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Zero Electric Motorcycle: Fun, Efficient Commuting

By Arv Voss, September 23rd, 2017

The Zero DS ZF6.5 is built with the commuter in mind. The range for this electric motorcycle is 74 miles in city riding and 44 miles on the highway at 55 mph on level terrain.

The Zero is a genuine bona fide motorcycle that just happens to offer significant benefits over a gas-fueled bike. Its intended purpose is for short-range touring, and fully charging the bike from completely depleted can be accomplished for a minimal cost.

The Zero DS ZF6.5 is based on an aircraft aluminum frame and looks for all the world like any other dual-sport adventure bike.

My test 2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 was outfitted with the Power Tank (which adds 3.3 kWh of power pack storage capacity) and Charge Tank accessories (which allows a full charge in two to three hours at a Level 2 charging station) and was finished in Orange and Black, looking a lot like a KTM off-road bike. The base sticker was set at $10,995, while the estimated as-tested price came to $14,790.

The seat height is a comfortable 33.2 inches -- great for my 6'4" long-legged frame. The bike is lightning quick and is immediately responsive with instant torque, a seamless linear power range, a comfortable and commanding riding position, and plenty of suspension travel.

Handling characteristics are excellent. Handlebars are positioned for optimum control and the mid-positioned foot pegs and brake pedal complete an ideal riding position. Foot pegs and handgrips are also available for a passenger, but riding two-up obviously depletes the battery's charge more rapidly.

Normal, Eco, and Sport riding modes are switchable on the fly (which obviously impact one's range), and instrumentation consists of a graphic percentage of charge indicator, mode indicator, a dual trip odometer, and turn signal indicator (indicators do not self cancel, by the way).

The Power Tank battery places some of the bike's weight up high under its simulated normal fuel tank structure, but the bike still handles with exceptional balance. Ride it around town in the Eco mode for normal errands or just plain short fun jaunts, or hit off-road trails with equal capability. In other words, the Zero is pleasurable in virtually any riding environment.

Zero's peak power is 34 horsepower at 4,300 rpm along with 78 lb.-ft. of torque. Top maximum speed is 91 mph max or 80 mph sustained. Power for this commuter-version Zero comes from its Z-Force 75-5 passively air-cooled, high-efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent magnet brushless motor. The power system consists of Z-Force lithium-ion intelligent integrated battery pack with an estimated pack life to 80 percent or about 165,000 city miles.

The Zero DS has a ground clearance at a respectable 8.5 inches, and the bike tips the scales at 317 pounds with a carrying capacity of 417 pounds. Suspension componentry consists of Showa 41mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression, and rebound damping with 7-inch travel up front and a Showa 40mm piston, piggyback reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression, and rebound damping with 7.03 inches of travel out back.

Zero rolls on a 19x2.50-inch Pirelli MT-60 100/90 tire mounted on 5-inch slanted "Y"-spoke alloys up front and on a 17x3.50-inch Pirelli MT-60 130/80 tire mounted on 4-wide "U" spoke alloy wheel in the back.

Bringing the Zero DS ZF6.5 commuter bike to a halt is a Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual-piston floating caliper with 320x5 mm disc up front and a Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single-piston floating caliper with 240x4.5 mm disc in the rear; their regenerative braking plays an important role in maintaining battery charge.

The Zero is not your run-of-the-mill electric bicycle "wannabe" motorcycle, but the real deal. If there were a negative issue, it would be that it's so quiet that other motorists are often unaware of your presence, requiring extra vigilance on your part.

The Zero makes for an excellent addition to anyone's personal riding stable, and for some riders it is certainly capable of serving as one's only motorcycle with some very practical benefits, such as minimized maintenance and service. It has no oil to check or change, no spark plugs to replace, no transmission parts to wear out, no cooling system to contend with, no exhaust system issues to deal with, and no valves to adjust or replace.

The Zero commuter bike comes with a 2-year/unlimited-mileage warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack. Its lithium-ion power packs are fully recyclable, utilizing a chemistry that allows its owner to take advantage of continuously improving battery-recycling programs.

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