EBA: What will it take to bring Zero
Motorcycles farther into the mainstream?
Abe: Highway range is our next big thing. We
need to increase the range to the point that it is
no longer a concern. Since most people don’t
really ride more than 175 miles in a day, right
now I think the range is spot-on. Even for fleet
applications like police, the range is perfect.
For people who commute long distances on the
highway at 70 mph, the range is half of our city
range. Electric is the opposite of internal combustion engines. Gas engines are more efficient
at high rpm, and electric motors are most efficient at low rpm. Our bikes are highly efficient in
the city, but at higher rpm, the efficiency of the
powertrain drops quite a bit, and then there is
the aerodynamic drag you are fighting at speed.
So while our current 85 miles of highway range
is enough for a lot of people, we know it won’t
satisfy everyone. Our next frontier is making
highway range beyond concern.
From a chassis standpoint, it will be more of
an evolution. We will evolve to better suspension and better brakes. I don’t think we will be
making leaps in those areas. We have a pretty
solid product now that we will continue to work
on. We have reached a place where the power
is quite good, and especially on the SR. We will
continue to evolve the powertrain, but in the
market segment we operate in, there is no need
for further leaps in power or acceleration. We
will continue to work and look for that next battery chemistry that will provide our next leap.
EBA: What about a transmission or a
Constant Variable Transmission to maximize
Abe: A transmission loses efficiency. Any
time you transfer power there is a loss. One of
the things that make our bikes special is how
easy they are to live with, how pure they are
and the simplicity of the ride. A lot of the hob-bies and pastimes you enjoy tend to complicate
your life. A Zero is one of those special things
that simplifies your life. You no longer go to gas
stations; there is no engine noise or emissions
to get in the way of the purity of the ride experience. You don’t have a clutch or shifting. What
sells our product more than anything else is the
experience. It isn’t green credentials or anything
you think about. It is the purity of how fun it is
to get on something that is more like flying than
riding a motorcycle. You feel connected to the
road, to the environment in ways that are not
possible with internal combustion. Plus, you
just get on it and go. No need for the engine to
warm up, no oil changes, no air filter to clean.
Those things you used to have to worry about
just go away. Without exception, riders who
add a Zero to a stable of bikes—whether they
already own one or a fleet—choose to ride the
Zero 9 times out of 10 for their day-to-day riding. The other bikes end up parked, because
with the Zero you just get on and go. The direct
drive that we have is one of the points that people really like, so we have no plans, motivation
or market demand for a transmission.
In simple terms, an electric drivetrain is made up of a motor, a controller and
a battery. Zero has made huge strides with the battery. Instead of the round
cells it used to use to make up battery packs, these assemblies of flat cells
allow much more battery power to be gathered in the same area that used to
house the round cells.
Before Matt Bentley came on board at Zero, there was nobody taking care of
industrial design. As a result, the bikes looked like a collection of parts. Matt
is a one-man department so far. He has done an amazing job unifying the
look, fit and finish of the Zero motorcycle.