Like electric cars, electric motorcycles are clean and efficient, but that’s not why people buy them. The real reason is that they’re a blast to ride, as we were recently reminded with some seat time on the latest bikes from Zero Motorcycles. Plus, unlike gas-powered motorcycles, they need very limited maintenance and there's little to go wrong. The concept is catching on, and even Harley-Davidson has developed an electric motorcycle.
We recently had a chance to ride the 2014 lineup from Zero Motorcycles at Consumer Report’s New York headquarters: the Zero S (in full police dress), Zero SR performance bike, Zero DS adventure dual sport, and Zero FX dual sport. The company has dropped the entry-level XU that we sampled last year.
All four electric motorcycles are offered with various battery sizes, combinations that suit a wide range of riding styles and budgets. The entry-level FX is available with a 2.8-kWh battery with a range rated at 27 miles in combined city and highway riding for $9,495. A larger 5.7-kWh battery, with a rated range of 54 miles, costs an extra $2,495. FX batteries are removable and swappable, adding unique appeal for an urban dweller who may not have easy access to an outdoor outlet for recharging. The FX we rode, with the bigger battery, has a 44-hp motor with 70 lb.-ft. of torque to power the 280-pound bike. Zipping 0-60 mph takes a reported 4.0 seconds—far quicker than almost all street-legal cars.
The more popular Zero S and DS come with an 8.5-kWh battery, rated at 79 miles of range for $12,995. For an extra $2,000, you can get an 11.4-kWh battery rated at 105 miles. To go even further, there is an optional “power tank,” a 2.8-kW accessory battery that cleverly fits into the tank storage compartment to give the bike an extra 26 miles of rated range for $2,495. Both bikes use a 54-hp, 68-lb.-ft. motor. Acceleration from 0-60 mph ranges from about 5 to 6.5 seconds, with the DS and bikes with larger batteries being a little heavier and slower.
The Zero SR comes only with the two larger battery options and a 67-hp motor with 106 lb.-ft. of torque that the company claims gives it acceleration of 3.3 to 3.9 seconds to 60 mph, depending on the battery. That’s supercar fast! The price is $16,995 to almost $20,000 with the power tank.