In Detail: 2011 Zero XU Electric Motorcycle

In TRANSLOGIC 49 we visit Zero Motorcycles in Santa Cruz, California to check out the company's low emission electric motorcycles. Although we focused on the new XU model, Zero actually has a full line of electric bikes, each built for a different purpose. The Zero MX is a dirt bike built for tracks and jumps while the Zero X is more of a trail bike. The Zero S is primarily a street bike with a top speed of 67 mph and a max range of 58 miles and the DS is a dual sport motorcycle that's good for both street and dirt – top speed and range are the same as the S. Because these bikes are all electric, there's a few things they can do other bikes cannot. All of Zero's off-road bikes can be programmed for different levels of speed and acceleration. For example, top speed can be limited to 30 mph which will give more riding time and might be ideal for more technical trails. Also, you can flip a switch and set the accelerator to an easy mode which is ideal for beginners; flip it back to sport mode when more aggressive acceleration is needed.

The XU is Zero's newest electric bike and it's intended as a city friendly scooter alternative. It essentially combines the best features of a dirt and street bike. The XU's brakes are similar to the more trail friendly X model with a two piston front brake caliper and a single piston rear caliper clamping 8.66 inch (220mm) discs. Front wheels measure 19 inches while the rear wheel is 16 inches in diameter. The smaller diameter rear wheel helps with quick starts since the transmission is single speed. Front suspension has adjustable dampers with 5.3 inches of travel and the rear suspension has 5.5 inches of travel.

The XU's lithium-ion battery pack is the same one used in the X and MX bikes. Zero says these removable battery packs can be fully recharged in about 2 hours, or a little less if you get the optional quick charger. Electric cars have a built in mechanism that limits over charging as well as excessive discharging. Zero motorcycles proprietary Z-Force batteries have the same ability. You can plug them in for days or weeks without harming the batteries, that way they're ready to go when you are and you don't have to worry about shortening the charge life of your batteries by leaving them plugged in too long.

Retail price for the Zero XU is $7,995. The quick charger will run you $595 and you can order saddle bags for an extra $250. By comparison, a Vespa GTV 300 has a retail price of $6,899. The Vespa has a top speed of 80 mph but uses gasoline – it's estimated to get 65-70 miles per gallon. As with all electric vehicles, the real issue is range. The Vespa has a 2.4 gallon fuel tank so even at just 60 miles per gallon, the Vespa can go 144 miles before it needs to be re-fueled, the Zero has just 30 miles of range. The convenience of having to refuel less may be appealing, but those who have a short daily commute would clearly benefit from the electric XU.

Click the image below to watch TRANSLOGIC 49: Zero Motorcycles:

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