Twit TV visits Zero Motorcycles

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Want an in-depth look at the functionality, specs and use cases of the complete Zero Motorcycles range? A couple of weeks ago, our friends at Twit TV asked for a contact at the electric motorcycles company, this is the episode that resulted. CEO Gene Banman and Engineer Abe Askenazi (formerly of Buell) talk about the advantages of silent running and using a recent government grant to develop a motorcycle-specific electric motor.

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Twit TV

  • ontheroad

    In my opinion, Zero embodies what is wrong with current electric motorcycle development. “We’re not an electric transportation company, we’re a motorcycle company”? I don’t buy it, unless perhaps your notion of a motorcycle company is modeled after the Korean brands or electric pedal-bike manufactures.

    The bikes are hopelessly bland aesthetically, look to be pieced together with economy parts and bicycle components and, with such a limited range, seem little more than a novelty. Hardly a viable alternative to even small-displacement ICE motorcycles. These things aren’t even fit for comparison and it doesn’t seem they will be anytime soon.

    It seems all of these companies get a pass from the media, which with few exceptions is collectively all too eager to extoll the virtues of this new technology and the people developing these products. I’d like to see more journalists turning a critical eye towards these manufacturers and holding them to the same standards as the rest of the industry (although as is often alluded to here on HFL, alot of publications are frankly too soft on new products from the big brands as well). Ask some hard questions for God’s sake:

    -What is the quality/source of your components? Anyone else curious where those frames are being manufactured and to what stadards? (in the case of Zero, the answer for most of those parts is likely S.E. Asia… take a look at those tires. If they won’t even spring for good rubber where else are the corners cut?)

    -Why have you chosen to use what appears to be bicycle suspension components and brakes on a 200+ lb motor vehicle?

    -What is the environmental impact of the production and construction of these battery packs (which, much like the whole bike, appear to have been cobbled together after-hours in an undergrad engineering lab) and the eventual disposal of them after this *alleged* 8 year service interval?

    I’m longwinded here, but I’m perturbed by these companies and the media’s reaction to them and concerned about the quality of these products being sold to the public. The damn bike looks about as exciting to ride as a toaster, and I’m fearful of a future where neutered, poorly produced e-bikes are the norm.

    MotoCzysz and Mission Motors are electric motorcycle companies; these guys and their ilk are far from it. I suppose I can only hope that such companies will prevail over the ones building boring oddities like these battery-powered scooter/mountain bike hybrids. While Motoczysz and Mission products are at present out of reach for the average consumer, I believe that their approach to developing this technology is our best hope for a future where electric motorcycles are not only energy-efficient and affordable but EXCITING.

    • Wes Siler

      Part of that is an honest realization that there current products sit somewhere between a bicycle and a bike, but yeah, the components leave a lot to be desired if you do motorcycle like things with them.

      I’m on my phone, so can’t look it up, but one of our readers has a small business selling upgrade parts for zeros. Real motorcycle parts basically.

      And this questions? We’ve asked them. Search “Neal saiki” and you’ll find the interview.

  • ontheroad

    Honestly, I like the dirtbike: silent for places where noise is an issue, lightweight, efficient, etc. I have no qualms with developing a segment of hybrid bikes that straddle the boundaries of trials/mx/mountain bike; in fact, I’ll confess I think the emerging genre kind of cool (a stretch for this diehard ICE guy).

    I happen to be picking on Zero today, but to be fair all the similar street offerings from their competitors evoke the same reaction. They’re simply not streetbikes, yet the marketing language and depiction in the media, by and large, would suggest otherwise. I’m aware that to a great many motorcyclists like myself this is obvious, but the troubling part is the perception of the broader public who can’t make the distinction: in a culture which already threatens to regulate the enjoyment out of our industry/leisure/obsession (the 100 hp bill in France, youth market restrictions stateside, absurd emmissions legislation, etc.) can we afford to pitch these e-bikes as a real alternative to the oft-villified ICE bikes and of the present day?

    The two things that troubles me about Zero particularly are the streetbike itself and the componentry across the model range. I read the interview and I think Neal is an intelligent fellow with some solid ideas, but the bike itself seems too compromised and I suspect this stem from two sources: a.) capital, or rather the absence thereof and b.) too much engineering, too little motoring. I can’t imagine anyone who rides a supermoto briskly giving the green light to that brake setup or shock or rubber on a production bike. I understand weight is a large concern, but there are better lightweight components readily available that while still well short of racing bits (and their cost) would offer the performance needed for a good sporting ride. The fact that someones providing better parts for these is cool, but ultimately a modern motorcycle should if nothing else have proper brakes out of the box.

    Damn, here I am pontificating again. Just a few more points before I get of this soapbox. I went back and revisited the interview: great read as usual for your features here on HFL but, though my other points were addressed, the environmental concerns about Li+ battery systems weren’t. That’s a big one in my mind that seems seldom hit upon. I don’t have all the facts myself but having read a bit on the problem we’ll be facing with disposal of Prius batteries and the like as well as the environmental costs of just producing such cells, I worry we may be driving towards another environmental headache while intent on stemming the oil-related one. That said, I’ll draw my rant to a close.

    Enjoy the madness in Detroit! I’m eager to see the feature.