two hours for the same charge.

    CHAdeMO is still very much in the process of rolling out in the US, and there’s some uncertainity over its future thanks to the SAE assholes. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in an area with existing CHAdeMO infrastructure, it’s difficult to justify the expense today. But it’s a nice sign of the type of charging capabilities that we’ll have once we move past political charging strife.


    Even the base Empulse has nicer suspension, tires, brakes. Empulse is a little porky, but it moves nicely .. and for all the wailing and hand-wringing, a transmission does add more rider engagement in the ride.

    On the racetrack, the dragstrip, and from a stoplight, the Empulse is probably a winner. But I don’t recommend racing a Zero from a 20-30 mph roll.

  3. Crap, crap, crap. I apologize to everyone for getting the darn prices wrong. Corrected above.

    Yes guys, my point was that at quick glance the Zeros look much more practical, but that when you look closer the Empulse is much more practical than it originally appears, when it come to what comes standard. Both bikes are so different, despite looks, it’s really on what the rider wants, I just don’t feel a clear answer came be made.

    Drew, not only do we have a lot of CHAdeMO chargers in this area (well the Nashville area), but a fair number of J1772 chargers as well, which is also the case in California. However CHAdeMO chargers are big and expensive and the “J” chargers are smaller and less expensive, and I think you’ll see more J1772 AC1 and AC2 chargers than any DC fast chargers.

    The fact that a Zero can charge 120% faster via the plug than the Empulse is enlightening. But I see charging via 110 socket an over night thing. AC and DC charging is for longer travel. The Empulse, which comes with an J1772, would work for me to get to Nashville and back in a day. But paying for the optional CHAdeMO socket would mean I could get to Chattanooga and back on a Zero ZF11.4. For me the sportiness of the Empulse with the ability to get to Nashville and back is enough but a minimum. However, for Drew a standard Zero DS would do the trick. But an ZF11.4 with CHAdeMO would give me or Drew a whole lot of freedom.

    So, this means that a regular Empulse (due next month I believe) is $1000 more than a ZF11.4, but $800 less an a ZF11.4 with a CHAdeMO socket. Even though I’d really like to have that more powerful Parker motor, I can do without the fully adjustable suspension and carbon bits. I’d rather save for custom suspension. Mmmm, Pennskeee. 😉

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