A Tipping Point Approaches

The 2019 Zero Motorcycles Line Proves the Volatility of the Industry


October 23, 2018 Cars By Photo by Bryan Campbell
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Zero Motorcycles announced today its new lineup for the 2019 model year. The S, DS, FX and FXS models all get fresh redesigns, increased power, range and new long-term storage tech to make EV ownership easier through the off-season.

Going into 2019, the ZF7.2 battery (available on all base models) gives you 78 ft-lbs of torque, 46 horsepower and up to 89 miles of range. The new ZF14.4 battery (available on the DS and SR models) is now capable 112 ft-lbs, 74 horses and a 203-mile range extended to 223 miles with an optional power pack. In addition to the increased performance Zero also added ‘Long-Term Storage Mode’ where software can automatically detect if the bike is sitting for a long period of disuse and switches to a low power mode to save the battery. In other words, worrying about winterizing your motorcycle is now purely a combustion-engine-owner problem.

Prices for the entire range remain relatively unchanged, starting with the entry-level FX and FS at $8,495. If you want the top of the line SR naked street bike with the biggest battery with the optional power tank, for the most power and longest range, you’re looking at close to $20,000.

As Zero Motorcycles enters the next stage in its existence and the automobile industry nears an EV tipping point in general, Zero Motorcycles CEO Sam Paschel, Jr. says it’s crucial that manufacturers successfully meet specific objectives. “Generally, for EVs and two-wheeled EVs, there are these three key hurdles to get across before you can have a broadly scalable commercial vehicle. You have to be able to go over 200 miles on a single charge. With the Power Tank, we’re up to 223.” The next two hurdles for EVs are about pure speed: top speed and charge speed. “People want to be able to charge their bikes in under an hour, and our 7.2 batteries will charge in an hour. The 14.4 will charge in two hours with the charge tank, effectively giving you over 100 miles of range per hour.”

“There’s a critical point you cross to get to scalability, and then you’re driving performance,” said Paschel. “I think those hurdles and the expectations of consumers will always ratchet up. But the same three to four questions are always there for everybody: How far can it go on a single charge? How fast can it go? What’s the performance like? How long does it take to charge? How much does it cost? Those four things will be what people have an anchor on until EVs are so commonplace it’s just second nature.”

Despite the broad spectrum in pricing and performance across Zero’s lineup, the company seems confident moving forward. The same can’t be said for industry competitors Alta Motors. Last week, while Zero was busy organizing the new model line launch, competitor Alta Motors suddenly closed up shop in search of funding. Reports of interest in the company from Harley-Davidson had circulated earlier this year before the Miluakee manufacturer announced it’d go it alone, opening up shop in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, the small Swedish brand Cake is winning awards left and right, having just made its first North American deliveries.

The EV motorcycle industry is so incredibly young that it’s still difficult to know what works and what doesn’t. What’s evident is it’s nearing an important crossover moment where electric motorcycles compete with combustion motorcycles in every aspect — in performance and production. Based on the aspects Paschel points out — the technology, performance and even public and cultural acceptance — the switchover might be closer than anyone could’ve guessed 12 years ago, when Zero was founded

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