Nothing = Zero

If you want to buy an electric motorcycle that is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, with a top speed of 102 mph and a potential range of 185 miles, nothing equals Zero. Zero Motorcycles of Scotts Valley, California.

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In 2009, I had reached out to the founder of Zero Motorcycles, Neal Saiki, with a proposal on how to sell more bikes. It didn’t fly. Two years later Neil retired. Now, six years later, Zero seems to be coming on strong. According to an article in the LA Times, Zero plans on building 1800 motorcycles this year, 500 more than in 2014.

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The company just expanded its regional sales team, citing rapid growth within the dealer network as the reason. “To support and sustain this momentum, we are investing in a bigger, stronger team and partnering with leading motorcycle retailers,” said Mike Cunningham, director of North American sales and dealer development at Zero. That’s good news, because distribution for electric motorcycles has been anemic, for logical reasons. Without a dealer network, it takes a special buyer to order a bike sight unseen and have it delivered to his or her home with no dealer support for hundreds if not a thousand or more miles.

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In fact, Zero’s main competitor, Brammo Motorcycles, started with an unusual distribution model involving Best Buy stores. That’s how I first discovered Brammo, by accident, when a sales clerk told me they were going to be carrying an electric motorcycle made right here in Oregon. In 2009, powersports dealers were far from interested in trying to sell electric motorcycles. Brammo had to be resourceful, and by working out a deal with Best Buy, at least the public had a chance of taking a test ride before buying. I respect that. Eventually Brammos found their way into Polaris showrooms – after Polaris invested in the company – and now Polaris owns the electric motorcycle building business outright. Will there still be a Brammo branded bike? Good question. One thing is certain: bikes will no longer be manufactured here in Oregon. That makes me feel a bit nostalgic, since I helped Brammo create a little video for the Empulse when they first introduced the 100+ mph bike – pictured below.

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Zero, on the other hand, has remained independent and continues to build bikes just outside of Santa Cruz, California. Most intriguing is their push into law enforcement and military sales. A key selling point is silence. “The 100% electric powertrain is nearly silent, exhaust free, produces minimal heat, has instant torque from zero rpm and is highly maneuverable.” Quiet cops quickly creep up on unsuspecting criminals. Plus, they can creep indoors, because there’s no pollution.

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Alliteration aside, Zero is proving that electric motorcycles are practical, economical to operate, and with up to 106 foot-pounds of torque, really fun to ride. Of course, this state-of-the art ZEV technology comes at a price. The least expensive model in the lineup – the 2015 ZERO FX – starts at $9,845, and offers a maximum range of 70 miles. If you want 185 mile range you’re looking at $19,840 for a Zero SR + powertank.

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ZERO MOTORCYCLES

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