Zero Motorcycles blazes path for e-motorbikes

zero-arnoldZero Motorcycles, a frontrunner in the electric motorcycle market, recently launched a line of road-ready bikes to complement its off-road models.

The Santa Cruz, Calif. based company announced the release of two road bike models in March, the S and DS, in addition to another off-road model, the MX.

The company started in 2006 with its first off-road bike, the Drift. It introduced the Zero X, another off-road bike, in 2008, and released the off-road MX this year.

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“Zero Motorcycles continues to blaze the path for electric motorcycle technology. Our engineering team has revamped, redesigned and tested four models that have considerable improvements for 2010. The result is more power on the street, a new look and an unparalleled riding experience,” said Zero CEO Gene Banman in a March press release.

The S model road bike has a top speed of 67 miles per hour and can go 50 miles on a full charge. The DS (dual-sport) model is equipped for road and off-road use, with a top speed of 55 miles per hour and a range of 50 miles per charge. The road versions take about four hours to fully charge on a 110v outlet.

The road models are powered with the company’s Z-Force system, which brings more air into the motor to increase performance and includes a lightweight lithium ion battery pack.

All of Zero’s motorcycles are made out of aircraft-grad aluminum alloy frames, making them much lighter than other electric and gas-powered competitors.

Long-term savings
The road bikes start at around $10,000, but this cost is lowered after federal and state tax credits.

The price drops to $8,995 after a 10 percent federal tax credit, and may be cheaper still if purchased in one of the states offering tax credits on electric vehicles.

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California offers a $1,500 rebate for plug-in motorcycles, so the price for Zero’s local customers is about $7,500.

The operation costs will considerably offset the upfront cost with long-term by savings on fuel. Zero has estimated that the cost to fully charge one its road bikes is 80 cents, and 40 cents for one of its off-road bikes.

The cost to fill a 2007 Harley Davidson with gasoline today is between $9 and $14, depending on the tank size and location.

A Zero road bike could drive from L.A. to New York on $30 of electricity, said company founder and owner Neil Saiki in a CNN Money interview.

A comparable gas-powered road bike would cost about $173 to ride from L.A. to New York today.

Beating out electric – and gas competition
Zero Motorcycles is gaining ground not only on its electric competitors but on traditional gas-powered motorcycles as well.

In October, the Zero MX won the Electric Motorcycle Challenge in Gironville, France, the first official off-road electric motorcycle race, beating out both electric and gas motorcycles.

zero-s-bikeThere were 250 competitors in the race riding five kinds of electric motorcycles. The Zero MX took first against other electric motorcycles and went on to win against gas motorcycles in a later race.

The company targets sales nationally and worldwide, with sites designed for customers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The company has received much interest from celebrities and the media lately, including a feature on Jay Leno’s Garage video blog and attention from Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Alt Car Expo.

Coming next: Quiet motorcycles are in says Zero

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