Ever since it started back in 2006, Santa Cruz-based motorcycle manufacturer Zero Motorcycles has made a name for continually evolving its line of all-electric motorcycles with a yearly refresh cycle that demonstrates just how blisteringly fast electric motorcycles are developing.
Last year’s 2014 refresh — which many motorcycle experts hailed as the point at which electric motorcycles stopped being niche-market vehicles and started being a viable alternative to gas bikes — introduced the innovative Power Pack range-extending battery pack and a new performance-oriented Zero SR variant.
This year’s 2015 refresh, which was announced over night, makes last year’s models look like last year’s mobile phone, adding more range, more advanced battery pack, anti-lock brakes and improved suspension.
Starting at the front, Zero says new, lightened, cast alloy wheels with hollow axle and carrier-less front rotor on the Zero DS, Zero S and Zero SR models has helped reduce unsprung weight of the wheels, while Showa suspension and Pirelli tyres help to dramatically improve ride comfort and handling.
Talking of comfort, Zero says the Zero S, Zero SR and Zero DS also get a redesigned, more ergonomic seat for the 2015 model year as well as softer grips. As any biker will tell you, a good saddle makes the difference between a rideable bike and an enjoyable one, which is particularly important considering the increased range capabilities of this year’s models.
As with last year, Zero offers all of its models with a choice of two different battery pack sizes, but for the 2015 model year Zero says the battery packs on the Zero S, Zero SR and Zero DS offer a more advanced pack with a 10 per cent increased capacity on last year’s model.
This means the entry-level battery pack option on all three models goes from 8.5 kilowatt-hours to 9.4 kilowatt-hours, while the larger battery pack option has increased from 11.4 kilowatt-hours to 12.5 kilowatt-hours. The Zero FX — essentially an entry-level electric motorcycle designed for short-distance city commutes — keeps the same 2.8 kilowatt-hour and 5.7 kilowatt-hour battery pack options from the 2014 model year.
When fitted with the 12.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack, Zero says the Zero S, Zero SR and Zero DS should be good for more than 150 miles of range at city speeds. Add the optional 2.8 kilowatt-hour PowerPack accessory to give a total of 15.3 kilowatt-hours of battery storage, and Zero says all three models will travel for more than 185 miles at city speeds, 115 miles at 55 mph, or a respectable 98 miles at 70 mph.
Sadly, in order to benefit from that impressive range, you’ll need to not only spend a minimum of $15,345 for the 12.5 kWh Zero S or DS ($17,345 for the higher-performance Zero SR) but another $2,495 for the Power Pack.
Or in other words, spend as much on an electric motorcycle as an entry-level Nissan LEAF.
And sadly, that’s the biggest challenge facing Zero. While the 2015 Zero motorcycle lineup is both impressive and capable, the price — not to mention a current lack of Federal incentives for electric motorcycles and only a few state-based incentives — will no doubt put many would-be electric motorcycle riders off.
As with previous years, expect the 2015 Zero Motorcycle lineup to appear in stores early next year.
What do you make of the new Zero lineup? Are you tempted by the impressive range capabilities of the improved battery packs, or does the price just put you off?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.