X Rider scooter offers simpler, cheaper electric performance

Xtreme Green Products is set to release the X Rider electric scooter in the US spring. While there are plenty of electric scooters around this one distinguishes itself by its performance and its price tag when compared to the likes of the Vectrix VX-1.

X Rider

Xtreme Green Products: X Rider

Unlike the Vectrix the X Rider does not have any fancy regenerative braking. It is a simpler machine with a correspondingly lower price tag of USD7,999. Unless Vectrix have dropped their prices recently that makes the X Rider about USD5,000 cheaper than the VX-1.

Despite being simpler Xtreme Green Products are claiming some solid performance figures. The more interesting specifications are:

  • Top speed >100kph
  • 2 to 3 hour charge time from empty
  • Maximum range of 150km

If the final product can live up to these expectations more than a few of them could find a home in Australia. You can visit the X Rider web page for full specifications.

Update: Xtreme Green Products will begin shipping the first X Riders to US customers somewhere around 06 Apr 09. The announcement has more details including a link to pre-order.

Source: Xtreme  Green Products via AutoblogGreen

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KTM gets conceptual

KTM in partnership with the FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft have developed a number of concept vehicles ranging from a four wheel off-roader to a hydrofoil boat. My favourite is the oddly named sr 85 deuce, a light weight electric car that makes an Ariel Atom look positively obese.

KTM sr 85 deuce concept

FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft: KTM sr 85 deuce concept

You can view all six concepts here.

City Living versus The Great Australian Dream

For a few years now I’ve harboured a dream to be able to live life without a car. I have this imaginary lifestyle in my mind where I live in the centre of a city. Everything I need is within walking or cycling distance. On the rare occasion that I need to do a long road trip I’ll just hire a car.

A series of articles that appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Lithgow Mercury (here, here and here) got me thinking about it again. You see, Sydney planners are wanting to build an underground rail line from Central Station to Parramatta. Along that line they want to build high rise (up to 15 storeys) apartment blocks with the aim of encouraging their increasing population to live withing walking distance of the new mass transit system. From a sustainable mobility perspective the Sydney plan sounds great. The problem is the planners are fighting The Great Australian Dream. The big house with the big backyard.

Aussies want at least four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double garage and room for the kids to run around out the back. The Great Australian Dream is the main driver behind urban sprawl in all our capital cities. To get the big block you have to live in the outer suburbs. Living in the outer suburbs means you will most likely need to drive a car to work, if not all the way then at least to the nearest decent public transport. As a result The Great Australian Dream clogs our roads in peak hour and causes us to curse everyone else following the same dream we are.

The sad news is that the Great Australian Dream is a lifestyle that is unsustainable in a peak oil world. The Sydney planners know it and so do a lot of other people, particularly Europeans who are practiced at living the width of a wall away from their neighbours. The rising cost of oil as supplies diminish will increase demand for public transport but Governments will be unable to build and maintain the infrastructure required to service the urban sprawl. We are going to have to adjust our definition of living and part of that adjustment will be living closer together, closer to public transport and closer to work.

Right now I’m almost living The Dream. I’ve got a big yard in a very quiet neighbourhood. The house is small but I’ve got a big shed. The problem is that I’m 35km from work and about 15km from the city where my better half works. There is no nearby public transport so getting to work would involve a drive followed by multiple bus and train journeys. Cycling and working from home are my best options for reducing car use but neither can be achieved every day due to distance and the need to see clients or work at clients’ sites.

So, what would it take to get me living closer to my neighbours, closer to public transport and closer to work? I’ve been mulling this over for the last few days and it all comes down to two words – lifestyle and happiness. To achieve the lifestyle and happiness I desire when living in a city centre I’d need the living environment to meet five criteria.

1. I am not prepared to live in a shoe box. I’m a country boy and I like my space. That doesn’t mean I need a big house, it just means I need room to move and an uncluttered environment in which to live. Good views would help.

2. If I’m going to move from being surrounded by not much to living shoulder to shoulder then I want to do so in a truly environmentally friendly building. It will need to be well insulated, take advantage of winter sun and summer breeze and have lots of natural light and ventilation. The building or development will have its own power supply, preferably cogeneration or trigeneration powered by natural gas.

3. Silence. I don’t want to hear the neighbours and I don’t want them to hear me. I don’t want to hear traffic even with the windows open.

4. There will be secure storage for bicycles and general living stuff underneath the building. There should be no need to clutter the place up by bringing bicycles upstairs or locking them to anything you can find. Each tenant should have their own private storage space.

5. The building or development will need to have shared facilities that provide safe and secure space for kids and adults to be active and get outdoors. Ideally it would be in a precinct that restricts the entry of cars thereby freeing up as much space as possible for parks, barbecues, swimming pool, gyms, etc. To my mind the design has failed if it encourages or necessitates car use.

That’s it. If I could find a place like that I’d seriously consider moving to the city centre or a public transport hub. I’m not sure about you but I haven”t seen or heard of any developments that meet, or even come close to, the above criteria in my city or others.

This brings us back to Sydney. If the designers and developers of the urban living environments along the Central to Parramatta mass transit system are going to tempt those chasing The Dream to live in their developments they are going to have to focus on lifestyle, not just stylish buildings. They are going to have to provide outdoor living space while building high quality, high density housing. And they are going to have to make the developments environmentally friendly otherwise they’ve lost before they’ve begun.

Two words for motorcycle manufacturers – fuel economy

While riding my bicycle through the hills today I started thinking about the poor fuel economy achieved by most motorcycles and what attributes would make up my ideal motorcycle. I think well when I’m turning the pedals so after a bit more thought I came up with the following list for what I think is the ideal motorcycle for daily commuting, a bit of weekend riding and the occasional tour.

Fuel economy: Real fuel economy not just “good for a motorcycle”. If a VW Polo diesel can do 5L/100km I want a bike that does better than 4L/100km. Use the latest direct injection technology if you have to. I’m happy to pay for it, particularly if the resulting emissions meet or exceed Euro V standards.

Range: >400km  Australia is a big country and sometimes there is a loooong way between petrol stations.

Power: Enough. Nobody needs 165hp in a motorbike. They might want it but they don’t need it. Few can use that much power and they shouldn’t be using it on public roads anyway. Somewhere in the order of 60 to 80hp would be fine as long as good power and torque are available throughout the rev range. It has to easily accelerate away from cars at traffic lights. Ideally the power of this imaginary machine would be able to be electronically limited to make it accessible to learner riders. Just re-map the engine control unit when the owner has a full license.

Top speed: Enough. 140 – 150kph is enough in Australia where the maximum speed limit is 110kph in most States. The one stipulation is that the bike needs to be able to cruise comfortably at 120kph with two people and luggage. Overtaking road trains in a safe time frame requires good acceleration and a decent speed advantage.

Engine capacity: Under 600cc to reduce registration costs.

Size: I’m 190cm tall. I just don’t fit on small bikes. So, a medium tall bike that is not bulky is ideal. Something that is comfortable for long legs and gets you head up above the traffic.

Comfort: Good seating position and reach to the handlebars for commuting . A comfortable seat. It doesn’t have to be plush but it does have to be comfortable over touring distances. An effective fairing and screen to minimise fatigue and keep the weather at bay. This is a bike that will be ridden in all weather over a variety of distances. To the corner shop or to the other side of the country.

Handling: On the relaxed side of sporty. Good low speed manners but capable of satisfying on a weekend ride through the hills.

Suspension: Good but it doesn’t have to be fantastic. It does however, need to last more than 30,000km (unlike most motorcycle suspension built to a price) and smooth out Australia’s average roads.

Styling: Classic, rounded and aerodynamic. If someone can prove to me that today’s modern styles are more aerodynamic then I’ll accept modern styling.

Practicality: Belt drive because it is quiet and very low maintenance. A centre stand to facilitate easy home maintenance. Factory fitted panniers and top box.

Quality: Made to last 200,000km when maintained correctly and looked after. A dry clutch and separate gearbox oil are a must. It makes no sense to have the clutch in the engine oil and who wants engine oil in the gearbox, particularly when the clutch is in it as well.

Is that too much to ask?

If anyone already makes a bike that matches these criteria I’d be really happy to hear about it. Off the top of my head I can think of two manufactures that could build a bike like this. BMW and Aprilia. Both have suitable engine configurations and both have extensive experience in motorcycle fuel injection systems. Aprilia have an excellent engine and gearbox in their SXV 550 and BMW are using belt drive on their F800 series road bikes.

Car manufacturers are starting to reduce engine power to increase fuel economy. Audi have done it in their S4 and Holden have done it in their V6 and V8 Commodores. Many more will follow and motorcylce manufacturers will need to do the same if they want people to continue buying mid-sized and large bikes for commuting and general transport purposes. If they don’t they may find their market contracts considerably when oil prices go up again.

Victorian Transport Plan released

The Victorian Department of Transport released the Victorian Transport Plan (VTP) earlier this month. Not having a great understanding of Melbourne and Victoria make it hard to assess the VTP but at least Victoria has a plan. The proof will be in the execution.

Highlights include:

  • Up to 70 new trains and 100km of new track for Melbourne’s suburban rail systems
  • Up to 50 new trams
  • Up to 270 new buses and the continuation of the hybrid bus trial
  • Regional rail improvements to boost capacity by 9000 extra passengers and hour
  • Upgrades to regional transport infrastructure (in partnership with the Commonwealth)
  • Improved freight access to Port Melbourne
  • Completing the Melbourne ring road
  • Improving regional rail lines including electrification of existing lines
  • Fostering research into second and third generation biofuels
  • $100 million increase in funding for bicycle lanes and shared paths
  • $5 million public bicycle hire scheme for inner Melbourne
  • Encouraging the use of low emission vehicles
  • Mandatory emissions targets for State Government fleets

Negatives:

  • No transport emissions reduction target set
  • No inclusion of viable alternative fuels such as natural gas

You can download the VTP here (9.2Mb PDF).

You can download maps showing the detail here.

Freight Futures is a companion plan to the VTC dealing specifically with Victoria’s long-term freight network strategy. You can download Freight Futures here (5.3Mb PDF).

MTECH Fuelsaver removed from sale in Western Australia

Imagine my surprise when I found this gem in amongst all the spam a few minutes ago!

Western Australians who have bought the Moletech Mtech Fuel Saver have been advised by Consumer Protection in Western Australia to return to the place of purchase to get a full refund for both the cost of the product and installation of the device. This follows the removal of the device from retail and online sale in Western Australia after tests showed no statistically significant difference in the fuel consumption from a vehicle using the fuel saver and an ordinary vehicle. http://www.docep.wa.gov.au/corporate/Media/statements/2008/October/Questionable_Fuel_Saving_devic.html

This is the catalyst I needed to make a decision on whether the Fuelsaver in the GS (previous posts) stays in the fuel tank. The WA assessment agrees with my less than scientific trial so the Fuelsaver will be removed at the next service.

If you know of any similar actions by consumer protection organisations in other States of Australia, or in any other country, please leave a comment with the details.

Envirofuel experiences the MTECH Fuelsaver – Part 6

<< Envirofuel experiences the MTECH Fuelsaver – Part 5

Not as good as I’d hoped

Well, after using quite a few tank fulls of fuel on the commute to and from work I’m a bit disappointed. I’m consistently getting 320km from 19L of fuel. By my calculations that is 5.9L/100km. I said at the beginning of this that I was getting anywhere between 5.7 and 6.0L/100km. Either my original calculations were optimistic or I’m getting no advantage from the Fuelsaver.

My plan is to keep using it for the foreseeable future and see if my fuel economy improves over time. The GS has had some carbon build up issues in the past so my final hope is that this is taking longer than expected to clean out and provide the savings MTECH say are possible.

Apologies for the delay in getting this to you. If you read the post below this one you’ll understand why. Rest assured that I’ll post any interesting MTECH information that comes to light.