Electric vehicles are becoming more and more relevant these days.
Electric cars are no longer the oddities they once were. Tesla is one of the coolest car brands in the world, while Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes quietly make strides in the sales charts. In the racing world, Formula E is becoming a big deal, while electric trucks and even aeroplanes are expected in coming years. With sales of internal combustion engine cars being phased out, and some cities even banning dirty old motors in the next few years, EVs are becoming increasingly relevant.
Things are moving more slowly in the two wheeled world though. In racing, the TT Zero race for electric bikes have been a novel feature at the Isle of Man TT races since 2010, while MotoGP will have its own MotoE series from next year.
On the road bike front, there’s no Tesla, or even Nissan, making major strides in the mainstream. American company Lightning and Energica of Italy are both putting out exclusive electric superbikes, while a number of Chinese companies are making plays with cheap commuters. In the mainstream, it’s only Californian manufacturer Zero Motorcycles that are really active with this, the 11kw DS, their new model for 2018.
Zeros are still expensive, from around £9000 to £19000 dependant on spec, but with minimal running costs and PCP and finance deals in place, they’re not out of the park unachievable for many motorcyclists. Much of the cost of electric vehicles remains in the Lithium Ion batteries they use, but aside from that the Zeros use decent spec running parts, such as Showa suspension, Bosch ABS and Pirelli tyres. With its pseudo adventure bike styling it looks like a ‘proper’ bike, with the military matt green of the test bike looking pretty cool in most people’s eyes.
The Zero DS 11kw is a bike designed for the European markets. As the name suggests, it has a power rating of 11kw, making it eligible to be ridden on an A1 licence, or L plates, in the UK. Interestingly, the way that power is measured on electric bikes is different to that of those fitted with traditional internal combustion engines. The peak power is actually claimed as 44kw (59bhp) but because it’s not sustainable over prolonged periods, it circumvents the loophole.
And this thing is quick! That power, combined with a gargantuan 109Nm of torque makes for a bike that’s comparable to most mid range petrol bikes in the performance stakes. With all that torque, there’s no need for a gearbox, so it comes with a scooter style twist and go transmission that’s fully automatic. Top speed is limited to 86mph and handling is competent enough too.
Three questions inevitably come up with electric bikes, namely range, cost and charging time. Range will vary wildly, depending on how heavy your right wrist is. Sustained motorway work will see the battery drained in a bit less than 80 miles, but around town (a more natural environment for the electric bike) that’s more than doubled. Fully recharging does take a painful eight hours through a regular domestic socket, but a full charge will cost less than £2 on most tariffs. Zero do have a number of fast charging options to cut the charge time though, including the new-for-2018 Charge Tank. That costs an extra £2300 and allows the bike to be connected to the kind of public fast chargers used by Leafs and the likes, where it can be fully charged in little more than an hour.
Cost is still the big barrier to electric bike ownership for many riders. The Zero DS ZF14.4 11kw retails at a not insignificant £13,690, although the government will give you a £1500 grant against that. For riders who only do short journeys, Zero also make a version with the smaller 7.2kWh battery, which has half the range but will reduce the cost by £3000 – as well as dropping the weight by 43kg.
As a traditional learner bike, the Zero is probably a bit too pricey for most. Where it can appeal is to the car driver who wants to take to two wheels without the hassle of going through their full bike test. For city commuters looking for a greener solution, a Zero is well worth a look, especially in those places looking to ban petrol and diesel vehicles in the coming years.