Can you imagine how Henry Ford felt when he introduced the Model T? In the 1900s, Americans relied on their horses: from plowing their fields to hauling carriages filled with their families and goods. The horse was integral to our way of life, so the idea of a vehicle dependent on mini explosions was nearly inconceivable. That is until we finally got in the driver’s seat and discovered a new way to travel.
Today, we’re seeing another shift in the industry in the growing push to electrify how we travel. Leading automakers are introducing all-electric vehicles that defy expectations by delivering more power, capability, and versatility. The same is happening at motorcycle dealers across the country, or at least those that offer Zero Motorcycles. In an industry renowned for its gas powerhouses that rumble to life, Zero Motorcycles marks a new chapter by taking your ride to the next level.
Zero Motorcycles: The Innovator and Pioneer
NASA engineer Neal Saiki spent his early career doing aerodynamic research for NASA before lending his talents to the mountain bike industry designing full-suspension chassis systems. His passion for the outdoors and innovation led him back to his garage in the new millennium when he added an electric powertrain to a mountain bike frame to build his first all-electric motorcycle. By 2006, Zero Motorcycles officially opened its doors as a full-production company that offered something previously unheard of in the industry.
While Saiki knew he was onto something big, the problem was convincing everyone else that electric motorcycles were the future. Fortunately, he got some help in 2008 when renowned car enthusiast and late-night talk show host Jay Leno test rode the Zero L. Leno sang the bike’s praises, dubbing it the “future of motorcycling.” That praise was enough to get the gears moving at Zero Motorcycles; the company made headlines in 2009 when it introduced its first mass-produced model–the Zero S. With a range of 50 miles and a top speed of 60 MPH, the Zero S gained attention globally and introduced riders to a new possibility in the saddle.
Saiki helped establish Zero Motorcycles as an industry leader, eventually leaving the helm in 2011 to pursue other interests. Those other interests include a long list of accolades and achievements, like his world record for the first all-electric 24-hour motocross race and a World Aviation Record for the first human-powered helicopter. From NASA to electric motorcycles and sky-high accomplishments with a helicopter, Saiki has made several once-in-a-lifetime dreams come true and hasn’t stopped there, continuing his pursuit of ingenuity and excellence today.
Zero Motorcycles: Fulfilling a Mission
In the years since Saiki left his role, Zero Motorcycles has continued to flourish and focus its attention on one unifying mission: to “create a superior riding experience with its transformational line of electric powered motorcycles.” Zero Motorcycles’ dedication is unwavering, with the brand revolutionizing the industry with its lightweight and engaging powerhouses that usher motorcycles into a new era of capability, versatility, and electrification. The combination is incredible and has been for years, so why are so many riders just now learning about the benefits of “going electric” in the saddle?
Growing Pains Yields Progress
Growing pains always occur with innovations, whether it’s an electric motorcycle or SUV. Likewise, the concern for adopting an all-electric lifestyle is similar for riders and drivers alike who have one question: “Will I have enough range to get where I need to go?” It’s the elephant in the room and the proverbial million-dollar question that the industry–automotive and motorcycle–faces as it pushes us toward electric powertrains.
As an industry pioneer, Zero Motorcycles is at the forefront of that push and, because of this, is constantly finetuning its designs and advancing technology while looking for ways to improve and answer rider needs. In 2012, the company made history when it introduced a battery pack with a triple-digit range, more than doubling the 50-mile range of the Zero S that debuted in 2009. Then, “Electric Terry” Hershner set out to prove the practicality of riding an electric motorcycle, taking it to the extreme and venturing on a cross-country trip from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida in five days. He didn’t accomplish the feat in 2022 or 2023 but in 2013, with the existing charging infrastructure a decade ago.
Entering the Mainstream: The Transformation
As the newest motorcycle brand in America, Zero Motorcycles didn’t officially garner mainstream attention until 2015, when it proved its performance-oriented focus. Until then, electric motorcycles weren’t considered top-notch performers because they didn’t have to be; instead, they were pigeonholed as commuter or cruiser bikes designed for maneuvering in town. Zero Motorcycles changed the script by adding performance-related components, like an adjustable Showa suspension, Bosch anti-lock brakes, and Pirelli tires. These were brands that savvy riders recognized, finally earning Zero Motorcycles the recognition it deserved.
These components set the stage for a multifaceted lineup that answers more riding needs. Today, Zero Motorcycles has an expansive fleet of street bikes that include the SR/S, SR/F, SR, S, and FXE. A healthy lineup of dual sport models, like the DSR/X, DSR, DS, and FX, prove you can add an electric motorcycle to your garage without compromising your penchant for adventure on or off the pavement. Together, this family of electric motorcycles introduces more riders to the future of the industry and its many electrified perks.
Going Electric with Zero Motorcycles
Electric vehicle owners are quickly discovering the many perks of driving an EV. With electricity, EVs offer instantaneous power, meaning the response time between depressing the accelerator and the reaction of the powertrain is immediate and delivers pure thrills in the driver’s seat. Moreover, owning an EV is hassle-free because minimal maintenance is needed. So, how does this translate to all-electric motorcycles from Zero?
Go the Distance: Range and Recharging
As we’ve seen, Zero Motorcycles is constantly tweaking its lineup to increase driving range and capability. The progression is exceptional, with newer models offering a 223-mile peak driving range and fast-charging capability in as little as an hour. Moreover, the rapidly growing network of recharging stations nationwide means you can confidently go the distance.
Incredible Responsiveness: Power and Handling
Riding a motorcycle is an immersive experience that puts you in total control and simultaneously makes you incredibly vulnerable. There’s no frame or body to protect you from the environment or other vehicles; it’s just you in the saddle. This experience is addictive, even more so in the saddle of an electric motorcycle, because it’s a new type of immersion.
Electric powertrains are notoriously quiet, meaning you don’t have the noise pollution of an engine and can thoroughly tap into your senses and enjoy the world around you. Moreover, that experience doesn’t come at the cost of power or performance, with Zero Motorcycles offering up to 140 lb-ft of instant torque and a top speed of 124 mph without the need to engage the clutch or shift gears.
Do Less to Enjoy the Ride: Minimal Maintenance
Zero Motorcycles are revolutionary because they redefine the owner experience as much as they do the ride. There’s no fuel tank to refill or oil and filter to change. You don’t have to worry about fuel hoses, spark plugs, or timing belts. Instead, maintenance is hassle-free, leaving you to enjoy the ride and your investment for every mile and adventure ahead.
Going Forward and Leading the Industry
NASA engineer Neal Saiki has accomplished what most of us dream of–he’s managed to combine his passions and his work. Saiki’s ingenuity is behind Zero Motorcycles, but the company’s ongoing success is attributed to its forward-thinking and keen focus on maintaining its position as an industry leader. Even after Saiki’s departure, those who took the reins continued to move forward with purpose and a clear vision for how they could revolutionize the motorcycle industry. While many other major motorcycle manufacturers are joining the all-electric shift, “going electric” in the saddle will forever be tied to Zero Motorcycles and a NASA engineer who launched production from his garage. That’s the kind of legacy that engineers and designers can only hope to achieve and something that many of us will continue to benefit from for many years to come.