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2013 Zero S: MD Ride Review

Judging from our feedback, MD’s readers are a world-weary bunch when it comes to electric motorcycles—and I understand why. Electric vehicle manufacturers typically make, shall we say, bold claims about their vehicle’s performance that when subjected to the rigors of actual use, fall short of reality. Is the 2013 Zero S subject to the same criticism?   The 2013 models have a claimed 137-mile range (that’s city riding—mixed city and highway will get you 93 miles, freeway only 70)—and 95 mph top speed. Sure, that’s what Zero claims, but what can it really do?

Read our report on the 2013 Zeroes to get a full tech briefing, but here’s the skinny: it’s an all-new machine. New battery, new motor, new chassis and bodywork. It’s much more like a motorcycle now, with the exception of the Fast Ace suspension components, which may be more at home on a downhill mountain bike.

I really wanted to know what it was like to spend some unsupervised time on one of these motorcycles—most other tests I’ve done of e-motos has been on quick dealer-demo rides or at press events—but wasn’t having much luck getting a test unit. And then, fortune smiled upon me in the form of Zero’s PR van showing up at my house in Oakland with a bright-yellow 2013 S with the 11.4 kilowatt-hour (kwh) battery pack. Zero’s TJ Aguirre dropped the bike off with some quick instructions and told me he’d be back in a week.

I’d like to tell you I was on the bike every day, all day, putting the bike through its paces as white-coated lab technicians examined every component for wear and scientifically measured every performance variable. Alas, not so… but I made an effort to ride every day, and I had MD contributor Alan Lapp take it out on the days I was behind a stroller rather than behind handlebars. At the end of it all, we added about 500 miles to the odometer in seven days, which is triple the average usage of a motorcycle in the USA.

Even without the improvements to the battery and charging systems, this is a much better bike. I had a ball riding it—it’s as smooth as you’d expect, accelerates muy rapido, and handles like you’d expect a 382-pound (lighter than the 300 Ninja) motorcycle with skinny tires to handle. And the convenience (and thrift!) of not having to worry about buying gas is something I could really get used to.

So now, as a guy who has a high-mileage week of e-moto usage under my belt, I think I can answer the common questions you may have about a product like this.

How far will it go on a charge?

Far! 70 miles at a steady 70 mph, close to 100 at a steady 55, and maybe 130 or more if you have the patience to ride 25 mph all day long.

How long does it take to charge?

A long time unless you have a lot of chargers! The Zero carries a robust 1.3 kwh on-board charging system, but if you have a mere 110 wall outlet it’s sucking a milkshake through a coffee stirrer—expect a flat battery to take almost 8 hours to charge. If you install a quick-charger in your house (or have one at work) you can get juiced up to 95 percent in about four hours. You can wire in more chargers as well, so it’s possible to get home-charging time to two hours.

Where do you charge it if you’re not at home?

The stock bike has a three-prong 110 outlet cord, which you can neatly stow in the round frame tube over the swingarm pivot. That can be plugged into public charge stations or at work. For faster charges away from home, you have to purchase and install an accessory port (or two!) and find a public charge station. Both the $1800 (yow!) CHAdeMO (very clever technology which bypasses the on-board chargers—with safety protocols to prevent damage—and software to charge any battery to 95 percent capacity in an hour or less) or $400 J1772 ports (stations using these plugs may or may not be quick-charging) are offered by Zero.

It’s $16,000! Who’s going to spend that much money on something you can only ride 70 miles?

An adventurous commuter looking for a very cheap way to get to work, that’s who. If you live less than 30 minutes from where you work—like 66 percent of American commuters—and like riding a motorcycle, and you’re reasonably sure you’ll be at that job for a while, compared to a gas-powered motorcycle, you could break even with a Zero in 3-6 years. After that it’s essentially free. Here’s my math:

3 years with a new CB500F @15,000 miles/year with gas $4 a gallon:

CB500F

MSRP: $5499

Gas: 50 mpg=900 gallons=$3600

Servicing: Oil and coolant changes, valve checks, etc, to 45,000 miles roughly 8X $300 at a dealer: $2400

Consumables: (2 chain and sprockets and misc.) $600

Total: $12,100

3 years with Zero ZF9

MSRP: $13,995-$2700 in tax credits=$11,295

Gas=$0

Electricity at @ $.01/mile= $450

Servicing= $300 (annual checkup is about $100)

Consumables: Belt-drive, so consumables are the same as the gas bike, except no chain and sprockets and the bias-ply tires should last longer than the CB’s radials, and the regen feature means the brakes last longer too, but hey, let’s call it a wash.

Total: $12,045. Add $2000 if you insist on the bigger battery, which you don’t need if you’re a fixed-distance commuter.

 

Seven years with a new NC700X @15,000 miles/year with gas $4 a gallon:

MSRP: $7499

Gas: 50 mpg=2100 gallons=$8400

Servicing: Oil and coolant changes, valve checks, etc, to 105,000 miles roughly 20X $300 at a dealer: $6000

Consumables: (7 chain and sprockets and other stuff: $2100

Total: $23,999

Seven years with a Zero S (or DS) ZF11

MSRP: $15,995-$2700 in tax credits=$13,295

Gas=$0

Electricity at @ $.01/mile= $1050

Servicing= $700 (annual checkup is about $100)

Consumables: Belt-drive, so consumables are the same as the gas bike, except no chain and sprockets and the bias-ply tires should last longer than the CB’s radials, and the regen feature means the brakes last longer too, but hey, let’s call it a wash.

Total: $15,045

Saved with Zero ownership: $8500. And what happens when gas goes to six or eight dollars a gallon?

My Uncle Larry’s laptop battery lost most of its capacity in a couple of years and then caught fire and gave him a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit. Now he can only get work as a Microsoft customer-service representative. Will that happen to me if I buy a Zero?

Zero claims its 11.4 kwh battery pack will go 309,000 miles before it depletes 20 percent of its capacity. Even then it will still have some core value (as a back-up battery for a commercial building’s electrical system, for instance), unlike a gas-powered motorcycle with 309,000 miles on it, which is valuable only to meth addicts, MD freelancers and museum curators. Zero’s technology is also designed to prevent “runaway” cells from causing battery fires. This may be true or it may be hype, as all EV manufacturers claim the same thing, but I do know that I have personally seen several motorcycles (and sadly, one motorcyclist) catch fire—fires not caused by burning batteries. As for cancer from electro-magnetic radiation, well, I think skin cancer is probably a bigger risk, but the studies are ongoing—or controversial.

Aren’t you in danger of getting hit or hitting pedestrians/bicyclists/animals/small children because it’s so quiet?

I thought about that a lot, as my urban riding style might be characterized as aggressive. But after an hour on the Zero, I stopped thinking about it. If all that’s protecting you from getting hit is your loud exhaust, you really need to pick up a copy of David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling and learn about situational awareness, space cushioning and scanning for hazards. An urban environment is a noisy place, and soundproofing on modern cars is very good—unless you have straight pipes, I doubt anybody can hear you, and it’s hard to tell which direction sound is coming from in urban canyons. I haven’t seen the data or studies on the issue, but I think being visible is far more important than being audible.

As for other road users like pedestrians, again, this is on you, not them. If you depend on your roaring pipes to make pedestrians, bicyclists, cats, dogs and nannies with perambulators scramble out of your way like peasants fleeing before the Mongol hordes, you are not a good ambassador for our sport and I beg you to reassess how you interact with the world. And pulling up next to a bicyclist and asking directions in a low conversational tone at 25 mph—and seeing the flabbergasted look on his or her face—is pretty much worth $16,000 alone.

Won’t my electric rates go up when I’m charging my bike every night?

Maybe a little, but you might not notice it. If you charge during off-peak hours, it’s very cheap—less than a penny a mile in some places. That’s $10 a month if you ride 1000 miles. Compare that to 1000 miles on a 40-mpg gas bike: about $100 at $4 a gallon. Here’s an easier question to answer: What will you do with that extra $90 a month?

I can’t have this as an only motorcycle—I like riding 500 miles a day on weekends.

Who do you know that only has one motorcycle? Not me. Many of my friends push the boundaries of their marital relationships every time they bring a new “project” home. And it’s not just my friends: most American motorcyclists have multiple rides and are divorced. Most of us already have a daily rider and one or more “fun” or project bikes for dirt riding, adventure travel, long-distance sport rides, bike shows or trackdays. Since I live in a dense metropolitan area, 85 percent of my riding is trips of 20 miles or less, which makes me a perfect Zero customer. If you live in the boonies, it probably isn’t right for you, and you know it, so why are you reading this? Get back to work!

Many urban and city riders don’t have garages—where will they plug in?

This is a problem, but I wouldn’t buy an expensive gas motorcycle if I didn’t have a private, locked garage space, either. Plugging in every day at work may be a solution, but Zero offers the XU and FX models for inner-city dwellers—these bikes are smaller, lighter and have smaller batteries. They’re interchangeable 2.8 kwh (2.5 kwh nominal charge) packs that can be swapped out in seconds. The packs weigh about 37 pounds each and cost $2495, and each bike has room for two, allowing an entry-level buyer to only purchase the amount of battery he or she needs. The rider can pull the packs out and carry them into their workplace or home and charge them inside, leaving the bike securely locked up on the street or in a carport.

Editor Edge has talked to me at length about such swappable batteries—he thinks it’s a great solution to the range issue, envisioning a time when gas stations stock standard-sized batteries riders can swap for discharged ones and then be on their way (the first of these was built in Europe nearly two years ago – Ed.). I think it’s likely the energy-density issue will be solved long before there are enough e-motos and electric cars on the roads to allow manufacturers to standardize batteries in this way.

Won’t next year’s model be even faster, better and cheaper?

I don’t think so. Zero seems to have found a happy place after many years and millions of dollars of product development, and I’d expect it to stay mostly the same for several years at least. “We’ve reached a great platform from which we’ll see incremental improvements—no more wholesale doubling of range and horsepower,” Zeros’ PR manager Scot Harden told me. Instead, he said, customers will see “continuous improvement, but it won’t be an outmoding of the previous year’s bike. Don’t be afraid to step up.”

Even if there are big advances, the Zero’s battery pack is a modular system, and I can foresee selling the old pack and buying a new one for a modest outlay (compared to getting big gains in performance from a gas engine) in 5-10 years. Harden also hinted at an accessory battery pack that could be plugged into the bike and attached to a rack when extra range is needed for touring or long-distance sport rides—I imagine a Zero dealer renting such batteries would enjoy the extra profit potential, and such product sharing is popular with younger consumers.

 

126 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    not to change the subject, but the techno-phile side of my brain begs a question…

    WHAT IN THE TOM T. HALL IS GOING ON WITH THAT CABLE ROUTING…?

    are we using that extra 2ft to operate a front caliper…? or are we tethering the stanchions against uncontrolled release like so much F1 wheel…? pastrana hucking the double back at X12 didn’t run that much free play.

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  2. Gronde says:

    It seems that the breakdown in the article suggests how “affordable” this bike is. I think not. What is affordable are used bikes on the secondary market. If you really want to save money, buy a per-owened bike that has taken the depreciation hit and go out a have fun without having to lay out $14,000 just to acquire to bike. Lot’s of bikes available for around $3000 that have years of life left in them.

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  3. Reagan says:

    Oh boy now. All of the AlGore (the phony who sold his cable company to an Islamic News Company which is financed by oil rich dictators in the Mid East) clones are out of the wood work.
    After all the talk and name calling not one of you boys will put there money where there mouth is. Surely somebody is going to pony-up and write that check for the Zero.
    Hey boys, it’s a sure sign that you have lost the argument when you resort to name calling.
    Well I’m going to go for a ride on my 75 T500 piston port 2stroke, it gets about 20mpg, not bad I guess.

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    • Todd Glasier says:

      Once again, missing the point! How many years did it take “horseless carriages” to win favor among cranky conservatives of the day? Did you think the same thing about those little scooters, that are zipping all over the city now?
      Time marches on…

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      • Reagan says:

        Cranky, look in the mirror. Hey cheer up, I know what would make you feel better. You could probably pick-up a Coda cheap now that they filled for bankruptcy.

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    • Dave says:

      Re: “the phony who sold his cable company to an Islamic News Company which is financed by oil rich dictators in the Mid East”

      You don’t support the principle of free market, is that what I’m reading here?
      He’s free to sell to the highest bidder, just like Cheney did with the Clean Water act (except that was yours, not his to sell).

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  4. pistoldave says:

    Disclosure – I am a Libertarian/Conservative who works for a major oil company and owns several IC powered bikes. An E-bike does not fit my type of riding in any way shape, or form. However, I would really like to have one, just because it looks like it would be fun (my only reason for riding). My problem, like a lot of other folks, is I cant really justify spending this kind of cash on something to whiz around the neighborhood on. My gut feel is that I could probably talk myself into forking out 7-8k for one of these, but thats probably the limit. Why are these bikes so expensive? Is the bulk of that cost in the battery, control electronics, motor, etc. or is it simply a factor of volume? The bikes look to me to have gotten capable enough in terms of performance to be viable solutions for a number of folks. If so, when they begin to approach something of a widespread acceptance, thus allowing large scale mass production, what are the chances the price will come down to near or maybe even below that of a comparable IC bike? What are the industry leaders best guesses for something like this happening? I would really like to see an article that deals with the gritty internal technical aspects of these bikes as well a discussion on pricing predictions relative to IC bikes for say the next 15 years. How about it MD, one more E-bike article??

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    • Todd Glasier says:

      +1 !
      All that R & D done over the last 5 yrs is the likely suspect for the high buy-in price. I assume, like you, that that will come down over time as they become more widespread with mass production; while at the same time the top prices will likely be applied to the latest and greatest battery tech, same as with any other vehicle type.

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    • Todd Glasier says:

      I forgot to say that the prices of mid-size and liter-size bikes that I have been watching have ALSO climbed significantly in the last ~5 yrs – in many cases by almsot 30% !
      If this keeps up, the price diff you are seeing is likely to fade quickly.

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    • Dave Kent says:

      Great post, PistolDave! The info you seek would be of great interest to many folks. I’d love to see MD take you up in it, but finding an unbiased “industry leader” might be the biggest hurdle.

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    • Norm G. says:

      re: “How about it MD, one more E-bike article??”

      what, you think that these guys need encouragement…? :)

      Report this comment

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for showing that conservatives can look at something new with an open mind Pistoldave. I know there are many like you, most don’t engage in these kinds of conversations.

      In answer to your question, yes, it is nothing more than a factor of volume. This is one of the ways that Tesla auto saves cost in their battery, they use cells of the same form factor as you’d find in a lap top (different chemistry) and thousands of them.

      Another issue is that like the cars, electric motos are having to break into the market by trying to sell to gas moto/auto customers. With current tech the range could be increased by sacrificing performance (acceleration). In China there are electric scooters everywhere in the cities because that’s where it makes the most sense. That just doesn’t get anybody’s blood up in the US.

      For highway cruising the only answer is more battery or big improvements to aero and rolling resistance (more the former). Electric has and continues to improve at a rapid rate. I hope it tips and becomes something more economacally feasible in the future. Seems like the car side continues to struggle.

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  5. Neil Hopkins says:

    MD, please keep reviewing electric motorcycles. Some of us are motorcycle enthusiasts, not oil industry shills. We’re interested in new motorcycle technologies and design.

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    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Oil industry shills? Do you really think that is why some of these people aren’t excited about ebikes? Ebikes don’t make sense for me yet, but I am sure they will in the not so distant future. In any case, I love to read about them and anything motorcycle related. I also like the back and forth on forums such as this. So let the shills from both extremes have their go. Their passion for one flavor of motive power over another doesn’t make them any less an enthusiast than you or me.

      As far as the Oil and Gas industry goes, they will be just as happy to charge your batteries as they are to fill your tank. As will state and federal governments be just as happy to tax your kilowatts as they are your gallons of gas.

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      • Todd Glasier says:

        Which type of “gas” industry are you referring to?
        By and large, the power we get from fuel (gas, oil) is a completely separate industry and product stream from the electricity generation industry.
        One comes from drilling, primarily foreign/middle-east; the other comes primarily from mining – coal, uranium, and much less so nat gas, hydro, etc.
        Just to be clear…

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        • Jeremy in TX says:

          The “Gas” in Oil & Gas is the natural stuff extracted from the ground. Coal-fired plants are on the endangered species list, so the jest was just based on my presumption that natural gas will play a big part of electricity generation in the near future. Electricity and gasoline are very different animals as you said, but the market structure is the same further upstream when that electricity is produced by natural gas or LPG.

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      • Neil Hopkins says:

        Sounds like we are in agreement. We both like to read about electric motorcycles, unlike some people who have asked why MD even reviews electric motorcycles.

        I don’t know anyone that owns an oil refinery but people do own solar panels, which you can use to charge the batteries in an electric motorcycle. That might be why oil industry shills get so excited about articles such as this. Electricity purchased from the grid is already taxed and regulated, like gasoline.

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        • Jeremy in TX says:

          We are on the same page. But I also like to hear the shills rant about the evils of ebikes and the wasted journalism devoted to them! :-)

          Electricity is taxed, but it is nothing when compared to the tax on gasoline and diesel. You can actually build a homemade refinery pretty easily and more cheaply than buying solar panels. You just can’t exactly buy sweet crude at your local Walmart. (Queue giant retailer shills now!) Being completely “off the grid” is indeed an appealing possibility though I don’t think the economy of scales of utility companies will ever be eclipsed to the point where that makes financial sense. Kind of like buying an ebike, you’d have to just want to. :-)

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  6. Todd Glasier says:

    Most of you hard-headed naysayers are not seeing the big picture here (BTW are you the same guys posting the same comments on every e-bike review? We get it – you’ll never own an e-bike. If you aren’t interested then WHY are you reading the article?).

    5 yrs ago the (lack of) e-bike performance meant there was NO target market for any e-bike.
    Now, we have a bike that looks good, performs at a new level, which can meet the demands of a definitive market niche (as stated in the article, tho many of you seemed to have missed that). No vehicle is everything to everyone – neither is this.
    Now take it 5 years forward. With this rate of progress, the parity to ICE bikes is imminent. The R&D put into these designs has been a mere pittance so far (consider how much of YOUR tax money went to oil subsidies to multi-billion dollar corps this year?). If you read any science/tech articles there are many energy storage technologies being developed which will keep pushing the limits of what we can do. So why so negative? It’s borderline un-American.

    Bottom line is, y’all sound like grumpy old men (“Back in my day…!”). Take the (excellent IMO) review for what it is worth – a remarkable checkpoint in the progress being made. And expect more progress every year, especially when one of the mainstream companies (Honda?) comes out with their own models (or buys out Zero, etc as one poster pointed out).

    No I am not going to buy this bike today. But I am open to it in the future. I currently ride an RC51 which this bike cannot replace. However for the majority of my life I have had 2 bikes at the same time; the Zero could easily fill that second bike role now.

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    • Gary says:

      I think there are three types of cynics when it comes to e-vehicles.

      1) Political tea baggers, birthers, libertarians … who have been trained by Fox News to disparage any tech development that might result in a more sustainable future. To them, it is all about politics, Tesla be damned. They will cling to their beliefs until you pry their Chevron credit cards from their cold, dead hands.
      2) Traditionalists … who remember the good ol’ days, when bikes were ear-splitting loud, and who cannot separate sound from performance. For them, internal combustion IS performance. You cannot have one without the other. I can sympathize, but I cannot agree. I’m excited about stealth performance.
      3) Pragmatists … who see the writing on the wall, but who think e-bikes still have a way to go, R&D-wise, before they are willing to lay down their cold-hard cash. It is not a question of IF e-bikes will be accepted. It is only a matter of WHEN.

      I fall in category 3).

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      • Todd Glasier says:

        Agreed Gary. Another popular category might be those who are just “anti-green anything”, for some reason I cannot fathom, and will look for any reason to bash.
        They may be right, for the moment, that this e-bike doesn’t attract overwhelmingly on a performance level. I say, come back in another 5 yrs, since they aren’t recognizing the momentum.

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        • Gary says:

          I’d be very surprised if it took five years. More like two. There is tremendous money to be made … the prime factor driving tech innovation. Batteries will get smaller/lighter and/or an infrastructure will emerge that supports a hot-swap paradigm, similar to a gas station. With Elon Musk driving the program, you can bank on it.

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  7. Tom Shields says:

    The Zero looks like a lot of fun and if I had one in my garage I would ride it every weekend. Its range would be perfect for the way I ride – short blasts in the country, or a short commute to work if I decide to ride in rather than drive my car. Right now it’s too expensive and I’m not willing to pay the premium to be an early adopter. But I do hope that others are willing, and that some economy of scale will kick in to make this bike and others like it more affordable.

    Range and charging time – well, I can’t add much to what everyone else has said. I feel that battery technology will continue to add energy density to the batteries but frankly I can’t see a widespread charging infrastructure happening any time soon. If it ever happens for e-cars then motorcycles will also benefit, but until then…..

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  8. Reagan says:

    On the news yesterday, Coda electric car maker bites the dust. Joining two other electric car makers going bankrupt in the last year. Also a friend who works for GM said the Volt is not selling (other than some Gov. purchases). Can Zero be on its death walk?

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    • Hair says:

      It’s sad isn’t it. Two years ago I was thinking that my next bike would have been an E-bike. But I’ve since bought 2 bikes and guess what. No E-bike’s in Hair’s garage yet. I’m not sure why that is. I know that I am not willing to be spending my money on a Research project. I wish the best of luck to the E-bike industry. But I am not willing to throw an dollars at them.

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    • Todd Glasier says:

      And this is different from any other industry how? Only about one in ten of any start-up business survive. Add our current economy to that and you aren’t telling anybody anything new.

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  9. Dave Kent says:

    MD, please keep up the articles despite the criticism. I have no plans to buy an EBike anytime soon, but I do keep an open mind about them and I appreciate you keeping us abreast of the steady progress being made by the industry. If/when I ever do decide to spring for one, your site will have been largely responsible for keeping my interest and knowledge current. Thanks again.

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  10. Gary T says:

    I do want my next bike to be electric, but 70 at 70 is not enough for me even if the recharge time was only 5 min. I do want one though!
    A design feature of this bike that I notice is the swing arm and drive shaft pivoting in the same place. Was there anything that was noticeable about that while underway?
    I tried looking but could not quantify the statement, “the bias-ply tires should last longer than the CB’s radials”. If anything, I got the impression that radial tires list wear as an advantage.

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  11. mugwump says:

    It’s getting closer. Make it 100 miles on a charge and I will really start thinking. My weekly total commute is 400 miles 1/2 county and state roads and 1/2 slab. My fuel bill for commuting is aprox $120 a month. I have a utility bike, it’s still fun, and a couple fun bikes. I don’t confuse them.

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    • Gabe says:

      If you had a place to charge at work, this bike could do the 80-mile round trip you describe–and you could haul ass on the 2-laners and have a ball. If you rode conservatively (kept the average speed under 55) you could do the round-trip on a single charge.

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  12. Dave says:

    Simple request for Electric bike articles:
    From now on, if you are the kind of rider that needs to ride 400 miles in a day, please don’t post your opinion. It is as useless to readers as these types of motorcycles are to you. This product it not for you. It was never meant to be.

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  13. Nate says:

    So… its 2013 and electric motorcycles are still useless.

    In other news… water is wet.

    Call me when you can do 800 miles in a day, charge it over night, and do it again.

    Until then… it’s useless.

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    • sl says:

      The 800 mile a day demographic is like 800 miles away. Someone here stated we should not expect a Miata to carry plywood. I am not saying you shouldn’t enjoy a good iron butt marithon, but i wouldn’t race a camper on the weekends, or mow my grass with a combine.

      I am not sold on this model, but i see no reson to carry on like this.

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    • Fred M. says:

      Apparently you did not read the article, since it’s obvious that this is an ideal bike for many commuters.

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  14. mickey says:

    Motorcycles DO NOT make sense if you are talking about cost of operation on a 650 cc or larger motorcycles when compared to a compact car. In comparison they are more dangerous, are very expensive to maintain, are for the most part good weather dependent, and get horrible gas mileage…. BUT…we don’t buy motorcycles because they are safe or economical ( although some will try and use that as an excuse). We buy them because they thill us, they are exciting and fun. compared to my Honda Civic, my motorcycles are money pits. Now ask me which one I’d rather drive …er ride on a sunny day.

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    • Gary says:

      Not long ago people said precisely the same thing about horses versus those newfangled cars.

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    • Gronde says:

      I agree with Mickey. The only reason I ride is because it’s exciting. I commute on a bike because it’s fun, period. I’m not really saving any money by commuting when you figure in the cost of insurance, tires, gas, servicing etc…so it’s all about the experience. For me a big part of what makes motorcycling fun is the engine and the sounds it produces. I could care less if it get 15 or 50 miles to the gallon. Electric bikes may be favored by a few riders, but I will ride IC bikes until the last drop of oil on earth is used. Go ahead and buy yourself a $14,000 electric bike if that makes you happy and I will continue to burn the gas til’ it’s all gone.

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      • Norm G. says:

        re: “but I will ride IC bikes until the last drop of oil on earth is used.”

        lemme help you out, the phrase you’re looking for goes…

        YOU CAN HAVE MY “ICE” WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD FINGERS…!!!

        there, that’s better. :)

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        • mickey says:

          Lol funny Norm.

          I personally am not anti electric bike…hell one of my stable is a scooter for crissakes, so Im no knuckle dragging, anti automatic, anti electric neandrathal. On the contrary I am pretty open to anything with a motor and 2 wheels. But as far as electric bikes go, unless they can do what my ice bike does, even remotely, theres not much chance of them selling me one. Im leaving from southern Ohio to go see a buddy in Northern Wisc in a couple weeks. If I could only ride 70 miles before needing an 8 hour charge it would take nearly 2 weeks each way ( and thats depending on finding a place to charge it where I ran out of juice) instead of 1 long day each way on my ice bike. Last year my wife and I toured Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming. Took 2 weeks on my ST, my gosh that would take a year on an electric and good luck finding a charging station in the wide open west.

          For city dwellers with a 15 minute commute, these make a lot of sense. For the majority of us though, the electric vehicles have a hell of a long way to go, before they are feasible or useful.

          If the earth does indeed run out of oil, and electric bikes are our only alternative, I’ll own one, but I’m not going to be able to go anywhere, so whats the point?

          Report this comment

  15. Paul says:

    maybe i am misinformed and/or not current…
    here is what i believe to be true of “quick charging” batteries.
    *i do some battery powered devices have a battery temperature sensor that will cut power from the battery once that specified magic temp is achieved. this saves the battery from being burned up and junked.
    as far as “quick charging”…
    more juice(amps) applied to a battery means more “heat” added!!!..heat is very bad for a battery (the batteries I know of at least).
    a slow charge(low juice/heat) always is better for the battery and the battery life will be longer than that if it’s nearly “boiled” all the time.
    do these e-bikes provide any info/answers to the quick charge issue (if it is an issue).

    Report this comment

  16. kjazz says:

    Has the aftermarket developed any long-lasting playing cards for the spokes yet…..?

    Report this comment

  17. Frank says:

    Another overpriced, underperforming electric novelty. I’ll be paying attention when these tiddlers are priced under $10,000, go 200 miles over hilly terrain carrying a 120-pound passenger on a charge that took 2 hours from a 110 volt outlet. After all, it takes less than 5 minutes to fill-up a motorcycle powered by gas that cost half as much and off you go! No waiting, no charging equipment, no problem. As-is these electric toy makers hide the fact that widespread use of electric motorcycles will require more oil-fired, nuclear powered or natural-gas fueled power plants. Want those in your backyard? Didn’t think so. In the fantasy world of Prius drivers and Zero riders zooming all over the land, what’s fueling them? Now we’re back to ground zero (excuse the pun). At the pace my local utility keeps raising it’s electricity rates, I’m not sure it will be economically feasible to operate electric vehicles in 10 years. If San Onofre gets shut down permanently (in today’s news) southern CA is going to have a serious power generation shortage. Add 100,000 electric motorcycles to that mix? See the problem? As demand goes up, the price for electricity will go up, making investment in electric motorcycles look worse as time goes on. No thanks.

    Report this comment

    • Pork Chop Express says:

      Some of your performance requirements for electric bikes will probably be a reality in the not too distant future but any vehicle capable of carrying two people over hills for 200 miles (I assume this is at highway speed) will not be able to charge back up in 2 hours from a 110 volt outlet. We need advancements in the energy density of batteries to make all of this possible but those increases in battery capacity will also require increases in power sources to charge those batteries and a 110 volt outlet isn’t going to push the amps necessary to fast charge those types of batteries in 2 hours.

      Electric bikes are in their infancy and one day I truly believe they will be a viable alternative to IC powered bikes. I love gas powered engines as much as the next guy but I’m not quite onboard with your cost argument of electricity versus pump gas. Electricity will always be cheaper because you can have so many different power sources feeding the same grid. Oil has to be drilled out of the ground, transported to refineries, purified into high octane gas, then transported again to gas stations. It’s just not a terribly efficient way of supplying fuel. What is efficient is the energy density of gasoline, you get a lot of bang for your buck. However, one day in the not too distant future batteries will begin to challenge that energy density and that will be when our beloved dino-fuel burning V-Twins and Inline-4′s will become dinosaurs themselves. Remember too, while your electricity rates are going up the price of gasoline is going up too and one day they will absolutely spike when it starts to run out.

      Report this comment

    • Todd Glasier says:

      And? I could say the same thing about oil/gas availability and price. Nice one-sided argument though…

      Report this comment

  18. Jeremy in TX says:

    That Shoei doesn’t match your Aerostich, but it matches the Zero perfectly!

    Fun twist on the article addressing the jeers that normally spill out in comments concerning electrics (whether or not you agree with Gabe’s math). I personally am not willing to make the gamble on the longevity of these very expensive batteries until there is more information available, nor am I willing to pay that much for a “commuter only” bike. But the technology is improving, and for certain people, this bike could make sense.

    Report this comment

  19. blackcayman says:

    Half of the fun of this site is to read the banter… I’m in the Gasoline camp, probably even past the time when they get on par with performance and price

    Report this comment

  20. Hair says:

    Try to sell me something that I don’t want and I will beat you up with excuses all day long. Sure gas is expensive. But I am use to the price. I’ve made adjustments to my lifestyle. I can plan ahead and accommodate small changes in those plans.
    But I haven’t figured out what to do about a bike that has Zero charge when I am miles from home. Do I leave it along the side of the road for someone to steal? Do I carry a generator so I can get enough charge in it to make it home? What do I do when the e-bike’s battery fails? Good god the price of my lap top’s replacement battery is enough to choke a horse.
    I say enough of this electric BS. When the time comes I might be interested. But that time is not today.

    Besides if I really wanted to save money on my drive to work. I’d get a small car. They don’t need tires every couple thousand miles.

    Report this comment

  21. Frank W says:

    On the noise it depends what you ride, I deliberately run my BMW F800R in first or second in heavy traffic and it makes a lovely growl that wakes car drivers up, a definite plus point. I think Harley riders would concur as they can shake the tarmac up let alone make sure drivers are awake. And ped’s stepping out between stalled cages would definitely be a danger on a silent electric bike. As I have solar panels on the roof running costs would be even less than quoted and it would be otherwise well suited to my needs. Depriciation though is likely to be high as you would expect the price of new bikes to fall ever year as the tech gets sorted.

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  22. motowarrior says:

    I think it is about time to rename this site Electric Bike Justification Daily. How about a hiatus from these articles until there is a bike that can stand on its own without complex computations justifying its existence? Nobody told me there was going to be math…

    Report this comment

    • Provologna says:

      No less a left wing raving lunatic than Republican ex-Utah Governor (you know, that ultra radical liberal state run by Democrats) ex-Presidential candidate, successful business man and philanthropist John Huntsman said, while running for the last Republican nomination, the actual cost to USA taxpayers per gallon of fuel, when accounting for military excursions and health related costs for illness and injury, is $13-$15 per gallon. Huntsman is an avid motorcycle junkie and broke one of his limbs riding whilst he was governor. God I miss him. He is one of us.

      Next time readers fill up their tank, consider this fact that $9 to $11 per every single gallon removes from the economy to pay for the pleasure you receive every twist of your throttle. Also, innocent blood spills for your “pleasure” every single day. We are in bed with the Al Saud family who runs the most brutal nation on earth, who pegs their oil to the USD in quid pro quo for our unbridled military support.

      These truths are in Gabe’s consciousness because of his personal military experience. Good on you very much, Mr. Ets-Hokin.

      Readers thinking these companies like Zero will not eventually be purchased by Honda or some other equity group are extremely naive.

      One day the reckoning comes for our recklessness re. fossil fuel consumption, whether we prepare for it or not.

      I don’t well suffer foolish statements like the one expressed above. Go pick up a glossy magazine and be enthralled with multimillion dollar colorful ad campaigns with barely clad females. You’re welcome to leave anytime.

      One last word about my dearly beloved John Hunstman: in exchange for his statement above, you can bet every cent of your net worth this great and talented human being would absolutely never, in a million years, be nominated for president by either party, even less the Republicans. He is forever and ever black listed by TPTB for telling the truth.

      Report this comment

      • ROXX says:

        We would not have to import oil if the current administration would let us drill domestically.

        You claim:
        “Next time readers fill up their tank, consider this fact that $9 to $11 per every single gallon removes from the economy to pay for the pleasure you receive every twist of your throttle. ”

        Do you have some hard statistical facts to back this up rather than something a politician running for office said? (they NEVER stretch the truth or lie)
        You it’s like believing you read something on the internet so it must be true.

        Report this comment

        • iliketoeat says:

          Yeah, sure, drill domestically, and then we’ll pay the extra $9 or $11 in environmental damage, cleanup, and health costs.

          Report this comment

        • Provologna says:

          I wonder what did Huntsman gain by his claim if it was false, especially running for Republican nomination. Others make the same claim, including ex-CIA Director and retired Generals. These people I believe, yes. I have not seen the primary sources myself. I’m no ideologue. I’d prefer to ban both major parties at the national level.

          Do you claim US military excursions in the ME are free, or they are unrelated to oil thirst to run the economy, or both? Either is idiotic in the extreme, naive, or outright lie. Do you claim dramatic increases in rate of asthma and other respiratory illness is unrelated to air pollution and unrelated to burnt fossil fuel?

          Do you deny the Al Saud family who runs Saudi Arabia made quid pro quo deal to peg oil to USD in exchange for unbridled military support? Obama just signed another deal for arms to the Al Saud dictatorship (maybe you think the Saudi “Prince” rules over Camelot). The Al Saud family, our alleged friends, flush solid gold toilets whilst the average Saudi Muslim eats dirt. The Al Saud family finance Wohabi Medrasas where they direct Saudi Muslim children to hate Satan America so they hate us rather than the Saud family.

          Report this comment

        • halfbaked says:

          Let them drill and or frack in your back yard and build a nuclear power plant while they”re at it.

          Report this comment

      • Bud says:

        I didn’t really become aware of Gov. Huntsman until just about the time he bowed out of the primary but I did find him to be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise putrid republican slate of candidates. I hope he resurfaces one day.

        Report this comment

      • motowarrior says:

        Last I checked this was a motorcycle enthusiast site. You can take your politics elsewhere. Comments like “innocent blood spills for your pleasure” are the ravings of a guy with too many conspiracy theories for me.

        I used to like Huntsman. I may have to reconsider…

        Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I think it is about time to rename this site Electric Bike Justification Daily.”

      LOL omg, that’s awesome…!!! gabe, dirck, ya know he’s got you pegged on that one. not that there’s anything wrong with that. i recognize, it goes part and parcel with the influences of silicon valley, bay area living. if i’m not mistaken, toyota’s entire production run of 1st gen priuses can be seen during rush hour on the 880.

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  23. GP says:

    I like it, and I would like to have one. I would really like to see a street legal, dual sport version, though. The current price is still a significant hurdle, and though development and technology may have reached a significant plateau, efforts to reduce cost should be the current priority.

    Report this comment

  24. Ralph says:

    Problem is, one can find great (and sometimes nicely farkled) examples of late model KLR-650′s for $4k. Add Jesse bags or similar and you have an anvil of a commuter bike that is fairly easy on gas. And, you don’t care what happens to the ugly thing. Rock on.

    Report this comment

  25. Bones says:

    “If you depend on your roaring pipes to make pedestrians, bicyclists, cats, dogs and nannies with perambulators scramble out of your way like peasants fleeing before the Mongol hordes, you are not a good ambassador for our sport and I beg you to reassess how you interact with the world.”

    That’s beautifully stated.

    Report this comment

  26. Norm G. says:

    re: “Judging from our feedback, MD’s readers are a world-weary bunch when it comes to electric motorcycles”

    lil’ bit. (deniro accent)

    Report this comment

  27. sl says:

    Ahh, human nature.

    Report this comment

  28. Provologna says:

    Looks totally beahtchun.

    Report this comment

  29. Austin ZZr1200 says:

    Bring the price under $8K and I’m there…just a few years at this pace

    Report this comment

  30. SupraStar says:

    Disappointing article in regards to cost comparing. I would call into question your journalistic integrity. In the very first part of the article, you state “about 500 miles to the odometer in seven days, which is triple the average usage of a motorcycle in the USA.”. Which means ~200 miles is the average use for a motorcycle per week..or ~10,000 miles per year. Yet for your cost comparision you choose 15,000 merely to tilt the argument in favor of the Zero. If we use facts from the US Department of Transportation, the average yearly miles travelled for all motorcycles in the US is a paltry 1,800 miles. So you mention “averages”, but disdcard those same averages for your comparitive purposes. Quite suspect IMO.

    Next, your maintenance costs/visits are a questionnable. A large portion of people do their own service. And again..with only 10,000 miles being riden on average per year (or less) those visits would be significantly less. Do your own maintenance? Even less cost. You have an average maintenance trip at about 3 per year. I can’t recall visiting the dealership 3 times in the LIFE of any motorcycle I’ve owned for service, let alone that many times per year, every year.

    Perhaps you can indulge us and re-do your calculations based on the average use of a motorcycle…not calculation made specifically to tilt the argument in the favor of the Zero.

    Report this comment

    • reagan says:

      Honda claim 63mpg for the NC700x and 8000mi for service itervals. A far cry from the numbers listed above in the article which has numbers of 50mpg and service intervals of 5250mi for the NC700X.The service intervals listed by Honda for the CB500F is 8000mi not 5625mi listed in the article. What can we conclude from these differences?

      Report this comment

      • SupraStar says:

        It’s obvious they were trying to load the scenarios in favor of the Zero. Which is why I was questionning the journalisting integrity of the article.

        Report this comment

        • reagan says:

          So Mr SupraStar, from what your saying then one must conclude that this article is not factual.

          Report this comment

          • SupraStar says:

            It depends. Which “facts” are being used. What yearly mileage fact? Dealership visit facts? Dealership cost facts? Maintenance interval fact?

            There are many ways to skew a comparison.

            Report this comment

          • Dirck Edge says:

            “Mr. SupraStar” … I like that.

            Report this comment

          • Tom K. says:

            One comparison omission: Money Cost. You either have to borrow the money to buy the thing (and the last time I looked, motorcycles come with some pretty steep interest rates), or pay cash (doesn’t everybody do that?), and absorb the lost potential of investing it somewhere else, say Polaris Industries common stock (disclosure, I don’t own any). Interest on $11K is 2.5 times the interest on $5.5K. And, shouldn’t the compared-to bike be something with more comparable specs, like a Ninja 300? Finally, there’s that whole depreciation factor, which may or may not come out to the Zero’s benefit – unless, you’re assuming both bikes are worth zero (pun intended) after three years. Just sayin’.

            Report this comment

          • Tom K. says:

            “2.5″ times indeed – it appears my math skills are more suspect than Gabe’s, but at least my integrity won’t be questioned, I’m neutral on the subject, ride whatever trips your trigger. I guess it was time for me to go to bed as well. Anyhoo, you also have to figure in insurance costs to have a “fairer” comparison, which should be greater on the more-expensive machine. But, thanks for the article, I’m about to do the same exercise to determine whether a Ford C-Max makes sense. My guess is it won’t.

            Report this comment

        • Dirck Edge says:

          I would question Gabe’s math skills before questioning his “journalisting integrity”, but that’s just me.

          Report this comment

          • Gabe says:

            Actually, my math skills are solid. Even if Honda says you can go 8000 miles between oil changes, I wouldn’t advise it. And if you go to a dealer to get this stuff done, you’ll pay about $300 a time.

            Also, Honda’s MPG clims are based on the EPA test cycle, and our readers don’t ride like EPA bureaucrats. Read John Joss’ and my review of the NC700X on this very site to see that average mpg in the real world is much closer to 50 than 60.

            Finally, I’d like to point out that my scenario was for a very specific sort of rider that may be interested in this bike. Nowhere, ever, in any story I’ve ever written about electric motorcycles, have I stated that they are the perfect universal motorcycle for every kind of riding. So I constructed a scenario where the Zero DOES make sense.

            SupraStar constructs his own scenarios where a Zero doesn’t make sense. I agree–there are many of them, and for the average American motorcyclist, an E-Moto would be an extravagance–much like a Desmosedici, Big Dog chopper, NCR Leggera or any one of hudreds of fun, yet expensive machines.

            Oh, and questioning the journalistic integrity of a moto-journalist is kind of like asking if a stripper is a virgin.

            Report this comment

    • Kent says:

      He’s also talking about commuting on a near daily basis. That will get you far more miles than weekend rides.
      This bike isn’t for everybody, but for an urban commuter, it might make sense – especially if that urban commuter doesn’t do their own maintenance.

      Report this comment

      • reagan says:

        No it doesn’t make sense, you would have to buy the ZeroS knowing it doesn’t make sense. Who is ready to step and write a check?
        But don’t forget it cost $16000, has just a 70mi range at optimal temperatures, has uncertain and long charging time, no rack or passenger space and limited performance. Not to mention the articles discrepancies in the comparisons.

        Report this comment

        • Craig Jackman says:

          You can’t use that arguement as someone would come back saying motorcycles don’t make sense. Well, in Cali maybe, but in Canada with a riding season of 7 months (if you are willing to ride in at or below freezing temps) some people would question if a motorcycle makes sense. Oh, and how does cold temps, lets say high 30′s/low 40′s affect battery life and range? I’m thinking “drastically”.

          Report this comment

    • Fangit says:

      Oh what a load of utter codswallop! People that ride 1800 miles a year are not even proper motorcyclists. Dirck’s numbers are perfectly sensible and valid to me. If you commute 30 miles to work you will do 15,000 mile per year and commuting is the electric motorcycles target market. If you pose around on sunny Sundays to the local cafe and back don’t buy an electric bike and don’t critisize them for not being all things to all people.

      Report this comment

      • SupraStar says:

        You have to remember…in many places in the US you simply can’t ride all year. Maybe in a select few states. I agree though, 1800 miles yearly isn’t much.

        Those who can and do commute every day all year long on a bike are not the majority I would say.

        Report this comment

        • sl says:

          I agree they may not be the majority, but the question is there enough of them? The world is about $&¢. In this society if you can sell enough to make money it is worth it.

          I am their target market. I ride five miles to work, and rarely see rain much less snow. Would I buy one? As a second (or third etc.) bike. That said you can tap a new market with these bikes. People who don’t know how to shift, and are intimidated by motorcycles. If these are embraced by young professionals (people with jobs) Zero’s a hero. These bikes are easy to ride, have no “biker” stigmatism, and “green” is trendy. “You meet the nicest people on a Zero”.

          Report this comment

          • Jake says:

            re: ^^ “People who don’t know how to shift”
            From Wall Street Cheat Sheet e-zine: “There is a great percentage of Americans who cannot, or will not, drive manual, thus always opting for the automatic transmission.”

            Report this comment

        • Tom K. says:

          Jake, the last stat I read was that only between five and tem percent of new passenger vehilces sold were manuals. However, comparing motorcyclists to cagers is a waste of time – although most motorcyclists are also cagers, only a very small percentage of cagers will ever ride a bike. Almost all riders are adept at rowing their own, it just comes with the territory. Harley trikes and Can Ams are Ok for riders like Piney of SOA fame, but it’s like sex with a 300 pound woman – OK for somebody else but I hope I never have to go there – Sweet Farking Release of Death, come and take me first.

          Report this comment

          • Tom K. says:

            You know, I’ve got to retract that last statement before it’s even moderated – somebody gets into an accident or a firefight in Fallujah or something and still wants to ride, I’ll be the first guy to wave to them on their Can Am. But the guy who is too uncoordinated or afraid to shift or balance on two wheels? Do the world a favor and stay in your Camry. Apologies to anyone with disabilities, sometimes my keyboard runs at a faster speed than my judgement.

            Report this comment

  31. reagan says:

    The gas powered bikes service numbers don’t seem to add-up.Valve clearance check and coolant change every 5600mi on a CB500f and 5200mi on NC700x.Don’t know for sure by I think that is way-off for these mild motors (the NC700x motor is based on an econobox Honda car). Dose anyone know the actual miles for these services.

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  32. falcodoug says:

    First e-bike reading that got me thinking. I never ever considered buying an electric bike, always seemed to be a sellout. Now I am thinking “hey I could ride this to work and keep the other bikes around longer.” Good write up!

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  33. Philip says:

    You mentioned “fun” bikes in the article, is this bike fun to ride? Or is it just transportation? Honestly I can have fun on anything with two wheels, I have a little Razor electric dirtbike that I chase the kids around the yard with and it is alot of fun!
    But it only cost $500, and I think really (even though you make an awesome case)that is what the issue with these batt bikes, the initial cost. I think I could do a short term lease on one of these to check out how it is to live with, but can’t do 16 grand.

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  34. Tom R says:

    I just came back from a 230-mile joy ride, fired up the laptop, and saw this article. If not for a few honey-dos that were promised for today, I would have done another hundred.

    After reading the two sentences above, can everyone else plainly see the folly of a 70-mile range (35 out, 35 back), which then requires an overnight “fill up”?

    Report this comment

    • T. Rollie says:

      Great bike for a race-commute, and hope you don’t get speeding tickets. Charge up at work, charge up at home.

      Report this comment

      • Tom R says:

        Yes it may make a good commuter….but for $16,000 for God’s sake?! And it is minimalist at that-no fairing/windshield, no carrying capacity, no passenger room. And you’ll never see heated grips as an option as they would probably cut battery life by at least 50%.

        And what if you CAN’T plug it in at work. This concept just does not pencil out, but you early adopters are free to open up your wallets.

        Report this comment

    • Kent says:

      Did you read the article?

      This bike is aimed at commuters who live in the city, and he specifically mentioned having another bike for long rides. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like them and don’t plan to buy one (and I doubt I will either) but your argument blows.

      Do you complain about the crappy handling of your Hummer, or that your Miata sucks because you can’t haul plywood in it?

      Report this comment

    • Fangit says:

      Well of course nobody is going to buy one of these to do 230 mile joy-rides! Many people (like me) actually also ride a bike as a means of transport. I have a bike for “joy riding” and I have one I use to commute on. The Zero would be perfect for this.

      Report this comment

  35. reagan says:

    How do you know what the Amish think and nobody is stopping you from buying a horse.

    Report this comment

  36. reagan says:

    $16000 and they can’t give you a radial tire.70 miles and your done. No where to charge. This whole concept is a disaster

    Report this comment

    • Dirck Edge says:

      The Amish still believe noisy, dirty internal combustion-drawn carriages are a disastrous concept. A horse doesn’t require gas and can be your friend, for God’s sake!

      Report this comment

      • Honyock says:

        In the direst of straits, you can eat the horse.

        But seriously, I am the target market for this bike: 5 mile commute through the city, working as an engineer at a plant that assembles electrical equipment for commercial vehicles, so being an early adopter and intensive user/maintainer/modifier is all good. Why can’t I get the first half of that $16000 fer goshsakes into the “yes” orifice? Maybe because it’s more than twice the initial cost of the Ninja 650, which is capable of anything I might want to do on a motorcycle, and more. Long tailed ROI’s are based too much on assumptions and wishful thinking, especially for a bike that is reviewed without the adjective “gnarly” being used even once.

        Report this comment

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Gnarly analysis. I think these bikes are probably for the well-heeled and the adventurous until we have more experience with them.

          Report this comment

          • Reagan says:

            Maybe for the wellheeled. But I think it appeals to the guy committed to change, someone who has bought into the Al Gores movie and speeches (sealevel rising 10ft in 20years). Although I don’t think that crowd has the means to actually purchase it. The guy who has the coin to buy the Zero S is much more likely to get a BMW 800GS.

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    • Gabe says:

      Are you talking about the 883 Iron?

      Report this comment

    • Kagato says:

      I think MD is making a pretty good presentation–considering the difference in operating costs–I have a 25 mile round-trip commute. And I can charge at work, so this would make a great go to work scoot. And my commute is usually all the riding I do.

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      • kurt says:

        yeah, you can recharge at work NOW, but what will the boss say when there’s 20, 40 or 100 employees demanding a plug-in? And then he gets the great idea to make money off the electricity he’s selling you, say “let’s double my money….”

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