Last night Josh at Hollywood Electrics made the mistake of handing me the key to a 2012 Zero S ZF9, the most powerful electric motorcycle currently on dealer floors. He was on the phone, so neglected to tell me it wasn’t their demo model, but one he actually wanted to sell. The bike I rode is the one on the right, above. The one on the left is one they’ve customized. 20 miles later….
I rode the same route I’d ridden on this test ride, to see how the bike compared to the 2011 model. First of all, the build quality continues to improve with each passing year. This one certainly felt more solid, and I love the silent, maintenance-free belt drive. There is now a switch for “Sport” and “Eco” modes. I switched to Eco for the tedious climb up Laurel Canyon at rush hour, which was no different than the one where I followed Mark Miller on this ride.
Despite forgetting to switch back to sport mode until a couple miles down Mulholland, I still had ample grunt to pass a rather spirited VW driver who insisted on flicking her cigarette ash at me while I was behind her. On 101, I had topped the 2011 out at 75mph. The 2012 (ZF9) easily reached 80mph heading uphill, and with a bit of a tuck I got her to 91mph downhill. Even better, I was able to maintain 80+mph once the freeway flattened out, accelerating towards a gap in traffic to reach my exit. This is an electric motorcycle that I feel safe riding on LA freeways. Yes, those speeds are in excess of the posted speed limit. But just try riding, or even driving 55 on a clear freeway in Los Angeles, and see how long it takes to get rear-ended or shot.
The acceleration off the line was plenty quick, but my gold standard for this is a Husqvarna SMR450 race bike. Every thing else, even my R1, crawls off the line in comparison. However, the Zero S almost feels like maybe she could do a power wheelie with some gearing modifications. Once I switched into Sport mode on Mulholland, the bike woke up, and we had a blast. The great thing about supermoto style bikes is that they’re designed to flick through the corners very easily, even the heavier ones like the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 (warning, graphic petroleum content) I recently tested. The 340lb Zero S ZF9 is just as deceptive, she flicks like a 200lb bike, and it was really fun to take low-speed city corners at lean angles that would’ve had my Yamaha R1 on the ground.
Now that I’ve ruined blessed this model, I’d love for others to be able to try it. Although, judging by sales so far, the factory is having a hard time keeping up with demand, especially in LA. So plenty of riders don’t need to try it to know this is the perfect vehicle for getting around LA. If I had one, I’d even ride out to Malibu, plug in for the night somewhere and tear up the canyons on this bike. It would be so much fun to sneak up on squids on $20,000 Italian superbikes and slip past them like a ninja. A real ninja, not the motorcycle. The Voltaic solar bag I’m wearing is also sold at Hollywood Electrics, and charges up my overtaxed iPhone as quickly as a wall charger. I’m not one to run out and buy the first bike that comes along, I’ve been holding out for my dream electric bike for a long time. But seriously, I think I’ve found one that can make me forget it’s not a crotch rocket and be very happy indeed. Hollywood Electrics is betting $1,000 this will still be the ultimate electric motorcycle by October…