Going to a Manhattan hotel to see the private unveiling of a pair of secret motorcycles is a not so unusual thing to do in New York City as I found out. Zero Motorcycles, a pioneer in the electric motorcycle industry brought two new models to the East Coast for a stealthy media preview. The unconventional reveal is complimentary for a company that is challenging the established ideas of what a motorcycle is.
At the time of publishing, Zero produces the largest line of all-electric motorcycles and powertrains. So to say they are the Tesla of the electric bike industry isn’t a far off comparison. Zero was incubated in the tech dense state of California. It’s target riders are less traditional loud leather clad biker, more digital industry worker with a closet full of Arc’teryx.
Zero thus far offered premium priced bikes. As a parallel to the automotive EV industry, there’s a race to offer more affordable options and grow market reach. The two new bikes previewed are Zero’s most entry-level models that will be available in 2024.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter
The 2024 Zero Model S is the company’s first sub-$15k street bike. It isn’t a radically different looking bike from existing petrol engined models. There’s minimal bodywork and most of the electrical internals are exposed inside the tubular frame. The overall aesthetic is very angular and chiseled. It has an athletic vibe coming from the use of tapered shapes. It definitely has the look of a grounded product and doesn’t succumb to sci-fi design elements to represent it as an EV.
While electric motorcycles have no need for a traditional fuel tank, both of these bikes retain that element, repurposed as a storage ‘trunk’. I joked with the Zero team that a wordsmith session was a needed to come up with a motorcycling equivalent of frunk. This also leaves the bulky battery to sit low in the frame. I do wish there was a different color other than black used on the battery casing to make it visually lighter. The black and white color scheme the Model S was presented in looked a bit unbalanced in my opinion and could use a little visual lift in the dark mass area of the bike.
The DS(dual sport) is an adventure style bike. I’d say it’s more urban adventure/commuting bike. My initial reaction to the bike was how big it is. Photos don’t quite convey it but it dwarfs the Model S. The DS is priced just below $16K. There’s more bodywork on the DS, containing dual headlights and a ‘tunk'(maybe I’ve solved it for you Zero). There’s more of a softened facet shape vocabulary to the upper portion of the bike. The windscreen feels like a fighter jet HUD element, very technical looking. It has a rotary height adjuster know a Zero representative commented was inspired by vintage camera controls.
Both the Model S and DS were developed with the intent to try and lure new riders to motorcycling. I think the familiar design and aesthetics help bridge reliable and understandable ICE bikes with developing EV models. I asked the Zero team what might be the near future advancements in electric motorcycle design and the agreement was with smaller and lighter batteries. Which makes sense since that affects everything from range and handling to design proportions and ultimately cost.