Motorcycles

ZEV's long-range, tilting electric three-wheelers look the goods

ZEV's long-range, tilting elec...
ZEV LRC-T15: 125-mile range at 55 mph
ZEV LRC-T15: 125-mile range at 55 mph
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ZEV LRC-T15: cockpit and bars - note the thumb lever on the left bar for locking the tilt mechanism
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ZEV LRC-T15: cockpit and bars - note the thumb lever on the left bar for locking the tilt mechanism
ZEV LRC-T15: chunky rear hub motor and disc brake, showing extended swingarm as well as the finned motor controller
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ZEV LRC-T15: chunky rear hub motor and disc brake, showing extended swingarm as well as the finned motor controller
ZEV LRC-T15: battery level and economy readout
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ZEV LRC-T15: battery level and economy readout
ZEV LRC-T15: no motor in the chassis gives lots of room to store batteries and luggage. Each battery cell can be individually removed and replaced if it fails
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ZEV LRC-T15: no motor in the chassis gives lots of room to store batteries and luggage. Each battery cell can be individually removed and replaced if it fails
ZEV LRC-T15: cockpit
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ZEV LRC-T15: cockpit
ZEV LRC-T15: new electric long-range three-wheeler on sale
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ZEV LRC-T15: new electric long-range three-wheeler on sale
ZEV LRC-T15: ready for delivery
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ZEV LRC-T15: ready for delivery
ZEV LRC-T15: tilting three-wheel platform delivers extreme front end grip and stability under all conditions
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ZEV LRC-T15: tilting three-wheel platform delivers extreme front end grip and stability under all conditions
ZEV LRC-T15: 125-mile range at 55 mph
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ZEV LRC-T15: 125-mile range at 55 mph
ZEV LRC-T15: generous luggage capacity
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ZEV LRC-T15: generous luggage capacity
ZEV LRC-T15: "ignition" switch
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ZEV LRC-T15: "ignition" switch
ZEV LRC-T15: right switchgear and front brake lever
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ZEV LRC-T15: right switchgear and front brake lever
ZEV LRC-T15: battery management system is easily accessible under the seat
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ZEV LRC-T15: battery management system is easily accessible under the seat
ZEV LRC-T15: wrapped and ready for delivery out of West Virginia, USA
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ZEV LRC-T15: wrapped and ready for delivery out of West Virginia, USA

West Virginian company ZEV has been quietly building high quality electric scooters for more than a decade now, including the fastest and longest range electric scoots in the world. Now, ZEV's ready to release a long range, tilting 3-wheeler based on the same platform.

A small company running out of Morgantown, West Virginia, has been quietly making high quality electric maxi-scooters for more than 10 years now that frankly put the rest of the industry to shame.

ZEV's LRC-15 remains the e-scoot distance and speed champion, banging out an impressive 185 miles (298 km) at a constant 55 miles per hour (88 km/h) on a 12.4 kilowatt-hour battery – or about a solid 50 percent more than the Zero S or SR gets out of a slightly larger battery at the same constant speed. Aerodynamics are most definitely a thing.

But then, consider BMW's C-Evolution, more or less the only "mainstream" e-scoot since the death of Vectrix, with about the same 12.5 kilowatt-hours. It's more powerful and sporty, but only claims 100 miles' worth of max range. The ZEV smashes it.

Now ZEV has released details on its newest production bike – a tilting three-wheeler that looks a lot like Piaggio's old (and outstanding) MP3.

ZEV LRC-T15: ready for delivery
ZEV LRC-T15: ready for delivery

Tilting three-wheelers, if you recall our giddy Piaggio MP3 review from ten years ago, steer and behave astonishingly similarly to a regular motorcycle, but with extreme front-end confidence and an almost unbelievable level of grip and stability regardless of road conditions or what tires you throw on. In terms of dynamics and ride experience, they're so compelling that at the time we expected the category to explode, and indeed, my thought today is that only the modern biker's sense of fashion stopped them from doing so.

ZEV isn't very creative with names – the three-wheeler will be called the LRC-T15 – as it offers a 15-kilowatt continuous output. Using the same 12.5 kWh battery pack as the LRC-15, its added weight and less aerodynamic shape bring the range down to around 125 miles (201 km). Charging takes 4.5 hours on 110 volt sockets, or 3.5 on a 220.

Like all ZEV's bikes, the LRC-T uses a hub motor in the rear wheel, that's oil cooled and lubricated to eliminate overheating and rust, and extend motor life. In order to help deal with that extra unsprung weight, the swingarms are extra-long to improve the suspension's effectiveness. As an electric, it's simple enough to incorporate a reverse gear, so there's one of those, which will help move this 516-pound (234 kg) maxi around.

ZEV LRC-T15: chunky rear hub motor and disc brake, showing extended swingarm as well as the finned motor controller
ZEV LRC-T15: chunky rear hub motor and disc brake, showing extended swingarm as well as the finned motor controller

The company wanted to make this a super accessible bike for riders of all sizes, so it has an extremely low seat, as well as plenty of leg room for the taller among us. Thinking of disabled riders, there are no foot controls. Everything's on the bars, including a thumb control to lock the tilt, which lets you stop the bike without putting your feet down. Mind you, there's no automatic unlock for this system, you've got to release it yourself once you're moving.

With no motor in the chassis, there's plenty of luggage space under the seat, and a centerstand as well as a side stand for extra practicality. Should a battery cell fail, each can be removed individually – they're not wrapped up in a sealed unit like most of the competition. So you won't be riding these things underwater like you might with a Zero bike.

ZEV LRC-T15: no motor in the chassis gives lots of room to store batteries and luggage. Each battery cell can be individually removed and replaced if it fails
ZEV LRC-T15: no motor in the chassis gives lots of room to store batteries and luggage. Each battery cell can be individually removed and replaced if it fails

At US$13,990, it's not cheap, but there's a shorter range option available: the LRC-T6, for just under US$10K, with about 60 percent the battery and range. That'll do the vast majority of riders for the daily commute. Both are wildly cheaper than the BMW C-Evolution's estimated price of well over US$20,000.

These look like quality, well-built machines from a small company that puts its resources into engineering rather than marketing. They deserve to do well.

Product page: ZEV LRC-T15

11 comments
bhtooefr
Annoyingly, ZEV doesn't seem to do removable batteries, which would be handy for those of us in apartments. Their bikes do otherwise look interesting...
Axel
Well done ZEV, that's a great piece of work. Now, please, take it to the final stage, and produce a version with an enclosed cabin, to make it attractive to the 90% who won't go near the discomfort of an open two-wheeled vehicle. Just keep it half the width of a car, and you will have doubled the width of our roads. Think of the value of that at rush hours, when most cars are only carrying one or two persons anyway.
Bob
My only suggestion would be a larger wheel diameter for a better ride.
Paul Anthony
That wheel diameter has me concerned along with the price. But other than that wow! Well done. I wonder if the charger is on board so that you can plug in anywhere.
Zdenko
Everything nice, but I love my Chinese scooter (although I am disabled to, but not dead yet) most for having high seat. That enables much better and faster maneuvering specially in crowded European cities - but I think it could be settled easily. My be a version with two wheels would be also interesting (I would prefer). I would buy it now - but will it ever come to Europe-Croatia?
Chuck Swackhammer
Great job! Love your bike. I have one similar by a company that didn't make it through the startup stage. I plan on ordering your trike as soon as I can find a buyer for my maxi scooter. In my opinion the in wheel motor is the way to go and really like the comfort of the relaxed posture that the maxi scooter affords.
icykel
Now this really does look a smart machine. I'm a bit concerned about the battery exposure but like the fact that the individual cells can be replaced. When are these machines going to be available on the New Zealand market ?
Mzungu_Mkubwa
@Axel, I agree about the desirability/marketability of an electric commuter-focused product, but I doubt that this is the platform to begin with for that. 1st, as much fun as it would be, it doesn't have to be tilting. 2nd, all the extra bulk and weight that the enclosure would require (along with expected conveniences) would overload this chassis. 3rd, I would design the unit to accept any number of scooter-based drive-trains easily, electric and otherwise, allowing for hi sales flexibility in meeting customer demands.
unklmurray
Looks like i prolly gotta have a permitt to ride one of these........that & the price makes it too far away for me........I would sure LIKE one tho!!.......LOL :-}}
Darus Zehrbach
In an attempt to answer all comments: ZEV does not do removable battery as they are not feasible in the high range vehicle. The battery in the ZEV LRC-T15 weigh 190 lbs. What apartment dwelling customers do is to take advantage of the high range, and either charge at work or some non home place. ZEV does make an enclosed 3 wheeler. A new version with roll down windows and a sleeker inside is due for launch in April. A high speed enclosed trike with two front wheels is due for launch in 2018. The charger on the bike can be carried onboard under the seat, but it is not hard wired in. The first of the bikes going to Europe are shipping to the UK and Portugal in February. The LRC 2 wheeled scooter, which this trike is based on, runs to a electronic cutoff at 93 mph/150 kmh. No problem with wheel tire size for ride, even at those speeds. We have had the LRC-T trike to those speeds also. Consider that the diameter of some small cars is the same and or not much different. Also that the load per wheel is lightened with 3 instead of 2. These trikes will see use mostly by commuters who do not drive bad roads. The battery, while not sealed inside a steel box, are in a steel box up to the top of the battery. The battery are under body work and after 10 years of production of bikes, is not an issue. Each cell is in itself sealed in a battery case. Rather like your car battery not being sealed in its own steel case but under the bodywork. The case of the battery is good enough. What the separate, non additional sealed up installation allows is charging and discharging at high rates without fear of heat. There are fins on the sides of each cell for cooling. You can contact sales@zelectricvehicle.com direct if you wish further information.