A New ZERO Odyssey
Heres the challenge: how do you take an already amazing product in the ZERO 10X and elevate it to something thats never been done before?
The Story of this 2020 Update to the ZERO 10X began when existing riders asked, what could top this? Riders are looking for something faster, longer range, more water resistant, more edgy and the wish list goes on.
Oh, and the existing 10X LCD throttles were...shall we say, a little dated.
Be warned: TLDR.
Meet the Team
The conceptualisation process started in Feb 2020 just when the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to brew. It began with a team of 4 veteran Falcon engineers. Heres a brief introduction of how they contributed...
Test engineer Drayson was called the "Breaker" not only because he could push any scooter given to him to its breaking point (which he annoyingly did MULTIPLE times), but he knows intuitively how to test things such that bugs could be rooted out. More than once, counting a squirrel incident, he has risked life and limb during the test of this scooter.
Electronics Engineer Ragu is the "Raja". Give him a high level problem like "I want my scooter to fly" and a logic circuit will be ready for prototyping the same day. He could trace and hack through circuitry like no other.
Mechanical Engineering Supervisor Lee is the "Sifu". He has decades of experience setting up semi-conductor machines and test facilities. He could fashion any mechanical solution in the cheapest and quickest way possible. Simply provide him the use case, the operating parameters, leave him alone for 5 minutes and he will come up with some solution to an otherwise impossible problem.
Project Engineer Victor does what he does best. He plans, he prods, and he challenges. So pretty much nothing. Having been a rider for 7 years, he has the user hat on, trying to predict what users want, and what users haven't thought they want like a scooter boom box.
And of course, there is a whole team of procurement, supply chain and assembly line staff who helped us build what we envision as our dream scooter.
The original ZERO 10X was conceptualised back in 2017 as an affordable high performance well-designed e-scooter, something that was missing in the high performance sector back then.
The keyword being affordable. And we really worked at it to make sure that our first ZERO 10X entry was made affordable.
Now that we have achieved this goal, the next challenge was to make something that the current ZERO riders can feel excited about. And that formed the basis of THE LIMITED.
The theme for the Limited was "Maximum Performance for All". Our mission: To build the best 10-inch scooter out in the market today. No holds barred.
Being relatively experienced scooter and motorbike riders and having rode a variety of scooters from Xiaomis to Inokims to Dualtrons and Yamahas to Kawasakis, we felt that the "safe upper limit" for a 10x3-inch (tire) scooter would be around 80kmh. That was the first number we worked with: how do you squeeze every ounce of power from a 10 inch motor to achieve 80kmh?
Firstly, we had to work within the physical constraints. The width of the fork, the size of the battery compartment, the width of tires used etc. The answer was: we couldn't get the power we needed with a single 10 inch motor. So, we went with 2 motors. But even with two motors, a 60V may not push 80kmh. We needed one that could provide more cooling and more magnets.
To feed that power and speed, what size battery to complement it? Again, physical constraints compelled us to fit the battery outside, instead of inside the deck. And what a wonderful relief! It released us from the biggest constraint of this build. We could easily accommodate the right battery size once we were relieved of that.
The last piece of the puzzle was of course the central brain of the scooter: the ESC or speed controller. A seemingly simple device with the right MOSFETs, you could convert electricity very efficiently into rotational speed. That was the theme of our design: Efficiency.
Off the shelf controllers that are mostly square wave controller were not very efficient in that they heat up too much under high load and high power.
You could counter that by applying heat dissipation techniques which increases cost and eats up valuable space resource OR...you could just make your MOSFETs better and electronic design more efficient. With that, we settled on sine wave FOC controllers.
Up until now, sinewave FOC controllers were rarely applied on electric scooter drivetrains. Mostly because they were complex, troublesome and needed tuning. Each controller needed to be synced with each motor at initialisation, like how each CPU of your laptop needs to sync to the hard disk. That only needs to happen once up front however.
So that settled our drivetrain system. Next consideration, the DASH.
Our belief is that, any performance upgrade has to not only be felt, but also seen. If we were to be going at 80kmh, we wanted a big ass speedo that showed that.
So arrives the most modern Dash ever installed on an e-scooter.
The stock LCD on the ZERO 10X although multifunctional and programmable was bit of a blast from the past. It is perhaps a rehashed version of the ubiquitous coloured LCD. We wanted to bring the Limited back into the current.
The Limited's wide screen e-bike anti-glare multifunctional TFT display is the centerpiece of our console. The sharp TFT display immediately gives the whole dashboard a nice pop of colour. The problem with the stock display is that it was difficult to see the speedo under bright sunlight and the anti-glare feature on this TFT display makes the speedo sharp even under direct sunlight.
The Limited with the no holds barred attitude, blurs the line between a motorcycle and an electric scooter.
The 5-speed controller button is a separate piece that can be mounted near the handle grips, allowing riders to toggle up/down on the fly. So we did away with the eco/turbo switch which became unnecessary.
But NOT the single/dual motor functionality. We preserved the single/dual function because we as riders want it so we believed other riders would want it too. However, we changed the buttons again to give it a more contemporary look and feel.
Like before, you can switch between the single and dual motor mode. Single drive mode extends your battery life by roughly a factor of 3-4x.
It was always going to be LG. When it comes to batteries, we always go with tried and tested. We have used been using these cells for many years now. We know the discharge characteristics of the LG cells inside out and we know its limitations. It also has the best balance between size, discharge and capacity as compared to other branded cells. We also tested the 21700 4.5Ah cells from Lishen but the results were disappointing.
Cell discharge was far less and voltage sag far more than the LG pack despite having the same pack capacity. That means for the same pack capacity, the LG cells took 70 mins to discharge while the Lishen cells took 50 mins to discharge to lower voltage limit. (The longer the better in case you are wondering.)
After going through many battery packs (none exploded, don't worry), the one that met our stringent requirements is the one you see in the Limited today.
The question then became, how are we going to house it then?
If it was to be outside, it had to weather the elements hence a waterproof casing is needed. We liked the concept of a swappable battery system but using an e-bike style aluminium casing with a dock would make the whole front pole quite ugly and bulky, so we went with a more flexible and organic but still structured casing.
We developed an exoskeleton frame for our polyester battery bag so that the weight of the battery is well distributed and does not roll around.
When we think of high performance, there is always an element of racing. We envision an F1 car going into the pit for a refuel and coming out in a matter of seconds. Our battery design uses the same concept and allows us to hot swap the batteries quickly, enabling racers and/or delivery riders to keep going on and on.
A single juice pack gives a max of 140km** (at cruising speed of 25kmh). IF a delivery rider has 2 packs ready, he could potentially get more than 200km or about 10 hours of being on the road.
And thats what makes the Limited so versatile. We understand that because we once did deliveries on electric scooters ourselves. And all we wanted was something that could last us one full day on the road.
Our belief is that any performance upgrade that cannot be seen is a lost opportunity for an upgrade. Even simple touches like simply adding the 3 coloured stripes of BMW to the front grille of the M3 or M5 shouts out "I'm better than the regular 3-series!".
To stand out from the regular 10X, we borrowed from BMW's playbook. Just below the TFT display, we added a touch capacitative button that glows blue to turn on the deck lights. A very subtle but elegant visual upgrade.
The usual front and rear lights apply on the Limited version but instead of it being turned on/off from the LCD controls, it can be turned on/off on the fly using LED buttons near the handle grips.
Air Ride Suspension
What is the difference between a spring loaded suspension and one that uses compressed air?
One is like jumping on a trampoline and the other like jumping on a foam bed. Shock absorption, damping are all better on the compressed air suspension.
Air suspension creates lower resonance peak over bumps giving the rider less body stress. When resonance is high and stays high like on the spring suspension, the body absorbs that and over a period of time, the body will feel the stress.
See the difference between a spring suspension and a hydraulic shock below. Air shocks behaves similarly to hydraulic shocks with more damping but slower rebound.
When we were deciding on which type of suspension to use, we did a poll, and 50% of users said they thought spring was better and the other 50% said air shocks were better. The results surprised us.
But we settled eventually for rear air shocks instead as the riders CG is towards the rear so thats where the maximum damping should happen. We are striving for the best experience so that includes giving our riders the cloud riding effect.
Visually, the Limited is as close to a motorbike's dash system as any other scooter. And if you like that, then the Limited may be the one to check out.
Performance wise, we would wager the Limited is like none other. Silky smooth quiet power and acceleration combined with the most elegant aesthetics gives the Limited an elevated look and feel compared to the standard 10X.
Even at the top speed setting of level 5, you can manuver the scooter around tight corners and bends without getting the sudden and uneven burst of power that square wave controllers give.
HOWEVER, this is only the beginning. The ZERO 10X was already so perfect for so many riders. The Limited is only hoping to give a niche group a better experience. But it doesn't end here. The day we stop improving this amazingly versatile beast of a 10X is the day we stop selling the 10X altogether.