The electric motorcycle race is marching on at a rapid pace, and the 2013 Zero S is the latest example of how far the performance gap to gas bikes is closing. Last year, the Zero S/DS duo was the first legitimate entries we could even remotely compare to a gas counterpart in terms of performance. For 2013, however, there’s no question a Zero’s performance is on par with 250cc gas bikes, and perhaps even better.
A bigger motor coupled with a larger battery give it more power and longer range, while advancement in charging systems means the new bikes fill up 25% faster when using a standard wall outlet. For even quicker charging, the Zero can be filled to 95% capacity in under an hour at a CHAdeMO station which, granted, are few and far between.
While still not as quick as what’s possible, this battery technology is enabling many riders to shed their range anxiety while performing their usual daily routine. Don’t be surprised to see real-world mileage figures near 80 under normal operating conditions. Take advantage of Zero’s ingenious smartphone app, and the performance of the machine can be custom tailored to your needs. Each year the e-bike manufacturers make massive improvements from the year before, and Zero has thoroughly impressed in 2013. We can’t wait to see what’s still to come.
Best Electric Motorcycle Honorable Mention: Brammo Empulse
It wouldn’t be fair to Brammo if we left the Empulse out of the picture this year. Now that we’ve spent a fair bit of time onboard the company’s flagship, we’re genuinely impressed with its performance. Its power nearly rivals some 650cc gas-powered Twins, while the sport-oriented suspension and Brembo brakes give it true sportbike-like handling and stopping capabilities.
Our jury is still out on the effectiveness of the six-speed transmission, though kudos to Brammo for thinking differently. In the highly evolving and fast-paced e-bike world, second best was all we could give the Empulse considering the Zero S’s utility and its user-friendly comportment. However, if you were to ask us to choose between the Zero S or Brammo Empulse if the road ahead was filled with twists and turns, the clearly superior components on the Brammo would make it our choice in a heartbeat.