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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