Electric motorcycles may be the future, but right now they are far from being price-competitive with their gasoline-powered cousins. But don’t worry! Even though having an electric motorcycle can cost you many thousands of more dollars, you may be able to even out the price difference.

How Much?

Electric motorcycles – practical ones with enough range to be practical commuters – haven’t been around too long, so you’ll likely have to buy new. Street-legal electric motorcycles start at $8,495 for the Zero FX or FXS and can go up to $46,888 for the highest-spec, 218-mph Lightning LS-218 (the fastest production motorcycle in the world, by the way). If what you need is a simple, lightweight commuter for a 20-40 mile round trip to work each day, Zero’s model S with a 7.2-kw-hour battery pack will likely do the trick, with a $10,995 MSRP.

Actual Cost

But what if you compared actual operating cost over the life of the bike? Let’s assume you can ride your motorcycle to work 200 days a year, and like most Americans, you commute about 30 miles round trip and have a place to plug your motorcycle in at night. Also, like most motorcyclists, you have more than one motorcycle, so you’ll have a long-distance steed when you need to go further than the 60-mile combined highway/city range of the Zero S 7.2.

Let’s also compare it to a new Suzuki SV650, a fun and economical gas-powered ride. It makes about 60 horsepower – a lot more than the Zero’s 34 – but the Zero makes 78 foot-pounds of torque, far more than the Suzuki and the kind of power you need to zip effortlessly through your morning commute. The SV is just $6,999, but that’s not the end of your expenses! We have to also compare the price of fuel and maintenance. We’ll assume insurance, tires and other costs are about equal.

electric motorcycle

You can change the chart and make different assumptions to show a gas bike would be cheaper…but not by much. Plus you probably have too much spare time.

In eight years, you’ll travel about 48,000 miles. We’ll also assume gas will stay around $3 a gallon for that entire time, which is being kind to the gas-powered bike, as we’ve seen the price of gas soar past $5 in the last decade. Also, in 48,000 miles, the Suzuki will need 10 or 11 oil changes, as well as a few coolant changes, valve inspections/adjustments, two or three sets of chains and sprockets (depending on how good you are at maintaining them), air filters, fuel-injection syncs and other services and parts the Zero won’t need. Zero’s service schedule is much simpler – it’s basically inspections every 4,000 miles – and therefore cheaper. Even if you do the work yourself (ew!), the price of parts alone will be far more for the Suzuki.

Based on all these factors, over eight years, that gas-powered Suzuki will cost you around $14,599, while the Zero will ring up about $13,664. Of course, the Suzuki has better range, top speed and versatility, but it’s also almost 100 pounds heavier than the Zero and can’t match the silent, smooth operation of the electric bike. Of course, like me, you may love the sounds and feels of a snarling V-Twin. It’s all about individual preference, but the overall costs of electric motorcycling need not be more than burning gas.

  • Vincent Swendsen

    But the Zero will eat tires a lot faster than the Suzuki will so it will probably even out. I have a Zero SR and while it is more expensive than the S 7.2 it also has a lot more torque. 106 lb ft of torque combined with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires mean there isn’t much tread left by 8K miles. Even my KTM 1290 SA doesn’t eat tires that fast although it does come close. I love the power of a big V-Twin as much as anyone but no one has ever made one that delivers power quite like that electric motor on the Zero does.

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  • Patriot159

    Since much of my riding is beyond the range of E bikes and you can’t ‘stop for electricity’ in a couple minutes, gas is king for me. Something I’ve yet to read about is the cost of a major repair to an E bike power train out of warranty.

  • DHZ

    I drive a ZEV Electric M-15 S, the fully faired sport motorcycle. It can run 100 miles out on the highway at 70 mph and has no problem running to 130-140 miles if I slow down or am on the flat. I do not quite understand where the listed maintenance cost is for the electric. There really is none. The ZEV does not use a chain, or a belt like the Zero so that is eliminated. Other than that all I have done in 3 years is adjust the steering head bearings once. Nothing has been replaced or failed. By spring I intend to switch to the ZEV Electric M-S-X with the 115 mph top end. Probably my license and insurance costs will rise then proportional to the tickets

    • Rex

      If that’s all you’ve done, you might want check the brake pads and definitely change the brake fluid.

    • ZeroLover

      Can you post a video of these amazing distance and speed feats? Your YOUTUBE channel only has your fully faired sport motorcycle parked and all you do is talk. Your October 14th video it has 102 miles on the odometer and November 14, 2017 it has 156. Or are you still just all talk when your financiers don’t ante up?

      • DHZ

        The first bikes are 3 years old. Full production is different than prototypes or limited production. Yep, first full production bike probably only has less than 200 miles on it. No clue what you are implying about financiers. You obviously have no clue either. ZEV has through its history to date, no financiers, no debt, no investors. You select your words carefully saying “mostly”, falsely implying none, but there is a good highway chase car video. There will be more coming out. Since I see that you have Discus set up to notify you anytime I ever post anytime so you can come and act up, I am sure you will see them as they come out. Nice to see you still care.

        • ZeroLover

          Post your odometer on that bike you’ve been riding for 3 years to back up your claims.
          Your “chase” video is you getting passed and wobbling about. Roll one with 100 miles at 70mph to back up your claims.
          You have no investors – last time you didn’t get enough prison time.

          • DHZ

            Hey Troll, Snide, snotty. Are you a paid troll? Such attention usually indicates that. You need a real life, and to stay off of your Mommy’s computer at night.

          • ZeroLover

            I’m just treating you like you treat your customers. They paid you, not me. You owe them much much better.

            Your products are mediocre or worse and you undermine that with vitriolic customer service, disparagement of superior products and outright lies about performance and origins.

            My mother is proud of my work. Your half-wit son had disappointing grades as you coddled him through school and his welds still look like tree bark. I’ll save mentioning his weight in case you want to go another round.

    • dracphelan

      I imagine tires are the largest portion of that maintenance cost. Also, the inspections they mentioned are probably not free if done by a manufacturer certified mechanic.

      • DHZ

        You would be absolutely right, if the article did not intend to include the first years of ownership. But warranty cover any repairs. So only inspection labor, even at $100/hr should not exceed $600 in a 3 year period. One of the odd things or rather nice things on all electrics is that the tires do seem to last longer than on gas bikes of equal weight. I presume that to be from the lack of power pulses. I also see that the brake pads seem to really last much longer. I attribute that to the effect of regen acting as an additional brake and keeping the standard brake wear down

  • Rich

    Average life of a battery in an electric car is 8 years? There’s wide range to replace one, which begins at a grand and can go as high as 5 or $6000. To be fair, replacement costs have dropped in the last three years, but I think a current guestimate should be in your 8 year comparo, and might even tilt the scale to the gas bike….

    • benswing

      The average life of a battery in an electric car or motorcycle is significantly longer than eight years. After 15 to 20 years the battery will still have at least 80% of its ability to charge according to research.

      • Rich

        I’m no expert, for sure, and I only did a quick g.t.s. when the thought struck me, but every site that came up for “how long does a battery last in an electric car” listed the same 6-10 year time frame, depending upon the user and charging (ab)use…According to this(http://electricmotorcycleforum.com/boards/index.php?topic=4280.0) the Zero only last 8-10 years…
        ZERO only backs their battery with Five Year warranty(http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-s/)….ooops!
        I also found people selling their Prius for lawn art at 15 years because the battery had been on a steady decline for that past 6-8 and replacement of the battery cost more than the cars are worth….. I’m also sure the 2005 Prius battery is an antique compared to the 2016 Zero…again, I’m no expert, but I still think the replacement cost should be a factor in the comparo.

  • Ned

    ELECTRICITY is for COMMUNISTS. Like socialized healthcare and PUBLIC SCHOOLS and ATHIESM. Give me my V-TWIN back please

    We haven’t won EVERY war just to sell out to the COMMIES now

    • ZeroLover

      How does your V-Twin start, spark and signal?
      (actually diesel is for communists)

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  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    “Most” people do not keep a bike for 8 years. Also in 8 years battery tech will change dramatically. What will kick off electric bike sales is increase in gasoline prices and and faster recharge times. With faster recharge times range is not as much as a factor if you can top off in 15 minutes or less. Even gasoline bikes stop every 150 miles or so.