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Zero Motorcycles: high performance electric bikes

Neal Saiki makes cool bikes. He’s designed bicycles for Haro, Santa Cruz and Mountain Cycles, so it would make sense that when he began to design his own motorcycle, he would create something with zero emissions. Seven prototypes later, he’d created the Model Zero S, the first bike from his Santa Cruz (California)- based company Zero Motorcycles.

Not only is it all electric, but it’s almost 100% recyclable and, a bit one for EVs, completely non-toxic. Even the manganese-based lithium-ion battery is so clean that Saiki told us “it’s the cleanest battery solution you could possibly have… You can actually just throw it in the landfill because it’s so clean. The lithium is bound in a salt form, very, very strong bond that won’t get into the water supply. I haven’t actually had to do it, but I could eat the battery and I’d be fine.”

Saiki doesn’t just know cool bikes- his bikes are getting rave reviews for style and performance-, but he’s also an aerospace engineer who knows how to make things. He personally designed most of the 300 or so components in the Zero S and that has helped make his bike half the weight of its gas counterpart (their aluminum frames are the lightest in the world). Saiki sees this EV-centric design policy as important for the industry.

“You’re not going to really see good electric vehicles until you design them completely from scratch,” Saiki explained to us. “Electric motors are completely vibration free and there’s no need to have a lot of extra weight or durability built into the drivetrain system because it’s very very smooth, very very linear power and the noise and all the exhaust system you really don’t need to have room for that, and all the other things you can get rid of. And when you design something from scratch, you can get rid of a lot of the components you’d have on a normal gas motorcycle and it ends up very light.”

It costs about a penny per mile to run though Saiki admits the bike’s price of nearly $10,000 per bike is still about double that of its gas equivalent. Even that upfront cost is changing. As battery-tech continues to improve, Saiki sees price parity approaching within the next year or two.

In this video, Saiki takes a spin on the off-road Zero Model S and gives us the first look- for any journalists- of the dual sport Zero DS.