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MD Riding Impression: 2013 Zero DS … Eighty/Twenty: Life with Zero’s Plug-in Electric Dual-Sport

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Zero Motorcycles has quite the lineup of plated plug-ins, everything from the S-model standard, to the lightweight FX city stalker, to the DS dual-sport. Zero Motorcycles was kind enough to loan us a 2013 Zero DS for a few weeks to see how it compared to Gabe’s experience with the S.

On paper the DS has slightly less range (by approximately 9 miles), but top speed and torque/power statistics are identical. For what it’s worth, the DS’ battery life is 25,000 miles less than the S; however, you’re still looking at a claimed battery life of 284,000 miles, a negligible difference in the long run.

Both the S and DS have the same sprocket count (132 tooth rear / 28 tooth front), front suspension, rear suspension, and brakes. However, the DS suspension travel is obviously greater than the S to account for riding offroad. The DS offers 1.5 inches more front travel (7 inches total) and nearly 2 inches more in the rear (7.69 inches total).

As you would expect, the DS swaps out a 17-inch front wheel for a taller, narrower 19 inch. Zero also stretched the DS’ wheelbase an inch (56.5 inches) to give it better stability in the dirt. The additional suspension travel tacks on just over three inches to the seat height, so at 34.4 inches vertically challenged riders will have to make do with side straddling at stops. The DS comes in 8 pounds heavier (395 pounds), reducing carrying capacity to 360 pounds.

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The DS and S share the battery packs; therefore, you can expect the same charge times and cost to charge (about $1.73 in Central California). Both bikes come in at $15,995 ($14,995 for the 2014 models) when equipped with the larger 11.4 battery pack, and State and Federal tax credits pay you back about $2500.
What’s our 20 on the 80 Percent?

With the maximum speed test out of the way in our review on the S (about 95 mph) I moved on to range testing. We had already tested Zero’s highway claims on the S (70 miles at 70 miles per hour), so I chose to test claims for City mileage. Holding the bike at an average speed of 27 miles per hour without stopping, the bike will manage about 130 miles—slightly better than Zero’s claim of 126 miles. Bottom line is, What they say is what you get!

The DS and S share the same smartphone app, but as intuitive as it is I couldn’t initially pair to the bike. Zero customer support had me up and running within minutes though; flip the Sport/Eco switch a half dozen times with the bike’s kill switch in the off position and kickstand down: connected. The app allows you to apply self-parental guidance in Eco mode such as limiting the top speed which surely helps when you are trying to range test. Other than that, I never left Sport mode, why would you? There are many other functions, download the free app and run the demo.

Charging methods and times are identical for both motorcycles (it’s covered in our S review). Literally plug the bike into any standard outlet in your living room, kitchen, or garage. It makes a great focal point of discussion, center piece, or motorcycle…in that order. Within the next eight hours you’re ready to hit the road on a full charge. You can also plug in additional chargers ($600 each) if your circuits can handle the load—each one cuts charge time in half.

The DS is quite a comparable road warrior to the S without any notable differences. Either bike would suit a rider just fine with the S eking out a few more miles to the charge. You can’t go wrong with either.

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The real question: What’s the 20 on the 20 Percent?
Sandy dirt spraying behind me, I jetted from the Bixby Bridge and headed up Old Coast Road. Before 1932 the only way to get to/from Big Sur was via Old Coast Road, a 10 mile hard-packed sandy, dirty, hole-y, washed out, impassible-in-the-rain path that now parallels Highway 1. Where better to test the future of motorcycles but on a derelict old road?

I am not exactly sure this is what Zero meant by 20 percent off-road, but I know the road well having ridden everything on it from streetbikes to supermotos. Riding the uphill, sandy open section with Bixby over my shoulder was what you would expect from any dual sport motorcycle. The bike felt planted, nothing sketchy, and had plenty of torque to throw up a dusty rooster tail.

The rear brake made for an interesting descent as I rode down into the redwood forest. I found myself having to either balance all 125 pounds on the rear brake lever (not advised) or feather the front during the straights. I have the same complaints on the street as I do in the dirt—the rear brake could use some bite. Fortunately, the descents on this public road are not too dicey, so it is easily managed. Add a few more degrees of slope and it would have been a different story.

Further along into the forest I again found myself compromised. More times than not I would either try to avoid potholes and washouts completely or crawl over them. The suspension is quite stiff and while I appreciate that on the street and track I would hope for the bike to absorb some of the beating, too.
I did all 10 miles of Old Coast Road, which proved quite the challenge for the Zero DS. However, the DS still came out on top despite its faults. Many of my complaints were easily managed by either slowing down or riding more cautiously. To be fair, I know I stretched the capabilities of the DS and I am sure this is not the 20 percent Zero is referring to. There is still nothing better than plugging into nature and Zero is the only large-scale manufacturer to offer an electric dual-sport in the USA.

If I was ready to drop 16 large and had to make up my mind on either the S or DS I would personally choose the S. I am confident that anywhere the DS can go the S won’t be too far behind. I am comfortable taking a streetbike on hard-packed dirt so I”m confident I could do the little bit of exploring that I would want to. And finally the S offers slightly better range and a smaller front tire, allowing me to push it more on the street or track. Because of these reasons I would choose the S model, but if you lived in an area with a lot of single track or owned a few hundred acres you would be at home on the DS.

See more of Thomas Gray’s photography at his website.

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129 Comments

  1. Excalibear says:

    There are reasons to own electric, and not just, as some have expressed, the promise of a greener planet. The ability of riding quietly off-road can be extremely important to some people. Ditto for not depending on gas at all, low maintenance, easy riding, etc. I agree the price is very high, but these are niche market products. It’s going to take time for them to be competitive against dino juice. But if they come close, I hope ICE bikes improve in MPG, quiet riding and all the other qualities which make electric relevant. Competition is a good thing.

  2. Gronde says:

    Given the performance and range, I’d say it’s worth about $4000 dollars…no more. I guess ZERO has a long way to go before they sell a lot of bikes.

  3. Norm G. says:

    for those wildly optimistic about the future performance of batteries I’ve got a question:

    have any of you actually sat through a 110 level (or even a 100 level) Chemistry course…?

    do so and I think you’ll be surprised at how LESS optimistic you’ll become. not saying that’s good, simply that it’s an inconvenient truth. at the end of the day batteries, same as fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, etc.) are but a “chemical store” of energy who’s limits are really dictated by Natural Law. like Nuclear chemistry and Atomic weapons if the physics allow for it…? we’ll have ‘em. if they don’t…? we won’t.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Indeed. It is hard to believe that e-bikes will be anything more than niche bikes for a long time to come.

  4. halfbaked says:

    Kudos to MD for continuing to feature articles about electric motorcycles despite the bewilderingly strange responses they provoke from your readers.

    • jake says:

      What’s truly bewildering is why a group who is supposed to be our best and brightest are so eager to pay 16K for a bike whose performance equals only 1 or 2K. The people who usually buy these bikes, I guessing, are the silicon valley types with advance degrees in the STEM fields from our very best and most prestigious institutions. You know, the young guns, the 20 somethings who are just so brilliant, visionary, and ahead of the times that they deserve to become multi-billionares even while the pimples on their geeky looking faces are still showing.

      These nerds are supposed to be good at math, right? All nerds are good at math, right? So how come they are so willing to give up 16K for only 1K in return? Now that’s bewildering.

  5. yz454 says:

    KTM is light years ahead zero right now.

  6. Bob says:

    All electric vehicles are over priced junk. There you have it. I said it and I’m glad.

    Bob

    • Gary says:

      Guess you haven’t been reading much in the electric vehicle world then Bob. Hope you feel better. Now we know that you don’t know.

      • Bob says:

        Gary, what you don’t know that I know is how much I enjoy the internal combustion engine experience. The sound, the feel, tuning and modifications, even the power pulses some call vibration. I’m an old dinosaur, and I like “old” methods of locomotion in my motorcycles. That’s missing in electric vehicles. No response to this will change my mind no matter how irrational one may feel my position to be. That doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of further development of alternate propulsion methods, they’re just not for me.

        Bob

        • richard says:

          its the future for sure…watch the movie “Charge” top combustion engine riders commented how they enjoyed riding electric…a peacefull riding experience for a change was they’re comment ..not about to sell my bike …however really curious about riding one. Remember when Honda 1st produced a motorcycle it was called junk…not so true today….dont be so quick to judge …the technology is here and im excited

          • richard says:

            go drive a Tesla …i have..it will change your mind.just a taste of things to come.

          • jake says:

            Bhwa, ha, ha, ha. Don’t make me laugh, Rich. It won’t change my mind and at 120K, even if it wowed me, me and my non-sell out self couldn’t afford it.

            Don’t know much about tech – been in deep isolation from the world for most of my life – but in my isolation I did manage to learn a thing or two about people and human nature. One look at a pic of Elon Musk and I just crack up laughing.

            If such a person is running the company, then you know that company can’t be totally legit.

        • Gary says:

          Well then Bob, if you have no desire for something different, why then criticize? Just because it’s not what you like, it’s not junk. Do these cost too much right now? Sure, most things new and different like this usually are, but I’m confident will come down in price as times goes on. Read any test about the Tesla cars, they’re considered better to a lot of the luxury ICE brands and have great range for electric and otherwise. Sure, they are way to expensive for the average Joe right now too, but will come down as numbers and pay back on tooling goes up.

        • jake says:

          Hey, Bob, no need to apologize or to refer to yourself as a dinosaur. Don’t let this piling on by these teenie booper, hi-tech, whiz kid nerds make you unsure of what you see with your very own eyes and backtrack or hedge your initial statement. Your first statement was spot on and said what needed to be said. All electric vehicles presently are overpriced junk, and this statement is so clear, true, and obvious as to undebatable.

          • Gary says:

            Well, thank you very much Jake. This 58 year old appreciates you thinking of me as a teenie bopper (not a boop-er you goober :-)), hi-tech, whiz kid nerd. Keep in mind that these same nerds as you like to refer to have created many things like cell phones, computers, and many other things that you enjoy today. They called Bill Gates a nerd among other things too, and look what he did. Too expensive right now, yes, but still not junk.

    • tla says:

      have you ridden an electric bike? I felt sort of the same way till I rode one. The torque is quite good, especially if you like low end. sure, you miss the exhaust roar, but if you like the whine of a vfr gear drive, you’ll find something to like on an electric. I haven’t ridden one for 3 years now, so they’re probably way better. I’d buy/build one…

      • todd says:

        The one I rode accelerated like a Honda Rebel. Gobbs of torque are meaningless if they don’t result in much power.

    • Gronde says:

      Not sure if it’s junk, but it is VASTLY overpriced. Seems like they want the consumer to take all the risks and fund their development. Also, the life span of their batteries stated in miles seems overly optimistic. Just say’in…

  7. jake says:

    Zero Motorcycles – Donate to me your excess money or advanced electric bike technology will never develop and the Earth will be doomed.

    Oral Roberts – Donate to me your excess money or God will take me back and I will be doomed, along with your chances of making it into the Promised Land.

    How do those statements differ, even allowing for the flexibility of real world context? And if they don’t, then isn’t Zero Motorcycles to doomsday, techno geek tree huggers with more dollars than sense as Oral is to half senile, little, old ladies living in trailer parks with their modest life savings hidden in a cookie jar?

    What’s the difference, other than that Oral at least had the decency to only ask for pocket change and not 16K? And if there is no difference, then isn’t the entire electric motorcycle industry present little more than a mere con game on par with shady tele-evangelism?

    Hopefully, this post gets a @jake response from Bryan Whitton too.

    • Bryan Whitton says:

      Naw, you just make noise. Not worth my time.v:-)

      • jake says:

        Actions speak louder than words, and sometimes silence, esp. from someone who isn’t exactly reknown for his silence, which is laughable silence in my book, speaks louder than both words or actions ever could. It says volumes about the relative difference in meritorious worth between my position, mere noise as you refer to it, as opposed to yours.

    • Dave says:

      The difference is, Zero participates in the transportation industry and is working towards building vehicles people can use without burning oil (a resource that we know is going away). This is a valuable enterprise.

      There is nothing valuable about what Oral does.

      • jake says:

        And the similarity is that both claim to be working towards some fantastic goal in the near future, and will most likely arrive at such promised fantastic landmark, if only you will be willing to donate them some money.

        Yes, being able to a 1K bike for 16K is a valuable enterprise, just not valuable in the sense you are suggesting, and yes, what Oral does and asks for, mere pocket change, pales in comparison to this valuable enterprise of Zero’s.

        Zero Motorcycles – if you don’t buy my 16K bike for 1K, then you are not a good person and you hate Mother Earth. What a line? Hilarious how it works so well against supposedly the most intelligent group of people in our society.

        • Dave says:

          The electric vehicle’s claim is genuine and it’s arrival is inevitable.

          You are choosing (perhaps irrationally) to be offended by the asking price of the bikes. It is easy enough to understand that technologies in their infancy are going to be expensive and perhaps a tough value proposition. Look at computers. They cost $1k in 1984 dollars for something that has less computing power than a wrist watch does today. Now you can have a technological miracle (smart phone)for *free* with a 2yr service contract.

          Nobody is asking you to donate money and even if they were, the simple answer is no if you choose not to. Those who look down at us for using our ICE bikes not are not worth considering at best, hypocrites at worst. Keep riding your bike and wait and see.

    • richard says:

      huh ??? gobbledy-gook

  8. Bryan Whitton says:

    @Blackcayman I just reread your post and you are just so full of it I can’t believe it. I design and install residential solar and I can install a PV system with a levelized cost per kWh of $.08 cash. Unless you are in a state provided by TVA that is cheaper than what you are likely paying. Even if it is financed the monthly payment for the loan is lower than your electricity bill is. It may only save $15 per month this year but it is still a positive cash flow and it will improve in the future as the price for electricity continues to increase.

    You really don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.

  9. Bryan Whitton says:

    @cracked lid My point exactly. I absolutely hate doing the monthly maintenance on my bike. I so don’t have the time or interest to continue it. The idea of no oil changes, never buying gas or standing at a gas station or getting gas on my hands or listening to an exhaust pipe is very enticing. We are leasing a Honda FIT EV and we have come to the conclusion that we will never buy another ICE car again. The Honda is so much smoother and quieter plus since we got it in August we have not had to buy gas in a car until this week when the starter went out on my DL and I got to use the Honda while my wife went back to her Acura. Buying gas is such a PITA compared to plugging in the car at night and driving away in the morning with a full tank, if you will.

    • Gronde says:

      Most problems with vehicles are electrical problems. Don’t think that buying an electric vehicle from a young start-up company is going to solve all your maintenance woes. Plus, do you really believe that the batteries with last 250,000 miles? That is pure marketing speak to grab your attention.

  10. Bryan Whitton says:

    @Blackcayman I don’t know where you live but your numbers are totally wrong as far as the mix of coal vs. other forms of electricity goes for California or any of the western states. Not only are they wrong they are WAYYY wrong. In addition I can generate electricity from many sources, in my case I already have solar on my home and at work so my production is non-polluting and renewable. Not to mention that even in N. Carolina they are in the process of removing 6 older coal burning plants and replacing them with natural gas and renewable sources. This argument is getting old and is so inaccurate as the mix is in a state of flux at this time with cleaner forms of generation rapidly overtaking dirtier forms.

  11. Tom R says:

    With so many hybrid cars on the market for some time now, why is there no hybrid motorcycle? Is this concept even more problematic than all-electric bikes?

    • todder says:

      My guess is space sine you have to have a gas tank, gas engine, electric motor and battery. Still would like to see someone pull off this exercise though to show it could be done.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “With so many hybrid cars on the market for some time now, why is there no hybrid motorcycle?”

      considering that a stripped down Goldwing F6B gasser still weighs over 800lbs, perhaps a better question might be is, where you gonna put all the stuff that makes a hybrid… a hybrid…? (ie. the 2 separate drive systems)
      even if cost where no object, might there be some basic form factor limitations…?

      • Bryan Whitton says:

        Actually a serial hybrid like a Volt would be very doable. The main problem is that there is not much of an advantage to a hybrid bike. The big advantage is maintenance and with a hybrid you have the weaknesses of both world. Regular maintenance for the ICE and batteries.

  12. Gronde says:

    Someday electrics bikes will become viable. Until then, I will continue to enjoy 0-60 under 3 secs., 160 mph top speed and a range of over 200 miles @ 46 mpg and 3 min. fill ups. Call me back when electrocycles can match that!

  13. cracked lid says:

    Let’s not forget that it comes with a $2,500 rebate due to government incentives, saves another $2,000 in fueling costs over 30,000 miles (average commuting for 5 years, another $600-800 for oil changes plus valve adjustments, and this is a sub-$10,000 motorcycle. It’s still not cheap, but it also has a much simpler engine that is likely to last a lot longer than a gas powered engine. If you’re a 50 mile/day commuter and are willing to own the bike as long as it keeps running well, the Zero will likely end up being a relatively inexpensive option in the long run.

    I own an battery powered electric mower. It was more expensive than a gas motor, but in 2 years I haven’t had to put gas in it, put oil in it, have it serviced, or yank on pull cord even once because it starts at the push of a button every time. It’s quiet. I don’t breathe exhaust fumes while mowing and though the electricity generation does produce carbon dioxide, it’s less than if it was a gas mower. It was worth the extra cost to me. There are people that feel the same way about electric vehicles, be they cars or motorcycles.

  14. Chase says:

    Buzz nailed it!

    I would normally chime in with my snarky but brilliant commentary. But looks like y’all got it covered. Carry on. This sites obsession with anything electric is fascinating in its absurdity.

  15. Marshall says:

    Great article! These are early days for electrics still and IMHO their eventual domination of the market is a foregone conclusion. Everything is waiting on increasing the battery energy density while lowering price and billions of R&D dollars are making this happen. The motors/controllers are already way more capable than their ICE equivalents. I loved my v-four Honda 750, but I’d happily give up valve adjustments, sparks plugs, quarts of petrochemicals and all the other 19th century nonsense for a maintenance free, air cooled electric motor! Keep up the progressive coverage of the motorcycle industry Gabe!!! -Marshall

    • motowarrior says:

      I guess that’s why there are so many new publications entitled Electric Motorcycle Consumer News, and Electric Motorcyclist and Electric Rider and Electric Cycle World…

    • Nate says:

      They should be marketing these to the cruiser crowd. The limited range won’t be a problem for them… since they only go down the block to the next bar.

      • richard says:

        So Untrue……touring class Harleys are high klm bikes.They get ridden..more than ive ever seen on other brands…what do you ride…im curious ?

        • Gronde says:

          You are rights. I see more Harley’s on the road than ant other brand. Does’t matter whether it’s in town or crossing state lines, Harley riders are putting on the mileage.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “The motors/controllers are already way more capable than their ICE equivalents.”

      while some save hundreds of dollars by switching to Geico, ICE saves me thousands of dollars per year in Viagra.

  16. Luther Prater says:

    It would be nice to be able to lease one for a couple years and then trade up to a newer model.

  17. motowarrior says:

    Seems like MD has a real interest in electrics, far more that any other publication or site. It is pretty obvious to me that most riders who visit here have little interest, other than curiosity, in electric bikes. Still, I appreciate all the info I get here, and the price is certainly right. So, I’ll continue to skim over the articles on Zero and Zappo and Zeppo and whatever other electric bikes come along, content to patiently wait for the good info I get on nasty, smelly, inefficient, earth-hating old internal combustion motorcycles. Kind of like looking at the commercials until the real program returns…

  18. Jeremy in TX says:

    As a commuter, an electric bike definitely has value. As an off-road bike, an electric bike definitely has value. At this price, however, value doesn’t even come into the equation. The only criteria that make this bike a qualified purchase are:

    1) You are passionate about doing the Earth or US Energy policy a solid by not burning fossil fuels whenever possible, period.

    2) You don’t ever get far enough from home that the range becomes an issue (or have a Prius for those times you just HAVE to venture out.)

    3) You don’t care how much it costs to achieve this.

    I believe there is a solid market for electric bikes with the range of the Zero. Unfortunately, the current price just consigns that potential demand to a very small novelty market. I have lost faith that we will ever see the prices come down to a point that would make electric bikes appealing.

    • Blackcayman says:

      If it’s justification #1 – I would certainley advise an open minded review of how we make electricity in this country. About 70% of electricty production in this country is from fossil fuels – Coal @ 45%, Natural Gas at 25% and then there’s Nuclear at about 20%.

      Most “greenies” hate all forms of energy production that aren’t renewable – never mind they only make up about 3% COMBINED. Solar & Wind are expensive boondoggles that get made with Tax Revenue – in other words more simple so that even greenies can understand “They aren’t commercialy viable forms of electricity generation without massive government subsidies”.

      Give me a gasoline buring motor in my motorcyle. Just to clarify….I don’t mind if people want to spend their money buying electric cars and motorcycles – just stop using conficasted tax revenues to make the sale….and that’s all I have to say about that…

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Justification 1.a – You either have access to renewable energy or are comfortable pretending that your electricity is environmentally friendly.

        There: that should cover it.

        • iliketoeat says:

          Electricity is certainly a lot more environmentally friendly than gasoline. Power plants are much more efficient at converting fossil fuels into power than the tiny engines in cars and motorcycles.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            That is true. Also, when you are not moving in a traffic jam on an electric bike, you are not using any juice.

      • Dave says:

        Re: ” “They aren’t commercialy viable forms of electricity generation without massive government subsidies”.

        Fossil fuels enjoy massive subsidy. Not commercially viable? The sun rises every day and the wind blows every day. If we can handle gasoline on a massive scale without blowing ourselves up, we’ll figure out how to make these other things work too. We’ll have to as oil becomes too expensive to be commercially viable anymore.

        • mickey says:

          The sun rises every day ?

          Apparently you don’t live in southern Ohio..where we live in permagray from october to march. We are lucky to actually see the sun about 5 or 6 days during that period. It may be kinda light out but there is no sun that we can see. Does solar work if the sun is not visible?

          For the record I would try an electric bike for local riding, but the price would have to come down to about $8 K to make it viable for me. I would even try an electric, automatic scooter. I’m secure with my manhood!

          • Dave says:

            Re: “It may be kinda light out but there is no sun that we can see. Does solar work if the sun is not visible?”

            It seems to in Germany. They are the most prolific solar installer in the world and there’s not a lot of sunshine there, esp. considering that Berlin is on the same latitude as Halifax, NS.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_in_Germany

          • Bryan Whitton says:

            Yes, solar works in the cover of clouds, less efficiently for sure, but it works. Here in San Jose we have marine layer, or cloud cover until 10:00 or 11:00 AM most every day during the summer. This is taken into account in the design and it works just fine. The weather patterns are accounted for due to research by NREL and any good installer will design based upon their data.

      • iliketoeat says:

        You’re using “confiscated tax revenues” to fill up your gasoline vehicles. Our military spending (which is HUGE) is necessary to ensure your access to oil. Tax subsidies for oil are MUCH greater than subsidies for renewable energy.

      • Bryan Whitton says:

        I don’t mind using gas in a car or motorcycle but just like smoking don’t do it around me. :-)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “the current price just consigns that potential demand to a very small novelty market.”

      see entry for “sub-niche” of the already niche business of motorcycling.

  19. ApriliaRST says:

    And the complainers shall inherit the internet.

    • Olav says:

      So says a Zero employee…

      • ApriliaRST says:

        Seriously?

        • richard says:

          sure they will cost a few bucks..the technology is new and developing the parts to build these machines is expensive…when they are mass produced and the parts are cheaper to manufacture because of volume sales the price will come down…like anything else.I see a lot of closed minded comments…are you a motorcycle enthusiast…anything on 2 wheels is a true enthusiast..no matter what the brand

          • jake says:

            Again, the same old tired line and excuses. With greater volume and mass production, the costs will come down. The initial investment was expensive. I say bullsh*t to all of this.

            If the prospect of this technology was so good, then the big boys – Honda, Yamaha, Toyota, GM – would be all over it, not a bunch of no names like Zero, Brammo, or Tesla. And these big, world renown corps. would either eat the up front costs, knowing full well they would regain their initial costs, or get the governments to subsidize them.

            The above is how big business works when it truly sees a truly viable new technology opening up, not how you claim. What you claim sounds more like how a scam operates, rather than big business.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            Big business” in the form of large corporations is not always as quick to respond as you suggest. Sometimes “committees” make decisions that are ponderous, and smaller, more entrepreneurial companies jump in and take the risk with emerging technology and design. Somewhat ironically (because Apple is now so huge), what Steve Jobs did with Apple in the face of Microsoft illustrates that risk taking by more entrepreneurial entities sometimes pays off while the industry behemoths protect their existing turf. Not saying this is what these small companies focusing on electric bikes will achieve, just disputing your premise.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I worked for a very large, diversified multinational. My group monitored bleeding edge startups and, when it was determined that the service/technology/market/etc. was mature enough or promising enough, we bought them. Letting the truly passionate, innovative entrepreneurs develop, test and assume the risks of a new product or market, in many cases, is cheaper than pouring money into R & D trying to develop the next best thing in house when you might have to go and buy one of these guys anyway.

          • jake says:

            Yes, sometimes big business can be like inertia, the bigger it is, the harder it is to move, but more often than not, this seeming inflexibility on the part of big business is just a mere show on their part. An effort to hide their true strength under the image of a common stereotype.

            Everyone hates someone or something which has it all, which seemingly has no flaws and is a master of all trades. Big Business by looking the fool wants people to dismiss it, to not see it as some great, evil, unbeatable empire, to see that it can be beaten by the young rebels – young rebels with more enthusiasm, can do spirit than common sense.

            Star Wars metaphor, anyone? Stars Wars wasn’t just a movie about space in far off place, but the world of capitalism, right now and right here, it’s class warfare, and it’s state of social relations. Big Business by looking the fool merely wants to give the little man hope, hope that someday he or someone like him, another little man, can rise up and become the big man and have his day in the sun too.

            Remember, there is a deep seated desire on the part of the human nature to root for the underdog. Big Business of course knows this. Big Business by allowing for a few start ups, upstarts from the ghetto basically, from out of nowhere, to beat them and teach them a thing or two is merely allowing for a stage where the mass of humanity can root for the underdog – themselves basically – helping to maintain their own hopes for their own better future.

            It, the image of underdogs besting overdogs – is the most formidable marketing tool known to man. Apple and its mind boggling growth and cult like following would be the primo example of the power of this image to successfully brand. Most start ups are actually owned by the big corps. from the very start. The mass of humanity instinctively admire self made men as opposed to those who have inherited their place. The big corps. know this, and so they create the young start ups to pre-manufacture our heroes and the inspirational brands we associate with them and their underdog, against the odds victories against staid old tradition and the unfair establishment.

            Big Business is in actuality run by the most intelligent people on Earth, period. Don’t doubt it for a second. They do not live in Ivory towers, they are not out of touch, they are not mere bookworms, and they have even less esteem and even less patience for the plodding, artificial, forced type of thinking and analysis which committees full of mediocre, yes men (their yes men by the way) are known to produce than you or I.

            Can they make mistakes? Sure, as with all humans, they can error, but it is rare. Typically, when they act bone headedly, it is done intentionally, so everyone else can underestimate their true intelligence, strength, and intentions. It is easier to go about doing your business and implementing your plans when the other side underestimates you than when they are fully on their guard and are fully aware of exactly how sharp and deadly you actually are.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            Disagree. Big business makes mistakes all the time. When Ross Perot was on the Board of Directors of GM, he complained so vociferously about the incompetence and shortsightedness, they bought him out just to get rid of him. Big business is run by individuals … human beings with all the human flaws. Sure, they try to put quality people in management and on their boards, but entrepreneurs outmaneuver the big boys more often than you might think. As I said, Steve Jobs might be the best example ( when he rejoined an almost bankrupt Apple and proceeded to spank the almighty Microsoft), but there are countless others.

          • jake says:

            No management group could be as incompetent as GM’s back in the 80′s. Whether they were actually that boneheaded or merely wished to be viewed in such a manner, even going so far as to use Ross as a mouthpiece, is less clear. Heck, they may have even gone further and used Roger Moore and his satires to intentionally sabotage the general public’s evaluation of themselves. My 2 cents says that they could not have actually been so idiotic, no group of people could. Think about it. Look at GM now. It is successful, profitable, and thriving, producing better autos than ever. What prevented GM from producing better cars back in the 80′s? What does going bankruptcy have to do with producing better autos? Doesn’t common sense suggest that it is easier to produce better autos before a bankruptcy than afterwards? By the way, I predicted the new GM out of bankruptcy would be a huge success back when GM first went under.

            And you use Apple and Jobs as your prime example to support your position, entrepreneurs bettering big corps, while I use the same image and events to support mine, Big Business creating heroes and brands which the masses, the common man, can identify with and worship.

            Established Big Business always have all the muscle and influence of old money behind them. Even if they could be out maneuvered by the flexibility of the brilliant, one of kind, once in a lifetime, genius entrepreneur, why would they be so nice as to let him win in the end, eventually allowing such an upstart and outsider to supplant them in the pecking order of the wealthy and influential, unless Jobs and guys like him have always been apart them to begin with from the very start.

            The interpretations could go either way. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

  20. Olav says:

    “If I was ready to drop 16 large and had to make up my mind on either the S or DS I would personally choose the S.”

    “If” I don’t think anyone would be ready to drop 16 large on a bike that cost $1000.00 per kWh for the battery alone?

    That leaves $5000.00 for the bike components. The brakes and suspension retail for $750.00. The tires retail for $125.00.

    The whole bike is about $2,200.00.

    They have to get the price of the battery down to $300.00 kWh and then put in quality components like Brembo brakes, proper suspension, tires etc then you might have a viable product.

    I don’t think anything is going to change though because there are no passionate people working at Zero that really want to achieve any specific goals.

    All the integration I’ve had with the company are just sock puppets that will ” get back to you”

  21. Bryan Whitton says:

    Well from a person that is seriously considering the SR I would like to give my perspective. I currently use a 2006 DL650 as my work vehicle. I have 96,000 miles on it and it has been a fine bike.
    I am considering the SR because it requires absolutely no maintenance and gets much better mileage than the DL. I currently average about 39 miles a day in riding and have taken the DL out of the county exactly twice in seven years and both times could have just as easily used my RF I just didn’t want or need to go home first to exchange the bike.
    With 106 lb-ft of torque and nearly 70 HP the performance specs are better than the DL. The range is certainly good enough for 99% of my riding and what short comings it has are minimal or can easily be corrected. I like the silence of the ride and I can recharge at work so the cost of operation is essentially $0. The lack of scheduled maintenance is an added bonus that is extremely valuable to me.
    I have called them and I can mount my ladder rack, GIVI bags and boot with no problem, although I will take the DL to Scotts Valley before buying to confirm this.

    • richard says:

      The most sensible comment ive heard so far from someone who does major mileage….motorcycling is not about horsepower,loud pipes and performance,smelling of gas adn being at the pump more often than not..although i like that..lol.its about the riding experience..electric or gas powered……riding and the sound of silence…an interesting concept..cant wait to try one

  22. Don Fraser says:

    don’t know, don’t care

  23. Tom R says:

    So, lousy, low cost brakes and suspension, and they still have to price these minimalistic motorcycles at $16K? And the other well-known limitations and disadvantages come as part of the deal.

    This is a bike only a bay area liberal could tolerate.

  24. jake says:

    Other than the novelty factor is there any other serious reason to buy an electric bike for their present low performance levels yet steep price? Can’t these companies, like every other legitimate business, just wait for the technology to fully mature before asking us to buy their still half finished product? Are they trying to suggest that by paying a premium for these disappointing early prototypes, we are doing a good thing for mankind by generously funding their R&S department so as to ensure this technology fulfills its promise and they can offer a product worth the money finally sometime in the distant future, that without our willing to pay in excess to them, such a future will never come to light?

    • Gary says:

      You cannot wait for technology to develop without first producing a product. Did the current major manufacturers wait until race technology was available before producing their first sport bikes- no, they had to start someplace. Remember the first VCR’s, I do, that cost about $1,600 dollars with a blank VCR tape that cost $80. What did those items cost near the end of their development? Way cheap then. Even computers and software undergo constant updates. Yes, their expensive now, but note that the 2014 model has dropped $1000 in cost. Something will take the place of gasoline in the future, and this is one option. They (Zero, Brammo, and others) have made really good progress within the last few years and I expect that to continue.

      • Buzz says:

        “They (Zero, Brammo, and others) have made really good progress within the last few years and I expect that to continue.”

        You’re wrong about that one. Check the quote from Gabe’s earlier article. The head of the company himself said they’ve gone about as far as they can go and not to expect any significant range or charging improvements.

        E-vehicles have been around for more than 100 years. Batteries suck for this type of usage.

        • Gary says:

          I’m talking about the progress from the first Zero and Brammo bikes within the last two to three years. They made quite an improvement in that time. Also, yes, E-vehicles have been around for maybe 100 years, the first ones operated using lead acid batteries, that can hardly be compared to todays with the battery technology we have now. Can they be better-sure. And yes, that head of the company did say that, but that was referring to the very latest models, which were still a much improved over the last few years. A well known stuntman once said “What is possible is done, what is impossible will be done”. They may not expect any significant range or charging improvements, but that will change with the next battery technology improvement.

          • jake says:

            “A well known stuntman once said ‘What is possible is done, what is impossible will be done’.”

            Yeah, the same words those twin brothers said right before attempting their flips on their snowmobiles, right? Um, famous last words, both brothers died that night. Obviously, these are not words to live by.

            From Dumber and Dumber:

            Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?
            Mary: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…
            Lloyd: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
            Mary: Not good.
            Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
            Mary: I’d say more like one out of a million.
            [pause]
            Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… *YEAH!*

            ______________________________________________________

            Similar levels of foolish optimism, wouldn’t you say? So was this stuntman of yours, was his name Lloyd by chance?

          • Gary says:

            Well, that particular stuntman did not die from his stunts, and made millions. If you don’t wanna hear about electric bikes, cars, and such, then just don’t read the articles and save us from having to put up with your put downs. There have been some real crappy bikes put out by different manufacturers over the years. But they have improved to the point that they are quite good by now. Give the electric industry the same time and we’ll see how well they do.

          • richard says:

            bahha…hilarious..love it

          • jake says:

            If such is the case, then we know your stunt man did not really follow his life philosophy to a tee, or he would not still be with us.

            Put downs or valid criticisms? Just cause I won’t sit still and merely believe blindly in the promises and assertions of the electric bike industry, I’m a bad person, I’m being unreasonable, I’m being over-negative for no reason, a real anti-social meanie, and I ought to be censored.

            It’s not my job to shut up, it’s you all’s job, the pro-electric forces to shut me up and my so called put downs. If you can’t, then wouldn’t that make my so called put downs, in reality, valid, justifiable criticisms, which to your frustrations, you all can’t respond to?

          • Bryan Whitton says:

            Or we can simply agree to disagree and wait to see what falls out.

        • Bryan Whitton says:

          Actually with the improvements coming with Lithium/Sulfur batteries power density will approach gasoline. They have already improved charge cycle times to 1500 and that equates to 100,000 miles or more. Most cars don’t fully discharge so in that application they could last longer. Ambiguously stated intentionally. They still aren’t being produced in quantities yet.

          • jake says:

            Well, great, if such an outcome happens then I’m sure we will all be driving electric vehicles in the future and all the shrinking glaciers can refreeze back to their normal sizes. The penguins will all be eternally grateful, I’m sure. But remember, all this could also be (probably is) just a bunch of industry hype. They’ve also been saying a cure for cancer is just right around the corner since the 60′s, and I think they still are repeating this mantra, even to this very day, 50 years later.

            I’m just asking, what does this future happy outcome have to do with my purchasing an over priced, low performing electric bike today? Zero and the other electric bike manufacturers are suggesting that there is a concrete link, conveniently for them and their pocketbooks.

            I just don’t see it. Call me when this happy future outcome of yours actually happens and I and everyone else can see it with our very own eyes. We’ll all be happy to ride around in electric vehicles then, without the snide remarks. Until then, I’ll just continue to consider it to little more than a fairy tale and Zero bikes as nothing more than lousy bikes some idiot is trying to sell to an even bigger idiot for 16K.

          • richard says:

            hmmmmm…..this is the future …it is already happening…havnt you noticed the decline in classic muscle cars on the road today as opposed to 10 years ago..yes, they are cool however quickly becoming dinosaurs that suck way too much fuel..the cost of fuel has alot to do with it…imagine no gas stations and very little maintenance…electric technology is not going anywhere..it will just get better. For now ill keep enjoying my KTM…however my mind is open…dont knock until you try it !as they say

          • jake says:

            Like I said, call me when this magical future of yours of free energy and no required maintenance actually occurs, but in the meantime, just quit asking me to pay 16k for a 1K bike or trying to make me feel guilty and like a crude, brutish, non-progressive if I don’t.

          • Bryan Whitton says:

            We aren’t asking you tom buy anything. If you don’t want it just say no.

      • jake says:

        Sure, technology develops with time and practice does make perfect to an extent. But the first autos, VCRS, computers and the like, even though the first versions pale in comparison to what they are now, were the best option or the only option we had at that time, so their purchase, even when it was outrageously expensive, was understandable and justifiable. They performed a service which no other could at that time.

        With electric bikes, obviously the situation is different. They perform worse than what is widely available and cost like 5 times more. Only a moron, who simply has to be first to have the latest fad, would buy such a bad deal.

        So, yes, we can wait for the technology to develop to an adequate degree (with adequate depending on what alternatives are already available) before producing the first product? Actually, that’s typically how business is done. It’s a no brainer. First you get a product ready which can be useful and attractive relative to the competition, and then you release it to the public, not before. Don’t let the electric bike industry marketing hype confuse you and turn you backwards, making you think that it is okay if this order of business is the other way around, which is absurd.

        • Dave says:

          After seeing the way consumer gasoline prices have behaved the past 6-7 years I’m surprised that some are being so short sighted. When the BP spill happened gas prices spiked, even though the event had no real effect on our oil supply. All it will take is another event to run our prices up to where the rest of the world already is and electric vehicles will take off (electric scooters are everywhere in large Chinese cities already). When (not if) that happens, it will become a competitive marketplace and prices will fall.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I think people put too much faith in the rising cost of fuel to be the deciding factor that makes electric vehicles relevant. What do you think will happen to electricity prices if electricity begins to displace gasoline in any significant amount? I doubt electrical grid in many urban areas could even handle a 15% shift from gasoline to electrical vehicles right now without significant capital investment, so electricity prices would skyrocket. Electricity is about 1/3 cheaper now. It wouldn’t take that much extra demand for the prices of those two fuels to converge.

            Europeans are not flocking to electric vehicles despite the artificially high fuel prices they have to pay: they just buy more fuel efficient ICE cars. I highly doubt we would do any differently in the face of another oil price spike (at least with the current capabilities of electric vehicles.)

          • Bryan Whitton says:

            @Jeremy in TX
            PG&E evaluated the EV market and the effect on its grid and concluded that it could handle 75% of the traffic in its domain if converted to electricity. If those that converted to EVs would also install solar PV that number would go up again.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Bryan, that would imply that they have a minimum of 15% latent capacity available at any one time. I don’t have any grounds to refute that claim, but unless the assumption is that nearly all of the vehicles will only be plugged in at night off of peak hours (and maybe they would be?), I can’t imagine a utility having that much capital sitting idle. People producing their own electricity is a whole other matter, of course.

            I am not against electric vehicles in the least, and they are a great answer for a very small number of people right now. For the vast majority, though, they still do not make economical sense.

          • Dave says:

            That discussion assumes that the transition to electric vehicles will happen very rapidly. The power utilities are always changing to meet demand. This will be no different.

            Euros aren’t flocking to electric yet because there isn’t a great deal of choices yet and they’ve always had a great rail system to rely on.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Both very valid points.

        • william says:

          The conclusion drawn above is not so obvious. Electric bikes perform better because they are quiet, and offroad areas have sound limits that are getting lower as time goes on. Actually my gas bike now does not meet the limit so I am not legally using it. Sound is a huge factor for closing riding areas. Some street riders have no knowledge of other motorcycles.

          Also electric does not stall like a gas bike. I bought an aftermarket clutch that was not supposed to stall. It works about average; you can still stall it. That cost me about $1000. So electric already has a $1000 feature that works better. Also a gas bike can stall by just pushing the throttle too fast, even with the carb squirting a shot of gas. Maybe not as big a problem on 4 cylinder street bikes, but offread is typically just 1 cylinder.

          So the assertion above is saying a gas bike can perform all functions of motorcycle riding, and electric cannot offer anything? Really, I just thought of 2 ways electric is better and I didn’t even think that hard.

          It is difficult to make small quantites at a low cost. Try to make your own pickup truck and see how much it costs when you tell the plastic molding company you only need to mold 2 door panels and the mold costs over $10,000. High volumes can get prices down, Zero does not have high volumes.

          Zero FX is $12,000. A KTM dual sport is $10,000. I would want the $1000 clutch, so that leaves $1000 difference in price. Somewhat close in price actually.

          I don’t know why Zero or others don’t pursue the offroad bikes a little harder. Electric has advantages for offroad that street riders for the most part do not care about.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I am with you on that. I really would consider a true DS electric bike assuming it would also have enough range to get me to the office as well. Off-road is the perfect venue. The biggest issue for me still is that I couldn’t fill up the tank to continue the fun, but an FX with a fully charged large pack might provide enough range to have a good time. I just want to see a real world test of off-road range.

    • Dave says:

      In the sense that they use very cheap electricity and have a reasonable commuting range, they are extremely high performance bikes. The technology will mature, but not without building products and a business with enough growth potential that others will invest. Tesla is selling cars very well. It’s coming. The problem these E-moto makers face is attracting the customers their products are best for, which are not traditional motorcyclists. Unfortunately, we’re currently the only ones looking so they continue to make products to appeal to us, the uninterested.

  25. Ralph says:

    New model KLR650′s can be had used all day long for $4000 and less, and usually with some nice upgrades. That leaves enough money for ~175,000mi of gas. Hard to justify.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “That leaves enough money for ~175,000mi of gas”

      Today it is, what about the future? What about in other countries where gasoline is far more expensive than here in the US (for now). The past 5 years should have taught this lesson to us.

      What is acquisition cost dropped to $10k and range improved by 20%? The answer is the same for the same reason as now: This is not for motorcycle enthusiasts and it may never be. That should be ok with electric bike makers eventually because we’re a terrible market to sell to. I’d much rather get a piece of the “everyone else”.

    • Tom R says:

      How can a NEW model KLR650 be had USED?

  26. todder says:

    “Zero customer support had me up and running within minutes though”

    Something you don’t hear everyday, gave me a chuckle.

    • MGNorge says:

      Which makes one wonder if you were to call Zero Customer Service if you actually reached the right person? :)

  27. Andy Rae says:

    Hola! from (non progressive) North Carolina.

    I’m thankful that you’re covering progressive technology like the Zero range of motorcycles, and I always enjoy your articles. Please keep the journalistic juices flowing.

    But c’mon, guys! While Thomas Gray’s photographic work is splendid, why are you letting people who have little skill in writing write? Grammar, punctuation, syntax, context… the list goes on. I would have enjoyed this article more—and would have had a clearer understanding of it—if it had been written with care, or at least edited by a skilled writer. Jeesh. I’m tired of internet writing.

    Please go back to what you do best: communicate.

    with best regards,
    Andy

  28. Norm G. says:

    finally a valid use for electrics. one with nature. quiet trundling through a forest primeval.

    • Butch says:

      I agree. Electrics could bring back dirt biking back to more suburban areas, with some stealth riding behind the developments. :-)

  29. Thomas Gray says:

    @Buzz
    While not a biographer by trade I would certainly entertain the offer by either Obama or Zero Motorcycles, even you if the price is right. I personally rode the bike for three weeks, and I don’t know where your claimed “real world range of 50 miles” comes from. It’s not from the seat of any of the new Zero Motorcycles. You can get more than 50 miles at highway speeds, mix in a little surface streets and you’re easily reaching well beyond your unproven claims. I intentionally set up my City test to verify the claimed mileage and nothing else. While I recognized that it is slightly unrealistic that you can expect to drive 100+ miles (or even 5-10mi) in the City without having to stop it was a worthwhile range limitation test.

    @Chun
    I absolutely agree that the cost is a huge barrier of entry and will be for a long time. If you look at the long term ownership, riding 50-70 miles per day, comparing a new Zero against a similar gas bike, the costs of ownership do eventually work themselves out in favor of electric in the long run.

    • Buzz says:

      If you had it for three weeks than why not keep a journal of exactly how you used it?

      That would give the reader a much better idea of what ownership is like including the endless recharge times.

      My unproven claims are only invalid if you’re planning on sitting for 8 hours at Point B once leaving Point A.

      If you’re planning on making it back home without an 8 hour recharge, you only get 50% out and 50% back.

  30. Buzz says:

    Couldn’t have been written better by Zero themselves.

    This guy should be Obama’s biographer.

    With a real world range of 50 miles or so and an 8 hour recharge time, one has Zero chance of ever testing that 300,000 mile battery claim.

    BTW, where does one ride 27 MPH without stopping for 127 miles? Indianapolis?

    • Gabe says:

      Thomas really did ride around Monterey at 27 mph for 65 miles. The battery had more than a half charge when he was done.

      • mickey says:

        Lol how would you like that assignment? What are we doing today boss? ..here go ride this electric bike around the city for 3 hours, but be sure not to exceed 27 mph

      • Buzz says:

        He could have just ridden until it was empty and taken out the guesswork.

        Either way, riding without stopping is NOT a test of city driving. Why not just ride it around a city with red lights and hills and minivan drivers and see what you get?

        These Affirmative Action-style tests don’t do the reader or potential buyer any good.

        Instead of saying the suspension sucked, he said he needed to slow down or ride more carefully. Seriously?

        Either E-Bikes are good enough to stand on their own two wheels or they suck. It would be nice to find out some day.

    • bmidd says:

      Buzz wins the Internet today. They just are NOT a viable option for someone that does anything other than commute 20 miles or less each day.

      • Dave says:

        Buzz wins nothing..

        They are selling bikes and improving their products every year in a market where the ICE bike companies have barely released new models in the past 5 years. They stand on their own two wheels and therefore do not suck. Too expensive now? Probably, but that price will come down. If it comes within 20% of a comparable ICE bike and achieves 100mi/charge, the ICE bikes will die off for everyone but tourers.

        Gas bikes are too expensive now also. Less than 500k new units sold into a 320m country last year is proof of that.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          When will an electric bike come to within 20% of a comparable ICE bike? Considering some charging and capacity improvements need to be made, why would you expect the price to come down anytime soon? Li-ion batteries are at there theoretical limits which means a new tech will be needed to push a new envelope. I wouldn’t expect that to be cheaper.

          A 100 mile range is still only good for commuters. I’ll routinely ride 250 – 350 miles on a recreational run. Most riders I know will will do that, and most riders I know don’t commute on their bikes. EVERY rider I know will ride 400 miles in a day a least a few times a year which means they would need a second ICE bike in addition to an electric if they ever intend to get out of the city.

          I think you are wrong on this, Dave.

          • Dave says:

            The riders you cite are the fringe, almost all US riders are in that we’re primarily toy owners, not utility owners. I fit into the former and in 25 years of riding I have never ridden 400 miles in one day.

            The cost is not proportionate to the technology, it is proportionate to the demand. Even if the battery has reached it’s theoretical limit, so has gasoline’s. The technology will improve elsewhere to drive efficiency. Making it slower would go a long way.

            Demand will go up with the cost of gasoline. When demand and volume go up, price will go down. This is how most of the technologies that we take for granted are affordable (smart phones?).

  31. chun says:

    132 tooth! great scott! Great idea, electric motorcycles and all, but when you can buy an ex500 for $2000 or less….