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Original Article:
2012 Zero DS Review

Please discuss the Motorcycle.com article 2012 Zero DS Review in our Motorcycle Forums below. Use the reply button to let others know your comments or feedback on the article. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, along with your thoughts and personal opinions on the bikes and products we have tested.
 

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I've made arrangements with a new Zero dealer in Central Florida to demo the new "S." I'm really interested in seeing how far the bikes have come since I rode one two years ago. Back then they were really just mountain bikes with batteries and motors.

The new dealer is pretty excited about having these bikes to sell. The saleslady I spoke with is riding a DS to work every day and raves about it. But...take that for what it's worth....she IS a sales lady!

It's great to be here for the beginning of this new transport paradigm. In some ways, it reminds me of when I was unboxing some of the very first IBM PC's back in 1981. We didn't know where it would all end up, many people thought it was stupid or a fad, but we knew things were going to change in a big way.
 

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I've made arrangements with a new Zero dealer in Central Florida to demo the new "S." I'm really interested in seeing how far the bikes have come since I rode one two years ago. Back then they were really just mountain bikes with batteries and motors.

The new dealer is pretty excited about having these bikes to sell. The saleslady I spoke with is riding a DS to work every day and raves about it. But...take that for what it's worth....she IS a sales lady!

It's great to be here for the beginning of this new transport paradigm. In some ways, it reminds me of when I was unboxing some of the very first IBM PC's back in 1981. We didn't know where it would all end up, many people thought it was stupid or a fad, but we knew things were going to change in a big way.
Kind of a big difference there Kmo.

There wasn't a superior alternative to IBM PCs at the time.

Let's say electrics can be as good as gas for sake of argument. They're all gonna sound the damn same. Whizzzzzzzz

We'll all be little homogenized robot riders. I'm not willing to forsake the boom of a Ducati twin or the sizzle of a BMW six for a few dolphins.
 

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Zero exhaust note (pun intended)

If you Zero owners want, I could sell you an ap of my Moto Guzzi Le Man's track only, titanium exhaust note. 0-130 mph, 15 second clip; for only 200.00 dollars! You could wire it to an amp mounted on the swing arm. Should have plenty of juice.
 

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If you Zero owners want, I could sell you an ap of my Moto Guzzi Le Man's track only, titanium exhaust note. 0-130 mph, 15 second clip; for only 200.00 dollars! You could wire it to an amp mounted on the swing arm. Should have plenty of juice.
Great idea! But....

Audi's Electric-Vehicle Sound Effects May Stem From Will Smith's 'I, Robot' Film - AutoObserver

Nissan add sound effect to LEAF electric vehicle | LEAF-Age

Now, how about installing a paint shaker like they use in Home Depot? Turn it on at the stoplight and you've got a Harley!
 

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Price short circuits the deal.

I'm glad you left the price till last. For $12K you should also get a radio with digital Harley sound effects you can play out of speakers on both sides, for riding in traffic.
 

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Despite the tall seat height this looks like a small motorcycle. To take its picture I notice that the camera was simply placed on the ground. How does the weight compare to a ICE bike? Weight and height are intimidating to new riders.
 

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With the price as it is, there's no question E-bikes are still exclusive vehicles. But, as with any new technology, as time goes on prices will eventually come down and performance will come up. The 2012 Zero DS (and S, which we haven't ridden...yet) are signs of the latter. Now we're just waiting for the former.

As far as noise is concerned, speaking only for myself, the lack of an exhaust note wasn't something that bothered me. Mainly because I was having so much fun simply riding the motorcycle. You start to find other things to listen and pay attention to that you never registered before.

Comparing the DS with the ZF9 power pack, which is what we tested, to the Kawasaki KLX250S, the DS weighs 341 lbs (297 with the ZF6 power pack) and has a wheelbase of 57.3 inches. The Kawasaki weighs 297.7 lbs with a 56.3-inch wheelbase and 35.0-inch seat height. All of these numbers are according to the respective manufacturer's websites, but having seen each bike, I can tell you that the Zero DS has similar dimensions to ICE competitors in its category. I think the picture might be deceiving.
 

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With the price as it is, there's no question E-bikes are still exclusive vehicles. But, as with any new technology, as time goes on prices will eventually come down and performance will come up. The 2012 Zero DS (and S, which we haven't ridden...yet) are signs of the latter. Now we're just waiting for the former.

As far as noise is concerned, speaking only for myself, the lack of an exhaust note wasn't something that bothered me. Mainly because I was having so much fun simply riding the motorcycle. You start to find other things to listen and pay attention to that you never registered before.

Comparing the DS with the ZF9 power pack, which is what we tested, to the Kawasaki KLX250S, the DS weighs 341 lbs (297 with the ZF6 power pack) and has a wheelbase of 57.3 inches. The Kawasaki weighs 297.7 lbs with a 56.3-inch wheelbase and 35.0-inch seat height. All of these numbers are according to the respective manufacturer's websites, but having seen each bike, I can tell you that the Zero DS has similar dimensions to ICE competitors in its category. I think the picture might be deceiving.
My mind can't wrap around the idea of 250cc dirt bikes that weigh 300 lbs.
 

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Okay, one request. Can we stop insisting that EV's "are the future of motorcycling"? Because that's really just an assumption.

I would be more inclined to agree that EV's are part of the future of motorcycling and personal transport in general.

Everyone is assuming that we'll have EV-ICE parity within a few short years. Erm, it doesn't really look that way. While battery performance is improving, it's not happening that fast. We'll need a real leap in battery tech, like, perhaps, the semi-flow battery concept they're working on at MIT. But even that concept has some major issues to resolve and likely won't see any practical application for another decade. There are some other improvements in energy density on the horizon for lithium-ion batteries, but consider that, even though ICEs are pretty energy inefficient, batteries still have to get a lot better to get in the same performance/range/price ballpark.

So EVs will probably remain limited-use vehicles for a while yet. And that's fine. If I can justify it and have a need, I could even own one. In the meantime, it feels like we're ignoring other options like alternative fuels, which, in some respects, might be a better solution.

And then Buz can keep his booming exhaust note.
 

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pdad, I agree completely that EVs are not a replacement for ICE, but an alternative. I.e.: Cars and horses shared the same roads until the 1940's in parts of the US.

As for battery tech, the rate of improvement on range, battery life, and performance is astonishing. See my post "Senor Zawa: Never say Never" for just one example of how Envia Inc. has quadrupled E-car battery performance while lowering cost.
 

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See my post "Senor Zawa: Never say Never" for just one example of how Envia Inc. has quadrupled E-car battery performance while lowering cost.
And it is expected to be on the market in (wait for it)... three to five years.
 

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For reference sake, a WR250R dual sport weighs about 300 pounds.

At 310mm, the front brake, if anything, seems like massive overkill. The big rotor is more subject to damage when off road too. I would also prefer normal 21/18 wheels on a dual sport too. Likely the current wheels were chosen for efficiency and low rolling resistance. It would be fun for someone with money to burn who owns say 2.5 acres of land in a residental area to set up a track, mount some knobbies and moto on a Zero. How could the most tree hugging of neighbors complain when it makes no noise at all?

This could be great for riding the urban midnight enduro too. Stairs, sidewalks. Imagine the potential merriment and utter lawlessness this silent and capable bike could bring out in a rider. Demented minds want to know - with no gears to change, reponsive "electric smooth" power and "throttle response" tunable by iPhone (someday), might this little Zero be a good wheelie monster? Will it zip up and down a flight of stairs? I bet it can. Oh the possibilities...

As a dirt bike nut, I wonder about the characteristics of the electric motor in real no excuses hard core off road situations. How is the torque and "hook up" in techical terrain? Wondering if this bike would not be a great rock crawler. At least you don't have to worry about it getting hot and boiling over in such conditions.

Scot Harden is a hard core dirt bike and former KTM guy. I think we have more to see in the future that will be of even greater interest. Very cool. Keep at it boys. Oh, and send me one of these with the big battery pack and I will ride the hell out of it and "field test" it for you on the rocky rough trails of Colorado and report back. I know it is a major hardship for me, but I am willing to do this :D
 

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Okay, one request. Can we stop insisting that EV's "are the future of motorcycling"?
Depends on what your definition of "the future" is. I won't be around to see it, but I bet there'll be more EVs on the road 100 years from now than ICE-powered vehicles.
 

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It would be fun for someone with money to burn who owns say 2.5 acres of land in a residental area to set up a track, mount some knobbies and moto on a Zero. How could the most tree hugging of neighbors complain when it makes no noise at all?
We're pursuing such a story. Stay tuned.

As a dirt bike nut, I wonder about the characteristics of the electric motor in real no excuses hard core off road situations. How is the torque and "hook up" in techical terrain? Wondering if this bike would not be a great rock crawler. At least you don't have to worry about it getting hot and boiling over in such conditions.
Zero also has its MX model for dirtbiking. We'd like to test the latest version.

Scot Harden is a hard core dirt bike and former KTM guy. I think we have more to see in the future that will be of even greater interest. Very cool. Keep at it boys. Oh, and send me one of these with the big battery pack and I will ride the hell out of it and "field test" it for you on the rocky rough trails of Colorado and report back. I know it is a major hardship for me, but I am willing to do this :D
And no power loss at high elevations!
 
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