The year 2011 marked the birth of a large electric motorcycle that, through its fresh and sharp design, gives you a look into the near future. Its name is zec00. With the motif of flowing curves, the vehicle thoroughly pursues the aesthetic of “cool,” with its mainframe machined out of aluminum, single-sided swing-arms supporting the wheels, and cowl made of carbon. At the same time, as a motorcycle the zec00 is no child’s toy; it can go up to 200 km/hr.
Combining the Skills of Workshop Craftsmen
Large Electric Motorcycles “zecOO”
“Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to make it? The kind of cool motorcycle that you see in the futuristic Tokyo portrayed in the manga Akira. Now I’m a grown man, and since no one has done it while I was waiting for years, I decided to take matters into my own hands.” The year 2011 marked the birth of a large electric motorcycle that, through its fresh and sharp design, gives you a look into the near future. Its name is zec00. With the motif of flowing curves, the vehicle thoroughly pursues the aesthetic of “cool,” with its mainframe machined out of aluminum, single-sided swing-arms supporting the wheels, and cowl made of carbon. At the same time, as a motorcycle the zec00 is no child’s toy; it can go up to 200 km/hr. Kota Nezu, who does industrial designs at znug design, designed the zec00. Below we zero in on the designs of Mr. Nezu, who developed the first bike of its kind by unifying the skills and techniques of workshop craftsmen in order to create a product that generates spine-tingling excitement.
- Specifications (provisional)
- Model: zecOO
- Length 2,450mm × Width 800mm × Height 1,160mm
- Wheel base: 1,830mm
- Seat height: 670mm
- Suspension: Front Double swing-arm / Rear Swing-arm
- Steering: Hub steering
- Braking device: Front Hydraulic single disc / Rear Hydraulic single disc + Regenerative brake
- Tire size: Front 160/60 ZR-18 / Rear 240/40 ZR-18
- Frame type: VTF (Vertical Twin Frame / Pat.p.: 2011-187957)
- Decelerating mechanism: Belt drive
- Dry weight: 290kg
- Motor output: 55kW
- Maximum torque: 750Nm
- Top Speed: 200km/h
- Cruising range: 120km
- Battery type: Lithium ion
- Battery voltage / capacity: 300V-7.5kWh
- On-board battery charger: 3kW
- Power charge: 85-275 VAC
- Charging time: 4h (220V) / 8h (100V)
- Number of riders: 1
- Price: JPY 8,880,000（(Reference Price)
Leaving Toyota and Contributing to Mobility
After studying industrial design at a university in Japan, Mr. Nezu joined Toyota. At Toyota, he worked on planning and designs and was also involved in the design of vehicles as part of a team of chief engineers known as “Z.” He gained recognition as a key figure in the development of personal mobility units called i-unit, which Toyota exhibited at the Aichi Expo in 2005. i-unit was designed based on the concept of “wearing” instead of “riding” a vehicle. It brought to life the concept of smoothly achieving the desire for personal mobility, motivated by information technology, through mobility units. At the root of Nezu’s work is the continual intention to contribute to mobility. However, in the same year, Nezu decided to leave Toyota, a company he had worked at for 13 years, in order to establish his own designing company, znug design, with himself as CEO.
Isn’t this more fun?
After going independent in 2005, Nezu designed a large electric motorcycle that would be the prototype for zec00. In order to create the futuristic bike from his childhood dreams, Nezu worked with the focused intention of creating something totally new.”I understand that creating something ‘normal’ is the safest, and is the most convenient when procuring parts. Creating something different results in comparisons to conventional products, which tends to lead to negative reviews from the market. However, I just had to create something that no one had ever ridden or experienced before.”
Nezu feels that the world is getting too complacent, too contented with products that are all similar. We lose sight of something more important when prioritizing profit and efficiency. Of course, marketing is important. But Nezu’s overriding desire was to create something with his own skills and strength that would allow him to confidently say, “Isn’t this more fun?” That desire is what brought the zec00 into the world.
Super-fast Development, and the Shared Vision and Technical Skills that Underpinned It
In 2007, Nezu met Masaki Nakamura of Autostaff Suehiro and hit it off immediately. Nakamura is an engineer who runs a bike shop that excels in custom motorcycle manufacturing. In 2009,
Nezu, prompted by an order from Nakamura, designed the reverse trike named Ouroboros, marking the beginning of a professional relationship of trust between the two.
The zec00 project started to move forward abruptly in 2011. Tokyo Designers Week, with the theme of “eco”, was planned for that coming November. In a flash of inspiration from the combination of the words “eco” and “electric motorcycle,” Nezu made the sudden decision in May to enter the event.
Development commenced at a daunting pace. At the end of May, Nezu consulted Nakamura. Although at that stage Nezu only had a sketch of his idea, Nakamura readily agreed to join the project. For the next month and a half Nezu made designs using 3D CAD. After receiving the plans, Nakamura went through discussions with Nezu to gain a clearer image of the product. Once they were on the same page, Nakamura scrambled to procure parts and materials. At the same time, most of the parts were assembled in Nakamura’s own workshop, and the first generation zec00 was completed in an extraordinary speed of three months, allowing them to enter the event in November.
What motivated Nakamura was Nezu’s passion as well as their shared vision. In turn, the technical skills of Nakamura, his staff, and other workshop artisans brought the zec00 to life.
The Aesthetics of Japan: God is in the Details
The design feature of the zec00 that is most likely to catch the eye first is the shiny silver swing-arms extending straight out from the body. The front has double swing-arms and the rear a single, making for an exceptionally novel design that supports the wheels from only one side. When looking at the zec00 from the right side while it’s running, it appears as though the wheels are spinning independently of the body. Conventional forks, which support the wheels from the top, make the body sink when the brakes are applied. The swing-arms, on the other hand, take the load in a horizontal direction, resulting in a braking feel that is somewhat different from usual motorcycles.
Also, since the lithium-ion battery and other heavy parts, which account for most of the vehicle’s weight, are mounted low in the body, the center of gravity is very low. These two features set the zec00 apart from most other large motorcycles, and the unique driving experience is a perk that isn’t easy to spot just by looking at it.
“Even for me, this bike felt completely different than conventional motorcycles at first,” says Nezu. “It may take a little while to get used to the sensation. You need to get to know the vehicle better; but on the other hand, I think it really starts to grow on you.”
The main body frame is machined out of a solid block of lightweight aluminum alloy at a workshop in the old capital of Kyoto. At first, while plants able to cut the frames existed, it wasn’t easy to find any that could deliver when it came to pursuing visual beauty after cutting. Even though the data for cutting may be the same, the results look completely different depending on how the teeth of the tools are moved while cutting. After a difficult search, Nezu luckily came upon a workshop that could produce a frame possessing a beauty that evoked the curves and lines of the gravel in traditional Japanese gardens of Kyoto.
The swing-arms, which look like cast metal, are actually made using the difficult technique of welding the aluminum alloy. It is easier to obtain and assemble generic parts for fork models. However, Nezu does not compromise in his designs.
Multiple aluminum plates are brought together and carefully welded as if building a box. An extra plate is placed in the middle, creating a two-tired box shape, to enhance strength.
The carbon cowl is also the work of workshop craftsmen. Using the hand lay-up method, resin is applied with care and precision, pursuing beautiful presentation of the stitching of the fibers running within. The amount of care and attention paid to unseen details reflects Nezu’s and the craftsmen’s commitment to the spirit of Japanese manufacturing. Taking all the parts into account, craftsmen from about 10 workshops contribute their refined technology and skills to make the zec00 a reality. “The zec00 is a collection of Japanese aesthetics bundled into a machine,” says Nezu.
Together with Craftsman:Burning Passion, and Exacting Technique
The name zec00 comes from the Buddhist term “shikisoku zeku,” the thought that things and actions exist interlinked in a network of things and actions, not on their own. Nezu explains, “The name zec00 actually points to the development team that came together to fulfill a common dream. We have a relationship where we don’t share a completed design, but rather a blueprint of ideals. This results in a product with quality that far surpasses the imagination. Take, for example, the design of the bolts that connect the frame.
The edges are cut so they become more ornamental. I didn’t even ask for that, yet the craftsmen voluntarily put in the extra effort; and this really moved me. I really felt the burning passion that these workshop craftsmen possess. “Japan is a land full of mounds of hidden technological treasures. Even when small- to medium-sized businesses or small workshops can provide solid value, they do not always come to the forefront. However, they do possess unlimited potential. This is the culmination of human strength, supported by a deeply rooted, rich culture.” Nezu will continue to place the concept of mobility at the center of his endeavors as he embraces challenges together with Japanese craftsmen burning with passion.
znug design INC.
Headquarters Address: 3-22-10 Zenpukuji, Suginami-ward, Tokyo, 167-0041, Japan
Studio address: 1-2-11-2F Kichijoji-Kita, Musashino, Tokyo, 180-0001 Japan
CEO: Kota Nezu
Number of employees: 3
Business: Concept planning and design of industrial goods. Supporting the creative endeavors of businesses.