10 Things We Just Learned About Zero And Its Electric Motorcycles – HotCars
Electric motorcycles are the next big thing in the EV space, and Zero is determined to bring its transformational motorcycles to the mainstream.
In recent years, numerous European countries and some U.S. states have made substantial efforts to ban combustion engine-powered passenger cars in major cities. The domino effect of these bans might alter the motorcycle industry as we currently know it, and it's perhaps prudent to start taking electric motorcycles a bit more seriously. Zero Motorcycles is well ahead of the curve, and it has made significant progress to become the leading electric motorcycle manufacturer globally with an impressive lineup of 100-percent electric motorcycles.
For staunch motorcycle enthusiasts, the thought of no clutch and no gears sounds like pure heresy. Nonetheless, considering popular brands like Harley-Davidson and Ducati already have their toes in electrification, plug-in culture could very well be the future of motorcycling. Zero Motorcycles is a start-up that believes in zero emissions. It has achieved its goal through an unprecedented combination of revolutionary 'smart' bike technology, industry-leading power, and traction. But since that's not all there is about Zero, here's what we know so far about the all-electric motorcycle company.
Neal Saiki, a former NASA engineer, founded Zero Motorcycles in 2006 in Santa Cruz, California. Registered as Electricross at the time, Neal worked as the CEO and CTO to develop electric motorcycle technology, including electric motors, lithium-ion battery packs, and motorcycle frames.
Through his innovation as an aeronautical engineer, Neal led his team to make the company's first electric motorcycle prototype, dubbed 'The Drift.' At a time when there wasn't a single mass-produced electric car or motorcycle on the market, the 140lb electric bike was not just thrilling to ride but a revolutionary masterpiece for its time.
After changing the company name from Electricross, the company rebranded the Zero logo to highlight its Zero Emissions theme in 2017. Zero had already made waves in Santa Cruz from the Drift prototype and excited the local dirt biker and pro mountain bikers. Therefore, it made sense to focus on off-road bikes to break into the motorcycle market.
The Zero X was the first bike from Zero, and it featured two switches; one for torque and the other for top speed. Although the Zero X lacked extensive range and high top speed, its electric powertrain was powerful and quiet. The bike opened new riding possibilities and formed the DNA for the current Zero motorcycle lineup.
In 2009, Zero Motorcycles proudly hosted the world's first 24-hour electric motorcycle race. Zero staged the off-road event, labeled The 24 Hours of Electricross, in the heart of San Jose at a local off-road motorcycle park.
The race event involved completing a dizzying 1,015 laps and 502.1 miles, with the winning team setting a world record in the process. All the ten teams that participated managed to cross the finish line, an incredible statement about Zero electric motorcycles' durability.
Although Zero Motorcycles enjoyed success with off-road motorcycles, the first street-legal motorcycle did not arrive until 2009. And despite having the range and top speed limited to 50 miles and 60mph, the Zero S made global news as the first street-legal Zero motorcycles. On the day that Zero launched the Zero S, it sparked so much interest that the company website crashed.
The Zero S also marked a significant milestone for the start-up. According to TopSpeed, the bike was the world's first road-legal electric supermoto to go into mass production. The Zero S rocked an all-new bodywork and chassis that paved the way for the Zero DS, a street-legal motorcycle for off-road enthusiasts.
In 2012, Brandon Miller straddled a Zero S ZF6 motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats to reach a speed of 101.652mph, averaged over a one-mile distance. After conducting several runs throughout the four-day event, he broke the previously held land speed record posted by an electric motorcycle.
As reported by Motorcyclist, Brandon set two new land speed records for an all-electric motorcycle at the Bonneville Shootout event. After recording 102.281mph over the half-mile distance, he secured another speed record, the FIM record for modified production bikes weighing less than 330lbs.
As a global leader in electric motorcycles, Zero Motorcycles launched the Zero Motorcycles app in 2013. Designed for both Apple iOS and Android devices, the Zero Motorcycles app is the world's first mobile app with the ability to control the performance characteristics of a production motorcycle.
The app is connected to the bike via Bluetooth, and archived or live motorcycle information is pushed from the bike to the app on the owner's mobile device. For the first time in history, a rider could easily adjust the motorcycle's torque, top speed, and regenerative braking within seconds. And with the new Cypher III+ feature, owners can purchase significant performance upgrades from a virtual marketplace.
Whenever you choose to buy a motorcycle, you get to select the color preference that the bike will have for the entire time of ownership. Well, unless you take it to an after-market dealer for a custom paint job. For Zero motorcycles, however, owners can approach motorcycle colors a little differently.
If the owner changes their mind about the color after purchase, Zero Motorcycles offers a select range of color kits for customization. The kit includes tank, front fender, and rear fender covers that are relatively easy to install. Riders have the freedom to mix and match different colors on their bikes and change them back to the original shade if they ever get bored.
Since Zero motorcycles have no gears, clutch, or noise, they offer the perfect stealth solution for law enforcement. By 2011, police departments had discovered the advantages of electric motorcycles for event safety, security, and crowd control. Today, more than 80 parks and police departments across the U.S., not to mention police in cities like Bogota and Hong Kong, rely on Zero motorcycles for their daily work.
Additionally, the stealth and speed of electric motorcycles make them perfect for covert military use. Since 2012, Zero Motorcycles has launched military motorcycles and offered essential switchgear, custom tires, and swappable batteries.
Zero Motorcycles achieved their first road racing success at the first-ever North American Electric Superbike Race. Sean Higbee, a company engineer, won the TTXGP eGrand Prix at Sonoma Raceway in California in 2010. Kenyon Kluge, another Zero engineer, also won the first-ever TTX75 class race for the company and dominated the eSuperstock class in the follow-up series.
After partnering with Hollywood Electrics, Zero Motorcycles won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb production class in 2013, the first time the competition included an electric motorcycle division. In 2014, the Zero FX became the first electric motorcycle to break the 12-minute mark. Between 2013 and 2015, Zero Motorcycles has enjoyed success in the race to the clouds; boasting wins in the production electric motorcycle class for three consecutive years.
Zero Motorcycles has been in the industry for over 14 years, and they have managed to deliver motorcycles for several markets within that period. Although the company distributes motorcycles in close to 30 countries, the sales are concentrated in Europe and the U.S.
The company's production models include Zero S, Zero SR, Zero FXS, Zero DS, Zero DSR, Zero FX, Zero FXE, Zero SR/F, and Zero SR/S. The current motorcycle lineup encompasses street, street racing, supermoto, dual-sport, dual-sport racing, and motocross fields.
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Simon Kim has always been passionate about machines since childhood, and this has grown into an obsession well into adulthood. As an avid reader and creative content writer, he finds joy and fulfillment in sharing his love for cars and bikes with other machine heads. Currently, Kim seeks to deliver exciting and informative articles on HotCars. He enjoys music and art and dabbles in active sports and virtual gaming in his spare time.