This thing sounds soooo bad-ass.
Awesome article Loz... makes me wish I was one of your motorcycle buddies, then maybe I would have gotten a hot-lap around the block.
I hope Brammo will Evolve their Empulse-R electric guts in the same fashion...
I find Empulse-R style, components and presence of 6 gears much more intriguing than this (still interesting) Zero.
So something like an 8 hour refueling for every 2 hours of riding. So much for a weekend trip to grandma's.
Great review and fantastic bike, but shame on you for not keeping up with arguably the fastest growing and changing segment of the motoring world. 3 years???
That moment of realization that electric bikes were starting to make real progress came for me when Lightning Motorcycle won Pikes Peak in 2013 against combustion bikes. It looks like they are going to debut a street version of that bike (LS-218) on the 17th in Carmel, CA
For Zero the S has gone up in price from ~$10k from 2011 but its definitely still for the better and even the current sub 10k FX crushes the 2011 S in every area:
Zero FX - $9,495
Zero S - $12,995
Zero SR - 16,995
Zero DS - $12,995
The range of the FX in 2011 was only 20 miles and it's 70 now.
"all with an addictive, turbine-like electric whine from the motor."
And with that battery requiring 8 hours to charge for every 2 hours. Sorry I'll skip it now and forever for a petrol bike.
Yes I like the sound.
I think that is way cool. The price is on the high side but I think that will come down when the technology improves. There are small fuel cells that can be fitted to electric motorcycles that can extend the range plus give extra power when needed. There are progress in batteries too.
I think it is cool how the technology is progressing to the point where electric vehicles are becoming both more practical and more appealling.
Batteries are the limiting factor for an oil-free world. A battery with the same energy density as gasoline would be the first step towards a Star Trek type future.
So come on scientists, bring on those batteries. :-)
2015 could be a good year.
Maybe Zero will bring back the off-road variant with all the latest tech SR has on offer.
Also I know it sounds a little ridiculous, but the shape of a chopper/cruiser would lend itself better to placement of a larger motor and battery bank.
And because those things are designed low and heavy, it would not matter that much to begin with.
Great article Loz; you carried the reader with you and made everyone experience what must be an illuminating ride. I was right there with you on the bike when you described the contrast after getting back on your FZ1.
Electric bikes will be the last bastion for those that still want to have fun on the roads. 17,000 USD is a lot, but in contrast, an electric car with some character runs north of 70,000 USD.
Zero is getting a bit good, too good. Pessimist-me says someone will acquire them. Maybe instead they'll work out licensing deals for other bike manufacturers.
slowburn - your argument is completely invalid. If you read the specs for the entire line up, you'll see that they charge to 95% in ONE HOUR. If you choose to dislike electrics, that's your prerogative, but using misinformation as an excuse isn't the best strategy.
Guys, about the charging time. If you buy a second charger, it will half the charging time, and so on for additionnal chargers. ChaDeMo is also available for 1 hour charging.
You can look at their accessory list:
Motorcycle quick charging
One Quick Charger provides an additional 1kW of charging capability. When used with your motorcycle's integrated charging system, this approximately doubles the amount of energy flowing to the power pack during charging. As a result, the charge time of a Zero motorcycle is reduced by around 50%. To charge even faster, multiple Quick Chargers can be purchased and used with a Quick Charger Y Adapter to reduce the charge time further.
Zero S 2013 owner here.
I'm assuming that given battery's likely size, changing is carried out while the it remains in the bike.
It's not the price so much as the styling that puts me off.
All the electrics I've seen look like they were drawn for some "Ninjas of the Future" cartoon show. How about an electric this awesome that looks like...well, a motorcycle?
How long is the life of the battery and what does it cost to replace it?
Battery "breakthroughs" are possible, but evolution of both the batteries and the ancillary equipment is inevitable. The charging time is long because the charger is slow. Even standard LiPoly batteries can be charged at a much higher rate. Direct DC chargers should be able to charge that battery in well under an hour. After all, a Tesla S85 can charge it's 85KW battery to 80 percent in about an hour.
Congrats on not being a foot-dragger Loz, most reviewers spend a lot of time talking about how impractical electrics are. Ignoring the social aspects (true cost of fossil fuel, smart grid potential with electrics, etc.) , the simple practicality of electrics even in the current high-price model is hard to debate.
I'm a petrolhead, but not blind or stupid. My wife has a Chevy volt in Maui and we charge it (and power our house) with a PV array. She averaged over 250+ MPG for the last six months. Given Maui gas prices it's seven years to breakeven. Other than the Volt I don't have cars that even permit that kind of calculation. I built a three wheel recumbent with 100 mile range and 45 mph flat-ground speed for putting around here on the mainland. It cost me about $4K to build and in the three years I've been driving I've put 26,000 miles on it. Other than lots of tires (too much power for bicycle tires) and respoking wheels it's cost me nearly nothing for all those miles, effortlessly climbing the hills on Hood River.
My wife takes delivery of her Tesla S next week. I'll still be driving my F350, but I got to spec out the Tesla--she was going to go for the little motor. No F#@&ng way. That's going to take about a hundred years to break-even, but what fun!
I'll agree that 8 hours charge for what seems 2 hours' riding isn't much good, but I'm sure Gizmag has done articles on fast-recharging batteries. They'd probably shove the price up even more, but if they start to get mainstream, their price(s) will come down...
If you want/need the sound, invest in a Vroombox or similar - though it will pull your mileage down a fraction.
If you need the feel of a gas-guzzler (vibrations, etc.), rig up/incorporate a series of appropriately-sized mobile/cell phone vibration motors or joystick 'rumble' motors. Give them some presets and allow the rider to 'tweak' them (with an app?) for different 'feels' to the bike - obviously, they'll pull your mileage down again.
As for the smell(s) of a bike(r), maybe some version of an essential oil burner could be fitted, that would 'waft' the appropriate smells through tiny holes in the fairing/structure..? Again, an electrically-powered device would pull your mileage down. But this time you'd need to be careful of the temperature and amount of 'oil' in case of accidents - don't want to encourage a potentially-much-more-devastating fireball of any kind on your commute...
Perhapse the "chopper" crowd has a lot more of these guys:
"I'll skip it now and forever for a petrol bike.
Yes I like the sound."
In which case a chopper would be a tough sell.
I could be wrong, but younger generations seem to be more attracted to sports-bikes than choppers, and its the younger generation that is so willing to embrace bad-ass EV's like this one. At least that's my theory as to why they don't offer a "chopper".
When battery powered tools started coming out about 15 years ago, all I heard about them was the low performance and charging problems. They got steadily better, until recently when I took the plunge with an interchangeable battery system. One battery, several tools. Love it. It is only a matter of time before a battery vendor starts putting out standard swappable batteries that can be used on multiple large devices like cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers or whatever you want to rent. Then the cost of the device drops dramatically and you can keep your battery and upgrade your vehicle cheaply. It would eliminate the range issue if you could swap batteries at gas stations on your road trips. Plus you could reduce your commuter vehicle weight by leaving some batteries on the charger at home.
Good job Zero! But the range and torque is just now reaching the same figure the ZEV Electric has had for years in their big bikes like the 10 LRC for $6,000 less money than the Zero. For a commuter bike, I will prefer the LRC with its monster storage area, and full fairing with all of those compartments, same range as the Zero, faster charging than the Zero, less money than the Zero.
Loz, why don't you tell us how you really feel ;^P
That said I'm building custom all composite 64 Vette EV's with 150 mile range for just 2x's the Big Zero's cost.
Another is lithium batteries are generally 22lbs/kwhr making only 150lbs for the rest seems off.
But they are great EV MC's and EV drive will be hard for ICE's to beat in performance and eff/Mpge.
If you miss the noise there is an app for that ;^P Or put a coil near the motor and an amp/speaker.
Sounds nice, too bad its shape, with its sky-high drag, is copied from companies whose business model is to offer nothing new.
A magazine once told the reason for that shape: in the 1950's a streamliner racer from Moto Guzzi, called the 'dustbin', outsped all its components- tires, brakes, frame- and riders died. Then racing made a rule limiting that streamlining. Commercial offerings copied racing style, and here we still are- 60 years later.
Throw a streamliner shell on this thing, Zero, double your highway range, and say hello to the mass market.
Surprised there is no mention of the (albeit rather expensive) rapid charge option. 0-95% state of charge in an hour…
@Rocky - You may enjoy the noise - most people do not. Besides, I'm guessing you have no idea what the Zero sounds like, so how would you know? Unfortunately, your ignorance, and those of all the other ICEV drivers who refuse to accept the inevitable, is only compounded by your lack of understanding of what Big Oil is doing to ruin the planet for mankind and how much influence it has in controlling governments all over the world. I suggest you pull your head of of the sand (or wherever else it is buried) and, as you Americans say, "smell the coffee"!
Failing that perhaps you can just let those of us who are already driving EVs and proving you and all the other nay-sayers wrong to get on with it without having to listen to your prejudiced twaddle.
If they want it to be a "commuter", they're going to have to change the design to something other than "crotch rocket".
Commuters wear suits, and carry groceries and briefcases. The current design is simply not suitable. It doesn't have to be a "scooter", but commuting and sport biking are 2 fundamentally different things.
The tech is great! But people are visual beings, and this thing is way ugly. Zero needs better designers.
Looks like a fun motorised bicycle. But we badly need to properly stream line these things. Luckily Terry Hershner at Zero has been working on this for his cross USA trips.
the future is electric, and finally the future is now...
Loz,you and the boss write the best stuff on our greatest passion-motorcycles. Thanks once again from those of us that appreciate such fun,informative articles.
Guess those of us that live on a lower end of the scale can always hope in the future for the battery prices to drop or a cheaper breakthrough.
I rode a Zero S 2013. I own an excellent Ducati modded for performance and ultimate handling--I love it. I loved the Zero MORE! The coolest thing about it was the silent power. I don't know why this wasn't mentioned here--something about a turbine sound is weird cuz it's a very low level sound of the electric motor, belt and tires--yes you hear the tires that's how quite the Zero is. I found that cornering and accelerating in the smooth silence of the Zero was the finest most exhilarating motorcycle experience I've ever had--the funnest. I've loved the sound of the carbon pipes on my 11:1 compression Duc but after riding the Zero I found that the sound of the Duc was distracting to the essential experience. The Zero is the closest experience to flying. You can feel everything exquisitely--tires, road, lean into corner & etc. I can't emphasize this enough.
I was lucky enough to have my Zero test ride in the twisties of Twin Peaks in SF, CA. I will have a Zero as soon as I can figure out how to trade in my beloved Duc.
@ Vince Pack.
Charge time can be one hour to 95%, if you buy the $1,800 CHAdeMO adapter. If you simply leave your Zero motorcycle with stock charging and don't upgrade it, the entire lineup ranges between 3.7 hours on an FX to 9.3 hours on any of the bikes with ZF11.4 Power Tank. So therefore Vince Pack, your argument is completely invalid. Go forth and learn how to read specs.
Don't worry about the charging time. G8 chemistry LiPo batteries can be charged in under 10 minutes if you can deliver the current it requires to do so.
I have a G6 LiPo at 7.7 amp hours that can be charged at 60 amps! And it doesn't even get warm.
So hang in there, it's only a matter of time until they charge these things faster than you can put gas into a traditional vehicle.
Great article, you hit the high points perfectly! I rode a 2012 Zero S for a few months till the 2013 came out. They had doubled the power in one year! I was a little scared of opening it up on the test ride, but went ahead and bought it. Of course, it wasn't long before I was able to crack the throttle full whenever I wanted. I thought this would be the most power I would ever need.
Then the boys at Hollywood Electrics told me about the "6 upgrades" they were doing to some of the bikes. By now, the 2014 SR had come out with a 660 amp controller compared to my 480 amp controller. Amperage = power. So, a week away from retiring, here I go upgrading my bike to a whole 'nother level. I've been riding it for just three days, but man, is it quick! The 0-60 dropped from the 4.8 seconds of the stock 2013 S to 3.3 seconds! And you guessed it, that's a bit much for this 61 year old - for now. I'm going to learn how to handle it eventually. It'll smoke the tires or lift the front one off the ground, depending on the traction of the pavement.
Since I opted for the smaller battery (8.5 kWh), mine was less expensive, but more importantly, lighter by about 50 lbs. So, with the upgrade, I have arguably the quickest Zero around. I commute in heavy LA freeway traffic, but with lane splitting, a small narrow bike, and insane acceleration, commuting is actually fun.
If this machine was offered to me FREE, I wouldn't have it!
When touring, and travelling, I expect to cover up to 800 miles a day.
This pile of expensive junk at 60 miles between charges is not even up to the performance of a 60's CSR! [Coffee Shop Racer].
Nobody but an idiot, with more money than sense, would buy it.
Mookins, the Moto Guzzi 'dustbin fairing' was banned because it completely covered the front wheel and was badly effected by side winds.
Current rules do not allow the front wheel to be faired in.
Certainly sounds like the electric bike is coming, and I await further developments in battery technology.
BTW, with that much torque and weight, I'm surprised that the rear tyre isn't fatter.
Great article. But here is the rub, or shall I say the shaft.
The state and federal taxing people see the hand writing on the wall, especially here in the Peoples Republic of California. They see electric cars getting better and better, which means less and less gas sales, which mean no tax money, which means.... well it means... we the tax nazis of California and other states can't let this happen and are seriously talking about tax by the miles you drive. So no mater if you have a green weenie electric car or motorcycle, they are going to squeeze you for taxes. So you see if you get a thousand miles per gallon, it won't matter.
@ Anne, I was thinking "I wonder if they'll bring out a sport version?"
It looks pretty comfy to me especially with those high bars!
Nice article Loz, an electric bike riding how I imagine they should.
All this talk about 'break even' points. Why doesn't every road test of a petrol car or motorbike include carefully calculated break-even points compared to using public transport and an occasional taxi? Because it's RIDICULOUS, that's why. People buy cars and bikes because they WANT IT. Same for electric.
T N Args
@ S Michael:
"So no mater if you have a green weenie electric car or motorcycle, they are going to squeeze you for taxes. So you see if you get a thousand miles per gallon, it won't matter."
is your only criteria to owning an EV tax evasion?
because there are a hell of a lot more benefits to EV's than not paying road-tax. lol.
Perhaps you should re-read this article and pay closer attention to operating-costs. This article doesn't mention any of the hidden costs of ICE (pollution), but that could be one more note-worthy reason to embrace EV's.
Not learner legal in Australia - P/W limit is 150 kW/tonne
Even an hour charge for 2 hours riding is ridiculous and don't try to tell me I will find a high wattage out let where I need them.
The range is what bothers me 100mile isn't enough I would sacrifice a little pickup for distance, and gizmag has recently covered fast recharge and higher capacity batteries. can't wait for the next years model
The only thing I don't like is the price. I can live with the range and charging time. As a commuter and weekend toy it sounds perfect!
I see many people just spitting on this EV bike and on EV in general.
You ask for the moon. We have to start somewhere guys. This Zero SR is amazing in comparison to what was done in the previous years. At this progress rate, we should be able to all switch to EV before we die! If you like to throw money on gasoline and do 800 miles a day, that's your choice. Until we can do 800 miles on one charge, I'm going to stick with the range possibilities of the current EV for now. And man that's fun to drive! You can't argue against that if you didn't try it.
I agree with Kensiko and others that those who are finding fault just need to try one of these bikes. We will be the first to agree that it isn't the bike for long road trips, it's not made for that purpose. But as a daily rider, it's superior to anything else on the road. The driving characteristics of an EV, and the riding characteristics of an electric motorcycle, are superior to any ICE.
Pikes Peak was won last year by the electric Lightning. A Ducati was over 20 seconds back in second. It wasn't even close. From now on, no ICE motorcycle will ever win Pikes Peak. An electric car will win in that category this year or next.
Electrics are getting better fast, and they are already better than the best ICE bikes for some races. ICE is barely improving anymore. It's pretty much as good as it'll get. Electrics are just getting started.
You can stay with your dial up bikes as long as you want. Same thing with your cars. But I can assure you that personal transportation, and the most exciting racing and sport vehicles in the world, will be powered by electricity. You really don't want to bet against technology.
I'm looking forward to owning an electric bike and really enjoyed this article. Looks are subjective and that is why some people are able to stomach 300+ pound husbands or wives and others aren't. Personally I like the looks of the Zero. If I wanted it to look exactly like what I already own then what would be the fun or even the sense of that. I do have a hard time with the price no matter the payback time and most of us take a very long time in years to go 100,000 miles on a bike. And the charts show the Moore's Law(esque) yearly improvement in battery energy density. I'll dive in with my wallet when I can ride one of these Zeros all day long without the worry of it leaving me stranded. I'm not talking about needing to ride from Omaha to Sturgis in one day. I'm interested in being able to ride over 150 miles without babying the bike because of the battery's daily charge life. Fun is fun and stressing over the battery's range is not fun. I'd be able to bear the price without a problem if a Zero had fuel cell so the bike could go as far as any ICE powered bike and for what Zero expects in price should already include this fuel cell in my estimation.
Aside form what Tesla is doing with quick charge 2 other things that can be done to boost EV range are trailers and supercapacitors. Lots of gold wings pull trailers now and electric engines have torque to spare. A system of swapping out the main battery in your EV would never work but swapping a trailer with an auxiliary battery at a gas station like a propane tank would be no big deal.
Supercapacitors don't have the total storage capacity of batteries yet but they can charge and discharge much faster. You could make a "hybrid" EV with a combo battery/supercapacitor that would allow you to juice up in seconds with enough power for ~20-30 miles to prolong the time you can go before you have to slow charge the main battery.
Aside from that 120v charge times only matter right now but before long they won't as soon it will be viewed as a waste of money to drive anything that isn't at least a plug in hybrid and you will see 240v outlets near homes and parking lots everywhere. As hard as companies try to be viewed as green I expect many/most major companies will soon set up free charging stations to EV/plug in employees and/or customers. Some of them already do.
There has been a lot of very recent progress with Zero, Tesla has proved EV can not only be good but in a lot of ways better than ICE, the plug in Prius running lithium-ion now and soon the rest of the Prius line will make the conversion from NiMH to lithium-ion. It's safe to assume every auto manufacturer has noticed. Once the technology is proven (which is happening now) the government will not continue to allow other manufacturers to sit on their hands pumping out ICE vehicles like it's 1990 any more. They will ratchet down average fuel range requirements dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st century if need be.
"first time an electric motorcycle stood shoulder to shoulder with petrol powered bikes" - huh? You say one week later that electric bikes blew the doors off petrol bikes a year ago: http://www.gizmag.com/lightning-ls218-unveiled-specs/32142/ .
Yes! I like my motorcycles, I've had a load of all different shapes and sizes but never an electric tho like many, I've mentally planned one.
I REALLY like the look of this one. Not the styling so much, that's ordinary but the demonstrable performance. Like all (affordable) EV's so far, the range and charging time is still 'not quite there' but soooo close....the Zero strikes me as the perfect commuter for folks like me who spend 25 minutes each way at open road speed limits and 5 minutes zigzagging through town.
Make it half the price and it'll sell faster than they can build them.
Love my two-wheel Tesla! I hope to live long enough to reach 100k mile "break-even" on my new SR, but the joy of "instant, whooshing acceleration on tap" without noise, heat, vibration or emissions is PRICELESS!
People ride motorcycles for different reasons. Obviously, if your interest is touring then you'll need to wait for the battery technology to evolve. And it will certainly be worth the wait.
If you are in need of transportation to and from work, the grocery store, or the local twisty roads... There is no question that EV is better in every conceivable aspect. If you don't think so, go ride one!!
For around-town transportation needs, my Zero is like a magical dragon that flys me anywhere I need to go. It's that fun.
This article has it spot on about looking back on gas bikes after riding electric and realizing that everything has changed. I had a VTR-1000, ZX-6R and a SV650 in my stable when I got my 2014 Zero FX 5.7. After buying the FX and riding it around for a few weeks (it occupied my whole attention for that time), I finally jumped back on my gas bikes. HOLY COW! They felt OLD.
I then sold off the VTR-1000 and ZX-6R, and tried to sell off my SV650, but had a change of heart and am keeping it around just as a long-distance traveler. Actually, the only times I've taken out the SV650 the past 4 months was just to keep the battery alive. I'm waiting to buy my first 100+hp electric SuperSport.
Electric > gas, period.
For those who might be concerned about the range of an electric bike see craigvetter.com for a report on Terry Hershner earning the Iron Butt award by traveling 1000 miles in 24 hours. Streamlining and extra batteries give this Zero a cruise range of over 200 miles.
Terry Hershner[Google they're names] added streamlining by Craig Vetter to his Zero and has broken many endurance and speed records.Hopefully Zero will offer a few different models in the future,hopefully one with a little extra body work.The simplicity and ease of use along with the incredible savings will surely make a lot of people smile.How about a electric 3 wheeler,a narrow tilter ,like Yamahas Tricity scooter with some streamlining.Just might be the ticket for a few of us.