Zero is the Hero of Electric Motorcycle Manufacturing

Photo of 2013 Zero FX  courtesy of Zero Motorcycles

After a record year in sales, where they sold more bikes in January than in all of 2011, Zero motorcycles debuted their 2013 line with major upgrades to their entire line, and a new model, the FX. Zero now makes their own motor, a direct drive brushless motor with almost double the available horsepower of their 2012 models. Highlights include: The S promises a range of up to 137 miles around town (we’ll see about that, come January!) An optional ChaDeMo adapter to be able to charge the bike to 95 percent in an hour or less. And yes, there’s an app for that…

“Using Bluetooth, riders can now sync their iPhone or Android mobile phones to see detailed motorcycle information and even adjust the performance characteristics of the motorcycle.”

The Zero S is the model with the most buzz around it as it competes directly against the Empulse which Brammo is delivering now, after 2 1/2 years of development. However, the only journalist they’ve allowed to ride this bike before January 2013 is veteran moto journalist Alan Cathcart. You can read his review in Cycle News here.

Photo of Zero S courtesy of Zero Motorcycles

The Zero S tops out at only 95mph, and is air-cooled, so not as race-ready (or as pricey) as the Brammo Empulse, but I am still eager to take it for a spin and see how it stacks up on the same Malibu roads where I tested the Empulse. Although one Zero exec came very close to accidentally letting me take their S out for a spin, I did the right thing and told him I’m press. We’re not allowed to ride their 2013’s until January.  Except Alan, of course. I am especially keen to take the Hollywood Electrics special for a spin, as they’ve already made the mods I’d most want- a higher seat and lower bars. More about that bike soon.

Zero also introduced a new model, the FX- billed by Zero as “the ultimate “do anything” and “ride anywhere” urban rebel motorcycle. It is the fastest accelerating motorcycle in the company’s lineup with 70 ft-lbs of torque, 44 hp and a low weight of only 275 lbs.” Now that’s a bike built for fighting city traffic. And another one I’ll have to test next month.

talk about stealth mode…

After the show, Zero threw a fabulous party to celebrate the new models. The highlight of the party wasn’t the free-flowing tequila but the police officer who took their 2013 S police version for a spin. It was his first ride on an electric bike and he loved it. The Zero S’s 54hp may be about half what he’s used to with the BMW R1200 but it’s got 3 more foot-lbs of torque than the BMW, coming in at 68 ft-lbs. The base model Empulse is $1,000 more than the S, at $16,995, so the price is right considering the added complexity of a 6-speed transmission. Here’s a snapshot comparo:

But let’s compare apples to apples, shall we? The Brammo Empulse also features 54hp, but from a liquid-cooled permanent magnet AC motor. However, it’s in the torque where the Zero pulls away. The Brammo Empulse has only 46.5 ft-lbs. So as much fun as I had on the Empulse, this is bound to be a real wheelie machine. However, I’d like to be able to remap the engine to have less of that initial off-the-line power and more top end, at least once in awhile. That may very well be possible with the smartphone app. Here is the video intro with a nice little close-up on the Hollywood Electrics custom. Note the buttons under the left handlebar. That’s where your turn signals are on this bike. Enjoy this video of Zero’s Scot Harden introducing the 2013 lineup…

You can catch up on my reviews and helmet cam videos of previous Zero S’s here:

Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.