2012 Zero Electric Off-Road Motorcycles - Video
Although its first prototype motorcycles were first introduced in 2006, Zero Motorcycles may be a company you only recently heard about. Maybe you haven’t heard of the electric motorcycle company at all. But you will. The electric motorcycle movement, much like the huge increase in electric cars, will almost certainly have its place in our future of motorized recreation. Zero Motorcycles hopes to play a major role in this new era.
“The electric movement is just really starting to take off,” says Zero’s VP of global marketing Scot Harden. “It’s not going to evolve from a direct comparison between internal combustion and electrics. Electrics are going to evolve, they are going to get to a point where, at some point, performance-wise they will be able to be matched up spec for spec with an internal combustion.”
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Harden, an off-road racer himself with wins at the Baja 500, Baja 1000 and is in the AMA Hall of Fame, was brought on at Zero back in 2010 to help guide the vision of the brand. Although Zero’s earliest beginnings centered on electric bicycles, its direction has been to produce true motorcycles that even the most diehard enthusiast can appreciate – not simply a bicycle-motorcycle hybrid. Harden admits electric motorcycles aren’t on the same level as traditional internal combustion bikes just yet, but they now currently offer a range of applications that differ from traditional motorcycles and provide a great deal of mass appeal that can only grow.
“The usage case for an electric, it’s so many different areas, and it can change the way motorcycling is experience in so many ways, and the value propositions that come out of that are what’s going to drive the electric business in the short term,” Harden says.
In the off-road realm, where sound and emissions play a major part in access, especially in stringent emission states such as California, the electric motorcycles offer a unique option. Harden mentioned a track in North Carolina, which is said to be the first electric motorcycle track in the US, called Dark Green Motorsports that is trying to maximize on this concept.
In urban areas, where commuting to work or running quick errands can be a chore, an electric motorcycle offers a different angle. The DS model, for instance, offers off-roaders an around-town bike that can also hit the trails.
Zero has also pushed the tempo in its production cycle to get its products up to speed as quickly as possible. After being just slightly behind other major manufacturer’s product launch dates, in an effort to get its lineup caught up with the market the company has been adhering to a nine-month development schedule to offers its 2012 models just before the 2012 calendar year actually arrived.
For 2012, Zero is offering five different models. For off-roaders, the models of interest are the DS ($11,495 MSRP), or Dual Sport model; the MX model ($9,445), which is a motocross and trail bike; and the X ($9,945), which is essentially the MX version with a street-legal kit to make a dual-sport option as well. Other options include the Zero S ($11,495) street bike and low-priced XU ($7,695).
Aside from the improvements in powertrain and overall design, one of the biggest upgrades on the 2012 Zero motorcycles is the battery. With an improvement in the battery quality, charge time and also its range, electric motorcycles now truly offer a realistic option for riding. A new lithium-ion-polymer cell base is now employed in Zero’s batteries, extending life and range for the bikes.
“What that has allowed us to do is pack a lot more energy into a much smaller area, and because of that we’ve almost tripled the range on the product,” Harden explains.
The batteries are offered in essentially three different kWh options. Charge time will depend upon the battery size, but essentially it’s a little less than an hour for each kWh. So, for instance, the 3kWh model will require a little less than 3 hours for a full charge. The Zero DS and S can be equipped with either the 6 or 9 kWh batteries, each offering 76 or 114 miles of range, respectively.
The Zero X, which uses the smaller and, most importantly, lighter 3 kWh battery for off-road applications, offers a range of 38 miles or 60 to 120 minutes of trail time, depending upon the type of riding. The MX, which is only intended for off-road use and is rated in ride time, will offer 45 to 90 minutes of MX track time or 60 to 120 minutes of trail time.
Overall, Zero says the X and MX offer over 75 percent greater range than previous models. The models also have the capability of reaching a peak speed of 56 mph on dirt or pavement. Both the X and MX model also offer the option of quick battery change, allowing the owner to quickly slide out the battery from the frame for a swap-out to a fresh battery (if someone chose to purchase an extra for additional ride time).
After getting a brief taste of what the vehicles can do on the street during our recent photo shoot, we hope to get our hands on an X and MX test unit to see how the Zero electric bikes perform in the dirt. Stayed tuned.