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ZERO: Motorcycling at its Electrifying Best

By Arv Voss, September 24th, 2011

If you are a biker and an environmentalist at heart, then ZERO Motorcycles offers an electric alternative to motorcycling that is charged with on- and off-road fun.

The ZERO electric motorcycle is designed and tuned specifically for its intended designated use. Power comes from a high efficiency, forced air-cooled, DC Axial Flux Permanent Magnet motor that draws it energy from varying capacity Z-Force patented Lithium-Ion Intelligent Power Pack batteries.

Normal recharge times vary based upon capacity -- ranging from two to four hours -- with a life expectancy of from 34,000 to 70,000 miles. Some models feature integrated charging while others offer stand-alone charging systems. Optional quick charge units are available that cut the required recharge time frame roughly in half. Charging may be accomplished via either standard 110V or 220V outlets. Typical recharge costs will be from $0.21 to $0.48

ZERO wheelbases, overall lengths, seat heights and suspension travel vary from model to model. The frames, which are all constructed of aircraft grade aluminum, vary in weight across the model lineup. Tire sizes and types also vary by model.

All final drives are chain on specifically sized sprockets per model, except the ZERO S and ZERO DS which delivers motive force to the rear wheel from the electric motor via a Poly Chain/GT Carbon belt. Top speeds range from 51 mph to 67 mph, and range is from 30 miles to 58 miles, except for ZERO X and ZERO MX models, which measure their range in terms of time -- 30 to 60 minutes. Curb weights range from 201 pounds to 297 pounds.

Suspension componentry consists basically of inverted dual forks up front and a mono-spring-over shock swingarm in the rear. Brakes are hydraulic single disc front and rear with 2-piston calipers forward and single calipers aft. Tires are knobbies (100/80-17 front/110/90-16 rear).

My test electric motorcycle was the ZERO DS Dual Sport, which blends innovation and riding passion, while delivering optimum versatility. It is designed to perform with agility in the dirt and to be quick on the street as well.

My test bike was finished in Black and Silver with Red anodized rims and lace spoke wheels. The base price was set at $10,495, but with the 10 percent federal tax credit that's available, the cost is reduced to $9,495. An optional Quick Charge system is available for $595. And, the standard Corbin seat with a height of 35.8 inches may be replaced by an optional lower height seat (33.8 inches) for $299.

Suspension travel amounts to 9.4 inches in the front and 7.7 inches in the rear for an exceptionally compliant ride quality on or off-road. The maximum battery capacity is 4.4 kWh with a range projected at 58 miles, which will naturally vary based upon riding style, terrain and surface.

Top speed is 67 mph. Total recharge with the standard integrated system is roughly four hours. The wheelbase of my DS model tester measured 56.3 inches, and it weighed in at 297 pounds.

ZERO bikes feature a clutchless, single speed, direct drive transmission. There is no fuel and no direct emissions. There's also virtually no noise to annoy neighbors. The battery possesses no toxic chemical properties and is recyclable.

The ZERO DS features a locking front fork assembly and an ignition key. Simply turn on the ignition key, press the power button, and you're ready to roll. The ZERO DS ranks right up there with a conventional gas-fueled 250cc machine in terms of performance capability.

The ZERO DS is a pleasure to ride, which draws looks of bewilderment due to its silent operation. This is truly a case where zero doesn't translate as nothing -- it is genuinely a big plus.

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