Are Zero Motorcycles Worth It?

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Key Takeaways

  • The Zero motorcycle has more torque than its equivalent gas-powered bike making it faster from rest and more fun to ride as well as performing better because of the customizable, riding modes generated from the Cypher III operating system.
  • The Zero motorcycle has far fewer maintenance issues because of only 20 moving parts compared to the 2000 moving parts of the ICE. It is also more comfortable because of a simpler acceleration system, less vibration, and an overall smoother ride.
  • The Zero motorcycle is better for the environment and much more efficient using 85% of the electricity instead of 40% of the fuel in combustion engines. The Zero also has zero emissions making this mode of transportation the future for a healthy planet.
  • The Zero motorcycle is similar in purchase price compared to its ICE competitors, but in the long run will save you money on maintenance costs, energy costs, and government incentives.
  • The Zero motorcycle will eventually overcome the main argument against its ownership: nostalgia. In time, the fond memory of gas-powered engines will be replaced by the thrilling power, efficiency, and planet-friendly experience of an electric engine.

Zero motorcycles have many advantages over traditional combustion-engined bikes, but whether they are worth the purchase depends on your personal values.

With similar price tags, the electric Zero outperforms its competition in almost every category including power, performance, maintenance, comfort, anti-pollution, and price. It’s the future, and it’s well worth the commitment.

My first short trip on a Zero motorcycle had me convinced in the 4 seconds it took me to get to 60 MPH: convinced to be more careful as I struggled to keep the front wheel down and convinced that it was worth the price tag. Not only is it the future, but it’s also beating the present standard for two-wheeled performance in every category on my checklist. After seeing side-by-side comparison spec sheets and evaluating the overwhelming evidence, I believe you’ll also be convinced to at least consider the value of this high-tech EV bike.

In this article...


How Does the Zero Compare In Power?

Since 2013, when an electric motorcycle beat its gas-powered competitors at the famed Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb by a full 20 seconds, no one doubts the power of this new breed of transportation.

The Zero motorcycle, with its 14.4 kWh battery, has 110 BHP (brake horsepower) which is 82 kW, and an astounding 140 lb-ft at the crank (190 Nm). This launches the machine to 124 MPH (200 km/h) sustained and can do 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds. This is faster than most ICE (internal combustion engined) bikes. For instance, it outperforms every Harley-Davidson for torque and with the exception of the V-Rod, there is no Harley that can go 0-60 in under 4 seconds. You can compare this electric engine and powertrain to other bikes in its price range and it will invariably outperform other bikes including the Yamaha FJR1300ES (102 lb-ft) and the Honda Goldwing (125 lb-ft). Even bikes in the 200 HP supersport category like the Ducati Panigale can’t compare to the Zero as it produces “only” 91 lb-ft of torque.

Another reason the Zero compares well with gas-powered bikes is that no rev-up is required at rest. To allow peak torque performance an ICE bike needs high RPMs while an electric has peak torque at 0 RPMs. The Zero has blistering speed from the moment you twist the throttle. It’s impossible to replicate the euphoria of electric-powered torque simply through scientific numbers on paper. Like many other motorcycle enthusiasts,  I have become accustomed to the power delay of a gas engine that needs carburation, combustion, piston movement, valve movement, clutch engagement, gear shifting, and, finally, wheel movement. However, the instantaneous response of the electric engine throttle to a head-snapping, lightning acceleration is indescribable. Impressive is an understatement.

Fun is probably the most attractive reason to buy a motorcycle, and the powerful nature of an electric engine makes this bike fun. Very fun.

How Does the Zero Compare In Performance?

Imagine your motorcycle is a smartphone. Yeah. It’s like that only cooler. Because instead of downloading Candy Crush, you’re downloading the ability to navigate motorcycle-specific thoroughfares, the ability to go in reverse, faster charging times, and even more range– all from the internal brain of your Zero called Cypher Operating System III. Now some have recoiled at having to pay for and download software that connects to hardware that you’ve already bought. It feels to some that they are paying twice for their bike. While Tesla can get away with this because of their revolutionary software to hardware advances, Zero probably can’t. That argument aside, it’s amazing technology.

The riding modes are personal and unique including Rain (balancing your ABS perfectly for inclement weather), Eco (economy mode slowing the bike and regenerating more power from the brakes for a longer ride between charges), Sport (boosting power and torque but minimizing regen power), Standard (freeing you from any custom changes), and Custom which has an infinite amount of variables you can add for your particular riding experience.

This type of customization displayed on a full-color 5” TFT screen on the dash includes Bluetooth and Cellular Connectivity making the performance of your bike, unlike any other biking experience you’ve had. I’ve only ridden a Zero once and wasn’t able to discover even a fraction of the Cypher-powered possibilities, but my ride gave me more confidence, power, and speed than I’ve ever had. It was amazing, and it’s the future.

How Does Zero Compare in Maintenance?

You don’t have to be a mechanic. You only have to know one thing to understand the difference between an EV and an ICE. The gas engine has over 2000 moving parts. The electric has about 20. Without needing an oil change or replacing oil pumps, gas pumps, or spark plugs, and without worrying about air emissions, sensors, gears, crankshafts, piston-wear, fuel lines, etc., etc., etc., it is obvious that the electric engine is mostly maintenance-free and a much easier vehicle to maintain.

Check your belt, tires, brakes, and battery, and you are good to go. Even the Zero’s lithium-ion battery is warrantied for five years, and it is suggested that it will last for over 200,000 miles. It sounds impossible, but a more efficient engine has been created that will soon replace the ICE one. It’s only a matter of time.

How Does the Zero Compare in Comfort?

Comfort is in the rear of the beholder, but mine was fine after a day of riding the Zero SR/F. The low seat (just over 31”), high bars, and low pegs were perfect for my 6’ 3” frame. The SR/S has full fairings and a small windshield to cut through the wind adding to the cruisability of this machine. The low weight (just over 500 lbs) combined with the Showa suspension and durable chassis made the contours and twists of the road smooth. It was surprising how smooth. Without the engine vibration that I’m used to on my Harley, it felt more like flying than wheel-grounded transportation. My only complaint was the stiff seat that may have been fine once broken in, but overall, it was a very comfortable, exhilarating riding experience. My only other complaint is the obvious: the waiting time to charge. It’s not comfortable to have to wait. But those waiting times are lessoning by the year, and with the right upgrades, a full charge can be down to 30 minutes.

How Does the Zero Compare in Environmental Pollution?

Fuel Waste

When you put gas in your combustion engine tank, only 30 to 40 percent will be converted into energy, and the rest will be lost to friction and heat. Imagine filling up for $20 and $12 is completely wasted. Compare those numbers to the EV engine of the Zero in which 80 to 90 percent of the electricity is turned into energy. This is three times as efficient as the combustion engine.

And before we go down the rabbit hole of how much power it takes to create the batteries and to provide the electricity to charge the EV Zero, when compared with the costs of manufacturing the combustion engine and providing the fuel for it, the numbers remain the same with the EV still three times more efficient.

Carbon Footprint

Manufacturing the average sedan produces about 18 tons of carbon dioxide. If driven 20,000 miles a year, it will create another 10 tons of carbon dioxide every year. After ten years, the vehicle will create 118 tons of carbon dioxide. Now multiply that by the 1.4 billion cars on the planet. That’s a lot of carbon dioxide.

Electric vehicles like the Zero still have some pollution concerns including the mining of the raw materials involved needed for the battery and the 30 percent more greenhouse gases produced in manufacturing the vehicle. However, thanks to modern legislation those pollution rates are lower every year and the zero emissions from the tailpipe of the electric motorcycle mean a much healthier impact on the environment cumulatively. This is the future. The impetus of international leaders is to reduce greenhouse gases sooner than later before permanent damage is done to our planet. The Zero motorcycle is taking us one step closer to this goal.

Noise Pollution

One of the biggest complaints from neighbors of motorcyclists is the noise they make. No one wants to be woken up on a Saturday morning to the noise of a straight-piped Fatboy Harley with the catalytic converter removed. The ability to let your family sleep and leave the garage silently and not interrupt people’s commute with the deep window-vibrating noise pollution of big bore engine is not only being a considerate citizen, but it’s also advantageous when needing to make that quick morning get-away. For various unstated reasons. Enough said.

How Does the Zero Compare in Price?

While the purchase price of the Zero SR/S may seem high to some at $20,000, it compares well to high-end gas-powered touring/sport bikes with similar capabilities. The true cost of savings comes in the energy costs to run, maintenance costs, and incentives.

The energy cost to ride an electric motorcycle is about $1.80 for 100 miles. The same distance on the average internal combustion engine bike will cost over $9.00, and with the cost of fuel increasing internationally, these prices will continue to rise. If your home or charging station is powered by wind or solar which are becoming more and more popular, the EV costs will be even lower.

Without spending money on oil changes, air filters, oil filters, spark plugs, fuel lines, and broken or failing components, the Zero motorcycle will save a lot of money on labor and parts. Maintenance-free ownership is a real thing with an EV bike.

Finally, federal and state incentives exist that can pay out from $2,500 to $7,500 depending on the state. In order to clean up our environment and take the strain off of our limited fossil fuel supply, the government will pay consumers to purchase electric-engined vehicles.

How Does the Zero Compare in Nostalgia?

From the sound of the combustion engine to the vibration, the feel, and even the smell, some people just love this type of engine. Even the maintenance issues every ICE will eventually need are a benefit to motorcycle owners who enjoy tinkering with their bikes. Perhaps it’s the memory of their dad in the garage teaching them how to change the oil or maybe it’s the nostalgia of that first ride. After years of riding and watching motorcycles roar across our movie screens, we have defined our motorcycle experience based on a gas-powered engine.

So what does that mean? Just like one day we left our horse in the barn and jumped on a steel-framed, engine-powered two-wheel machine with those same thoughts of wishing for the past, it will happen again. The nostalgia of riding a horse into the sunset was replaced by the need for speed. And, so, the sound of a whirring, efficient, futuristic electric engine will replace our fond memories of expensive, pollution-riddled, slower machines of yesteryear.