Zero Is In This For The Long Haul

Zero Is In This For The Long Haul

Zero introduced its latest electric motorcycle yesterday, the slick-looking SR/S, with up to 201 miles (323 km) of range. At a launch event in New York City, the biggest vibe I got was that the company is all in on what it thinks is the future.

The SR/S will be Zero’s sixth model on offer and, the company says, intended for daily commuters or weekend warriors with a range of 82 miles (131 km) on the highway on the base model, or 102 miles (164 miles) with the upgraded Power Tank.

For those who are married to their Harleys, that won’t seem like much, but that isn’t really Zero’s market, either. Based in California, Zeros are trying to attract a younger audience, one for whom the roar of a motorcycle isn’t an aphrodisiac, it’s just annoying, an audience for whom ethical consumption is an actual thing, and an audience who appreciates the technology Zero puts on its bikes, like a function to track your ride on a map and “relive it” after the fact.

It’s hard to say if it’s working since Zero doesn’t release sales numbers, but a new injection of $US25 ($38) million last April—bringing the total capital it’s raised to $US250 ($378) million—suggests that the company will stick around for some time.

It has also been at this for over a decade now, or more than enough time to make mistakes and learn from them. Perhaps enough to even endure, given how difficult it is for vehicle startups.

That has also been enough time, at any rate, to finally generate the interest of people with too much time on their hands.

“For the first time in the run-up to this bike we had spy photos taken around our office,” Sam Paschel, Zero’s CEO, said Wednesday. “We have people crawling through servers looking for data … The need for secrecy has stepped up.”

The SR/S starts at $US19,995 ($30,230), and has fairing that both marginally increases the bike’s range and, Zero says, makes it look more “elevated,” or classier, compared to its naked offerings. That’s a lot of money for any motorcycle, but that’s still nearly $US10,000 ($15,119) less than what Harley’s LiveWire starts at.

While I remain sceptical that a market for expensive electric motorcycles actually exists, Zero has, unlike Harley so far, hedged their bets with a wider range of electric bikes, including the FX, which starts at a more manageable $US8,995 ($13,599). That’s also not to mention that I would certainly trust Zero more on the tech. Or at least more than Harley, which was, until the LiveWire, the least innovative motorcycle maker in the world, and by some distance.

And if you’re still stuck on the range, then an electric motorcycle just may not be for you. I asked Zero’s Chief Technology Officer if aerodynamic drawbacks on motorcycles would always be an inherent problem, but he said the company was more than satisfied with the SR/S’s range.

“We don’t struggle with range,” Abe Askenazi, the CTO, said. “I don’t think aerodynamics for range was the thing.”

Instead, the company wanted to just make a good bike that rides well. We’ll see if that’s enough.