Review: Riding The Zero DS Electric Motorcycle In A Rural Environment - Conclusion
File under Electrical Product Review Zero Motorcycles
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
We've had the Zero DS electric motorcycle for some 10 days now, riding it daily. The idea was to see how an electric motorcycle would hold up in rural riding, in areas with twisting roads, often long straight stretches and hills. Rural riding is different from city riding and freeway / motorway riding.
Zero and their dealer in Paris, ATS , were kind enough to let me use their DS model for the time I needed. Here are the conclusions of my many day tests:
After the first few kilometers on the bike, I knew I was riding the future. There is very little doubt in my mind that electric motorcycles are not only here to stay, but will become the main technology for motorcycles in the future. With gas supplies dwindling and the price per liter skyrocketing, in the next few years only the super-rich will be able to afford pumping gasoline into their vehicles. Electricity cost remains reasonably stable and therefore cheap.
The performance of the Zero is second to none, it is no slouch. On par with the majority of gasoline powered motorcycles (not with sports or supersports bikes), the Zero should not envy other bikes. Acceleration is very good, overtaking is faster than most motorcycles and speeds are high enough for you to lose your driving license if you get caught riding like that on public roads.
You just need to look at the racing world, and you will see that electric motorcycles are at the top of most of them (drag racing, Pikes Peak, etc). So performance is not an issue at all.
The Zero DS is like any dual-sport motorcycle, a compromise between comfort and robustness. The saddle is hard (I used to have a KTM Enduro bike, and it had the same concrete-style saddle), making it more difficult to ride for long times, but ideal for riding off-road.
The biker's position on the bike is excellent, with a good grip and posture. The bike feels very (and I mean VERY) light, much lighter than the 179 kilos. The center of gravity is very low, making the bike very easy to throw into corners.
Riding off-road, the Zero rides admirably. Doing rides in the park, enduro, or just following a trail is not only very easy on the Zero DS, but also very much a fun activity. The fact that there's no sound is what makes it fun. Often motorcycles are excluded from riding hiker paths, or riding close to farms because of the noise. With an electric bike, that hindrance should be removed.
The instruments onboard are more than adequate, giving you all the information you need. The only thing I'd add to the bike's display would be a clock, but I guess that's nitpicking. The real interesting data can be found when you connect a smartphone. That is when you see torque and how many Kilowatt hours you are using, how long you need to charge before you are full, etc.
Maybe somewhere in the future, Zero can go the route some electric scooters have taken: no more a display, just use the smartphone as central console. This has several advantages; 1) production cost go down (no instruments displays) and 2) added security since you need to have your smartphone to start the motorcycle and to operate it, if not, you can't start it.
There are safety issues involved in riding an electric motorcycles. First for pedestrians, who can not hear you bike approaching. Secondly for you when you overtake a car. We all know that car drivers don't pay attention, and often do not look in their mirrors. If they can't hear you overtaking, you may find yourself in danger.
What the solution to this problem is, is a mystery. Making noise defeats one of the really cool advantages of electric motorcycles. Maybe a second "horn", but instead of a horn noise it makes the sound of revving. But it is a danger for everyone.
The biggest issue people have with electric motorcycles is range. The current range for the Zero is very decent, on par with most motorcycles in its class. That's not really the problem. The problem is that it takes 6 hours to fully charge the battery, unless you use a fast charger, but then you still need 1 hour of charging.
But in reality, the majority of people use motorcycles to commute to work, or for weekend rides. Commuting is most cases, the range the current crop of electric motorcycles offer is more than enough, especially if you consider you can charge the bike while you work.
For weekend rides, either in the city or in the country, 150-190 kilometers might be a tight fit, but you can always charge the bike while having lunch.
Plug in the Zero motorcycle when and where you can
If you are planning to ride long distances, than you need to plan well in advance. Know where the charging points are, know where to stay the night. It's doable, but not the way to do it. Removable and changeable battery packs will do the trick, but logistically it seems that this is a problem.
The only possibility for this to become positive is changes in battery technology. And that is something that is very close, allowing you to charge your battery in minutes. Maybe next year.
The second biggest factor preventing people from buying electric motorcycles is price. 15K $/€/£ is a lot of money for a motorcycle. But it becomes a mathematics issue. How much are you spending on gasoline and regular maintenance, and then look at how much you save on an electric bike.
The more people buy electric motorcycles, the cheaper they become. Just look at the price difference of an Apple iPhone five years ago and today. Today operators are offering contracts for an iPhone for next to nothing. Electric motorcycles will quickly go that way as well. Five years ago, electric bikes are so expensive manufacturers just didn't talk about price. Now, police forces in different countries are buying electric motorcycles, and these folks do not buy expensive.
I've had only a few "minor" issues with the bike. Compared to some bikes I've been on, the issues are minor.
Temperature: The temperature sensor seemed to have a problem once or twice, but nothing that turning the ignition off and then on didn't solve.
Saddle: The saddle is rock hard, but I guess that's normal. I guess it will depend on your bottom how much it can take; mine does not take that hard for long times.
Brakes: The brakes do not bite as hard as what I am used to, and they squeal a lot. Obviously I do not know if that is a problem of the bike I was riding, or a general issue.
Instrument Lights: The dashboard lights work very well during the daytime, even with a strong sunlight, but at night, they are a tad too strong.
Battery Level: Not really an issue, but your battery level will be different from when you switched off your bike to when you turn it on. The difference can be one bar, up or down.
Speedometer Accuracy: Most villages over here have pedagogic radars, meaning a radar that shows your current speed (and how many license points you would forfeit if this were a real radar). These radars have all been certified, so they are accurate, and they are a great way of finding out what your speedometer's accuracy is. My Zero's real speeds are 7 to 10% lower than the "real" radar speeds. In other words, when the speedometer was showing 50 kph, the radars showed that I was doing 45 kph. Not a biggie, but you need to take that into account.
I loved riding the Zero. Not only was it really fun, a great pleasure to ride, but also it has a great performance. It was a real sad moment when I had to bring it back to the dealer. I just wanted it to stay in the garage, as did my SWMBO. Do you think Zero would notice it if I kept it?
My recommendation for any of you who are in the slightest interested in electric motorcycles ..... go for a test ride. Go to your local dealer and ask for a demo ride. Just try it yourself, don't believe me, just do it. You will see why I love the electric motorcycle.
Riding the Zero in a rural environment is easy and quite the thing to ride. Hearing the birds chirping and dogs barking while riding is a real pleasure - you are part of the nature.
I hope you enjoyed this rather long series of articles reviewing the electric motorcycle.
Below is a summary of all the articles that have appeared in this review & test: