Citing Lack of Support, Poor Sales, Zero Pulls Out of UK

After just four years of UK sales, Californian-based Zero Motorcycles has ceased all operations in the UK with immediate effect, unnamed sources close to the company told Transport Evolved today.

“We entered the UK market as early as 2009 to test the appeal and acceptance of our electric motorcycles. Despite our increased effort from the beginning of 2012 onwards, we fell far short of realising our goals for the UK. We therefore came to the conclusion that the UK market lags other European markets in terms of market readiness and potential for electric motorcycles,” said Pieter de Waal, Board Member and acting Managing Director at Zero Motorcycles Europe in a closed letter to UK dealers yesterday.

“As a consequence, we have decided to withdraw our operations,” he continued, adding that “We will contact you shortly to discuss the cessation of our business relationship.”

Sources close to the company say the biggest impact on UK sales was the refusal of the British government to offer any form of purchase incentives for electric motorcycles. Unlike plug-in cars, which attract up to £5000 ($8,000) in government grants, effectively reducing the outlay for consumers, electric motorcycles are not eligible for any purchase grants.

The original Zero X motocross electric motorcycle was built for winning off-road races

The original Zero X motocross electric motorcycle was built for winning off-road races

“ICE bikes only constitute 0.5 percent of total transportation emissions in the UK, according to the government,” our source told us via email earlier. “Therefore support for [electric motorcycles] was never an option for them, despite the absurdity of not supporting a practical electric vehicle.”

Initially focused on electric motocross bikes exclusively designed for off-road racing, Zero expanded its range into road-going motorcycles back in 2009 with its Zero S Sport and Zero DS Dual Sport models. Initially limited on range and power, the early bikes were good enough for commuters wanting a zero emissions alternative to get to work in busy cities, but didn’t really capture the imagination of hardened bikers.

2013 Zero S

Although the 2013 Zero S is a grown-up electric motorcycle, it will no-longer be on sale in the UK

But with aggressive model revisions every year and improvements to range, performance and top speed, the Zero S and Zero DS evolved year on year, into motorcycles that even hardened petrol-breathing bikers were impressed with.

The 2013 Zero S and DS models — with an electronically limited top speed of 95 mph, massively torquey 40 kilowatt AC motor and either a 9 or 11.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack to give up to 134 miles of range per charge — mark the brand’s transition from commuter-friendly curiosity to full-on grown-up motorcycle.

But even though the bikes are ready, the lack of subsidies means that buying one meant parting with more than £12,000 of hard-earned cash. To spec one up with a faster charger, or CHAdeMO quick charge capability would leave you spending in excess of £15,000.

Either way, if you’ve wanted to own a Zero Motorcycle and you live in the UK, you’ve got very little time to grab one. While some dealers are keeping their existing stock, others are sending their demo machines back to Zero.

After that, your chances of owning one are… well… Zero. But who really killed Zero’s chances in the UK? Let us know what you think in the Comments below.

Transport Evolved reached out to Zero Motorcycles for comment, but an official statement was not available at the time of writing. We will of course bring you up to date with any developments on this story.


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  • MEroller

    What a shame! But then again: If the government did not see electric two-wheelers fit for grants, then maybe Zero themselves should have thought of options for reducing the up-front cost of owning one of their rather expensive electric motorcycles?nnI wonder anyway what causes the increadible premium UK buyers must pay for anything mobile – compared to other parts of Europe or the USA…

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  • GBEV

    So to minimise CO2 you have to demonstrate sufficient savings against ICE vehicles and as cars use more electricity as EVs than bikes, they and they alone, are given government subsidy. nnTypical perverse Govt’ incentives!nnnFrom the self proclaimed “Greenest gov’t in Britain ever”. Blah blah. nShort sighted naval gazing blinkered bl***y bureaucrats killed it!nnThey clearly don’t give a monkeys about the planet or their kids!nSame attitude explains why road fund license is more expensive on motorcycles than many cars which make the dangerous pot holes too!nnJust as the EMERGED markets (contrary to euphemism) are moving to cars, we are going to be increasingly moving to 2 wheels as the formerly “emerging markets” had to! nnDo they not have a responsibility to consider the future?nnnnI have test flown a Zero S, in addition to Sport, S could be for Silent and Safest super bike by far, narrow, lighter weight for power, low centre of gravity and even the shortest people can put both feet firmly flat on the floor. nnWhat a tragedy.

  • emma harrington

    The reason Zero couldnt do any business in the UK is NOT due to lack of government subsidy, it’s simply due to bad management and strategy on behalf of Zero Themselves!nThe company runs on funding from their investors. nAll the so called “sales” we’re simply Zero selling stock to their dealers who then had to sell them at a loss or return them to Zero unsold. nKnowing a former dealer I can confirm that they have no idea how to sell motorcycles or support their dealers and are more focussed on petty policies and employing staff on vast salaries than showing their products to potential buyers and supporting their inherently unreliable products.nIt will not be long before other countries follow suit and this will be the end of Zero

    • GBEV

      So no government subsidy had no effect? nnI can give you one good data point, me. nnHad there been the same subsidy available as on a electric cars I would have bought one to go with my electric car! nnnIt sounds like you are accusing the company of behaving just like our government. Difference is government runs permanently on free money, or taxpayer cash and is still inept at long term big joined up thinking.nnnYesterday we learned that MOD has spent 40K on speaking clock and 275K on 118 directory enquiries! That waste alone could have subsidised the first 84 top of the range machines to market and reduced the price from 15K by 3750! We are subsidising oil companies all the time, no level playing field.nnAnd just why did Zero pull out of your Britain first?

  • emma harrington

    To a point I would agree that the reason for lack of sales is due to the product being overpriced in the market place however the ultimate responsibility for pitching the product in the market place at the correct price point is initially the responsibility of the company that brings the product to market in the first place. If there is a rebate then that is a bonus but it is inept not to factor that in to your strategy in the first place. There was not even a hint of a subsidy when Zero launched in the UK so this aspect should have been thought out long ago but it wasn’t. I was involved in the lobbying of the Govt dept responsible for the subsidy and I agree that they were absolute morons and we ended up complaining to the dept of transport to no avail. nYes the govt waste money, but that does not mean the two things are connected, maybe it should have been funded out of the u00a337M sent to the Syrian rebels ( or talaiban as we normally call them)nSo let’s call your bluff, how much would you pay for a Zero then?

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