Friday, October 10, 2008

Off-Road EM: Zero

There are a few very serious players in the electric dirt bike field. These are the companies (and committed people behind them) who are really trying to figure out the direction for electric off-road motorcycles. They are looking forward and pushing into the future with some real innovation and hardcore enthusiasm. Three of the envelope pushers, in no particular order are: Zero, Electric Moto, and Quantya. I’m going to briefly look at each one over a few posts. Let’s start at (wait for it), Zero.

Photo via: Autoblog Green (link goes to article with gallery)

Zero: Incredible performance in a durable and well thought out package. I caught the episode of Mean Green Machines on Green Planet (a Discovery Channel network) which featured the Zero electric motorcycle a few weeks ago. The premise of the show was that the Zero would race head-to-head through a series of tests against a new Yamaha YZ250F. Zero creator, Neil Saiki put his machine where his heart is and suggested the YZ for comparison. This was ballsy stuff. To go on (inter)national TV and put an electric bike up against one of the best Lites class motocross bikes available…well that took some big boxers for sure.

Obviously the Zero got beat, but surprisingly not by a whole lot. For an electric bike with an effectively downhill/freeride mountain bike suspension (Saiki is also a respected MTB frame and suspension designer), it held it’s own. From my sofa, I’d say that a safer bet would’ve been selecting a big play bike/trail bike like a Honda CRF230F or Yamaha TT-R230 for comparison. In my opinion those are more likely competition for an electric bike like the Zero at this point in time.

Rider opinions on the show were positive. The Zero is light, has decent power, and awesome acceleration. When lighter riders were on the Zero, its performance was surprisingly equal to the Yamaha. I think that more than anything, the comparison shows how close we are to having electric motorcycles which are wholly competitive with their internal combustion siblings.

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