It’s Electric! My First Ride on a Zero

Nov 25, 2014 View Comments by

It’s Electric! My First Ride on a ZeroWhen I first heard about battery-powered motorcycles several years ago, I was more than a bit skeptical. Automobiles, after all, receive far more R & D dollars than motorcycles, and practical electric cars are (debatably) just now reaching the market. I also figured that the weight penalty of heavy batteries would be even more pronounced on a motorcycle. With these thoughts in mind, I headed down to Charlotte, NC, for my first real experience on an electrically motivated machine.

It’s Electric! My First Ride on a ZeroThe bikes in question were the 2014 Zero DS and FX models. At the dealership, Motorcycles of Charlotte, I was given a run down of the bike’s functions, which took all of about 30 seconds. The Zeros are seriously simple. My first mount was the DS, which stands for Dual Sport, though it looks more like a standard street bike with a big front fender and angular styling. With a twist of the wrist, I set out, and within seconds I was grinning from ear to ear. Throttle response this direct simply doesn’t exist in the world of gasoline power, especially when there’s a transmission and clutch involved. With the Zero’s right hand grip you know precisely what you’re going to get. And oh, that torque! It truly is instantaneous, and it makes the DS an absolute blast to ride. True, power seems to peter off as the speedometer climbs, but there’s plenty on tap to reach high speeds very rapidly. Unlike most internal combustion motorcycles, I found myself twisting the throttle to its limit frequently, not because there wasn’t enough power, but because the acceleration is so linear and instant. Also, since there are no gears or clutch, there’s no getting off and on the gas to shift.

It’s Electric! My First Ride on a ZeroThe DS turned out to be quite a bit louder than I anticipated. Without a windscreen wind noise quickly reaches painful levels, but the motor itself makes some very cool sounds that reminded me of the hover bikes in Return of the Jedi.

I switched over to the FX, which is even smaller and lighter than the already svelte DS for some fun in the deserted parking lot of a nearby city park. The FX is incredibly agile, and it’s a pleasure to tear around on. I would imagine that either bike would be right at home doing some tame, off-road work where their light weight, torque, and throttle response would make them very natural to ride.

Since I only rode each bike for about 30 minutes, I can’t speak much to most riders’ primary concern with electric bikes—range. I can say that after thoroughly flogging both bikes (the FX wasn’t fully charged to begin with) for the aforementioned time, the battery status only lost around 15-20 percent, and I’ve no reason not to believe Zero’s claimed range of 126 miles (city) for the 2014 DS ZF11.4.

After my brief test ride I left convinced that electric bikes are not only here to stay, but they’re also bringing a new and unique riding experience that new and veteran motorcyclists alike will enjoy immensely. Though their limited range does rule them out as long distance touring machines (for now), they are ideally suited for dual sport and city riding. Besides range, the only problem I see is an affliction shared by many early adopters across industries—price. The Zeros are certainly real motorcycles, which are just as much fun as their gas powered counterparts, but it is hard to justify the $14,995 (DS ZF11.4) cost when a Yamaha FZ-09 retails for just over half that and a Honda CRF250L comes in at $10k less. Still, I have no doubt that these bikes are a glimpse at what the future holds. Battery prices will inevitably fall while performance increases until one day they’ll break even with fossil fuel machines. When that day will come, no one knows, but there’s little doubt that it will.


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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.