April 8, 2009 Zero Motorcycles was a surprise hit in 2008, selling out its stock of 'X' battery-electric motocross bikes much faster than expected and proving in the process that customers are well and truly ready to slap down the dollars for a quality electric off-roader. Now the company has announced the Zero S - a street-legal electric supermotard capable of 60mph and with a 60-mile range off a full 4-hour battery charge. At under US$10,000 - before you get your 10% Federal plug-in vehicle credit - the Zero S joins the Vectrix electric maxi-scooter in the list of truly practical electric bikes capable of freeway speeds. And with a power-to-weight ratio almost identical to Suzuki's DR-Z400SM, it should be a bag of laughs to ride. If consumers liked the X, we reckon they'll go crazy to be the first on the block to ride this street-legal, lean, green giggle machine.
Technology is finally beginning to catch up with the demands of the market in electric vehicles - and the Zero S is a great example of how. Its maximum range of 60 miles and max speed of 60mph are more than enough for the average daily commute - and if you plug it in at the office, you've got plenty of extra power to play with. It's still pretty limited as a weekend thrasher, but every other day there's a new advancement in battery technology - we're sure we'll see a 300-mile bike with a burn-your-license top speed before too long.
Like all electrics, it costs next to nothing to recharge, working out at less than a cent's worth of electricity per mile - and the savings keep building as your petrol-powered bikes need servicing and the Zero S simply doesn't.
The S might only make 31 horsepower, but then it only has to pull a tiny 225 pounds (102.1kg) dripping wet. Except, of course, it's not wet, there's no petrol or coolant or oil to speak of - meaning that maintenance is pretty much limited to looking after the brakes, tires and chain. By comparison, the Suzuki DR-Z400SM makes a claimed 40hp, but hauls 132kg before fuel and fluids are added. The power to weight ratios are almost identical (0.3030hp/kg vs. 0.3024hp/kg).
The DR-Z might not be the craziest street supermoto going around, but it's still a great fun bike to ride - and the Zero S can pump out its full torque from idle, so the low end response should be excellent. The handling should also be beaut - everything has been kept so light that it should be a most flickable beast.
The Zero-S will start shipping in May, but pre-orders are being taken now at the Zero Motorcycles website. The price is USD$9950, with an extra $500 if you want it shipped directly to your door. With the US Federal plug-in vehicle credit of 10%, that comes down to less than US$9 grand - only around 2 1/2 grand more than a DR-Z. Starting to make sense, isn't it?
Check out the video below to see the Zero S in action.