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Rethink on riding electric motorcycles

Zero DS electric motorcycle
Zero DS electric police motorcycle

After just 90km of testing a Zero DS electric motorcycle, I can see I will have to rethink how I ride.

Zero DS electric motorcycleThe first 60km on the highway at 100km/h chewed up the battery at 1% per km. At that rate, it looked like a slim chance that I would make it home. So at 60km with 40% battery left, I got off the highway and started to ride the back streets where the battery could use engine braking to regenerate when slowing down.  I covered the last 30km using only another 15% of the battery, in other words, halving my power consumption.

It is almost totally the reverse of an internal combustion engine where the “sweet spot” of fuel consumption is about 80-90km/h. At that speed the engine is at peak efficiency and it is just before aerodynamics start to impede further progress. The “sweet spot” with an electric motor is at low throttle or with smooth acceleration where you are using torque, rather than peak power.

Zero DS electric motorcycleI have driven many electric and hybrid cars and a few electric scooters just around town, but this is the first time I’ve ridden an electric motorcycle on the highway.  I will save my full ride impression for after I have ridden this police evaluation model of the Zero dual-sport electric motorcycle and its civilian on-road brother for a few days. However, here are some of my initial impressions:

  • The adjustable suspension is going to need some work. I could feel every bump on the road. I’ll get the screwdriver into it tonight and play with the settings. It’s got way too much rebound.
  • It steers quickly on the bars, but feels slow to flick from side to side.
  • Highway stability is great and it doesn’t get tossed around in the slipstream of trucks.
  • The instruments are clear and very informative. I found myself watching the power/torque meter which shows output and regeneration, and the battery percentage more than the big digital speedo.
  • To attain maximum range, I only used “eco” mode until I was nearly home, then I tried “sport”mode which is electric (sic!).Zero DS electric motorcycle
  • Acceleration is linear – like turning on a dimmer switch. On the highway you have the throttle wound out almost to the stops.
  • It takes off very quickly from the lights and roll-on overtaking acceleration is instantaneous.
  • There is little engine braking until you slow to about 40km/h, then it seems to almost pull the bike to a halt at the lights without having to use the brakes.
  • The front single-disc brake is quite effective, but the rear is wooden and almost non-existent.
  • The Chinese-made J.Juan Spanish brake system is the same as used on the CFMoto 650NK I am currently reviewing. They have steel braided lines which have good feel.
  • The motor is quiet and yet it attracts a lot of inquisitive looks from pedestrians and cyclists. It’s so quiet you can  hear the music on your Bluetooth headset much more clearly.

The police blue light has been taped over and I’ve been given strict instructions not to use the siren. However, if another cager cuts me off like a Barina driver did today, they may “cop” the full force of the police siren.

I’ll have more on the Zero electric bikes at the end of the week.