10 years of
2006—Where it All Began: The “Drift” Makes its Debut
In the tradition of the California tech industry, Zero Motorcycles (then called Electricross) is born in Scotts Valley, California, just up the road from Santa Cruz, by an enthusiast, aeronautical engineer, and innovator, Neal Saiki. At the time, there isn’t a single mass-produced electric car or motorcycle on the market. (The documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” had just launched.) The powerful bike, which weighs just 64 kg, is thrilling to ride and revolutionary for its time. An example hangs proudly on our production floor today.
2006—Modest Beginnings: The Electricross Store Opens
With the buzz growing around the Drift, on June 11, Electricross opens a modest Scotts Valley, California, store. The Santa Cruz action sports community embraces the new technology. Neal starts a two-wheel revolution, exciting everyone from local pro mountain bikers to dirt bikers looking for something to quietly ride in their backyards.
2007—A New Name: Electricross Becomes Zero Motorcycles
The classic logo launches, highlighting “Zero emissions.”
2007—Our “DNA”: Development of the First Zero
Zero focuses on off-road bikes as the best way to break into the motorcycle market. While the motorcycles don’t have a high top speed or extensive range, the electric powertrain is powerful and quiet, opening new riding possibilities.
The original Zero X had two switches. One was for torque and the other was for top speed. In “low/low” it was pretty tame. In “high/high” it stunned riders with its instant torque and power. More than a few were “looped” (went over backward in a wheelie).
2008—Jay Leno Leads with His Chin: Testing the Zero X
It was only a matter of time before comedian and renowned vehicle collector Jay Leno decides to take a Zero for a ride. Afterward, he calls the Zero X the “future of motorcycling,” and says “you could go through the bird preserve and not even bother anybody.”
2009—Going Electric: James Denton of “Desperate Housewives” Rides a Zero
James Denton, star of “Desperate Housewives,” is visited by company founder Neal Saiki, and rides a Zero X at his Montana cabin. “Up here, all you hear is the gravel,” he says. “It’s amazing. Unbelievable power.”
2009—Taking it to the Streets: Zero Launches First Street-Legal Motorcycle
The Zero S is the first electric street motorcycle to go into mass production. While the range and top speed are limited to 80 km and 97 km/h, the bike is global news. The Zero S also includes an all-new chassis and bodywork, and is quickly followed by the release of the Zero DS for those who want a street-legal motorcycle they can ride in the dirt. “For the first time, these were real, mass produced motorcycles,” says Abe Askenazi, Chief Technology Officer and Product Manager, who came from Buell Motorcycles.
On the day the Zero S was launched, there was so much interest that the company’s website crashed.
2009—Getting Air: Introducing the Zero MX
Designed with more robust suspension, the Zero MX allows more aggressive off-road riders to jump higher and land softer.
2009—Location Testing: A Tradition Begins
Zero goes to the Anza Borrego desert in California with new off-road models, beginning a long tradition of testing in far-flung locations. Soon, our stalwart R&D staff would travel to Death Valley for hot weather testing, to Oregon for extended wet weather riding, and to Pismo Beach to subject motorcycles to sand and salt. From there, the Zero “wrecking crew” went on to torture our motorcycles in Baja, complete the Rubicon Trail in the Sierras, and began a tradition of weekly trips to the local OHV park at Hollister Hills. Tough work guys...
2009—Across the Pond: Zero Opens European Offices in Holland
Europe, with its higher energy prices, dense urban areas, and vibrant two-wheeled culture, create a perfect situation for Zero’s first foray overseas.
Zero started its business by selling direct to consumers using a network of enthusiastic representatives (not “dealers”), who showed the motorcycles and allowed people to test them.
2009—Hey Mate! Zero Enters the Australian Market
Zero had already been selling its off-road X and MX models in Australia for about a year, but the arrival of the S and DS models marks the first availability of street-legal electric motorcycles in the country. The launch down under is highlighted by electric trials riding
at the Sydney motorcycle show.
In 2010, Zero launched websites in German, French, Italian, and Spanish, as well as dedicated websites in England and Australia.
2010—Zero Goes Road Racing: We Win the First North American Electric Superbike Race
Zero Motorcycles joins forces with Agni Motors to win the first-ever TTXGP eGrand Prix at Sonoma Raceway in California, with rider Sean Higbee. The company had already gained a huge racing resource when it hired Kenyon Kluge (now Director of Electrical Engineering) in 2008. Besides his skills as an electrical engineer from nearby Silicon Valley, Kenyon was a nationally ranked road racer and former AFM 750 champion on gas bikes. It didn’t take long for him to put his skills to work representing Zero, and he wins the first-ever TTX75 class, riding a production-based Zero. He also becomes a dominant rider in the follow-up series, called eSuperstock. “My belief has always been that there is no better way to test than racing,” says Kenyon. “So we raced every chance we got.”
2010—“Terminating” Gas: Arnold Schwarzenegger Embraces Zero Motorcycles
Throughout its history, Zero has been honored to have athletes and celebrities embrace the brand, and one of the earliest was then-California-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a ceremony at the California state capital, The Terminator, an avid motorcyclist, cites the environmental benefits of electric motorcycles, and the state’s new incentive program to encourage their use.
In 2010, Zero reached 50 employees.
2011—No Place to Charge? No Problem. Introducing the Zero XU
The Zero XU is introduced as the ultimate urban commuter. It’s our first street bike featuring a removable power pack so city dwellers can charge their batteries away from the motorcycle. We also introduce a “quick charge” accessory. Meanwhile, our Zero S and DS models continue to expand the boundaries of range and power.
In 2011, Zero’s factory more than doubled capacity.
2011—The Stealth Solution: Zero’s First Police Motorcycles
It didn’t take long for police departments to discover the advantages of electric motorcycles for security, event safety, and crowd control. With no gears, clutch, or noise, Zeros are ideal for patrolling. Our local Scotts Valley, California, police department is first, in 2011. Today, more than 80 police and parks departments across the country use Zeros for their daily work, and we’re proud to help them serve.
2012: The Magic Century Mark: Zero Achieves 160 km of Range
This year represents a huge leap forward, by almost every measure. For the first time, range reaches triple digits for city riding: 183 km. This is due to new battery technology that utilizes “pouch” instead of cylindrical cells. In addition, battery life (based on charge cycles) can now easily outlast the life of the motorcycle. The bikes herald the arrival of a “brushless” motor and controller for simplicity and reliability. Cast wheels are used for the first time, and the bikes have all-new styling. In some form, much of this technology is still in use today.
2012—No Stopping Us Now: Zero Achieves 240% Growth in First Quarter
Zero appoints more than 50 new dealers in North America alone. Many of them are top 100, multi-line dealers and are recognized as some of the most professional and forward-thinking dealers in the industry.
2012—“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gas:” Fabio Rides a Zero
Who knew that Fabio—model, actor, and star of the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” ads—was an avid motorcyclist and electric vehicle enthusiast? He adds a Zero DS to his already large motorcycle collection, and becomes a spokesperson for the national EV advocacy organization, Plug In America.
2012—Salt Flats Success: Zero Sets a Speed Record
A Zero sets a world speed record for electric motorcycles at the renowned Bonneville Salt Flats, achieving an average of 163.593 km/h for a 1.6-km distance. “Zero electric motorcycles are the fastest production bikes on the planet [for 2012],” says rider Brandon Miller, riding a Zero S ZF6.
2012—You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide: Zero Launches Military Motorcycles
It’s only natural that Zeros are selected for covert military use, thanks to their stealth and speed. Special military bikes generally include custom tires, switchgear, and swappable batteries. We’d tell you more, but we’d have to kill you.
2012—Stealth Bikes: Bogotá and Hong Kong Patrol with Zero
Almost silent, inexpensive to operate, no fumes...imagine all possibilities for patrolling cities. Officers in Bogotá and Hong Kong start patrolling their streets and trails using fleets of Zero S and DS police motorcycles.
2013—Another Record: “Electric Terry” Hershner Rides Cross Country
Terry Hershner, aka Electric Terry, becomes the first person to ride cross country on an electric motorcycle, going from San Diego, California, to Jacksonville, Florida, in five days, or 135 hours, with no support and using existing charging infrastructure. Terry would go on to become a stalwart product tester for Zero, and set numerous endurance records, including an “Iron Butt” (1,600 km in a day). Even today, he’s often seen around our Scotts Valley offices riding in the company of his dog, Charger!
2013—Z-Force Awakens: All-New Battery, Motor, and App
Zero technology takes a huge leap forward, launching the “cellbox” battery architecture that it uses today. This enables a single battery to be used as a “building block” for every motorcycle model, including those with replaceable (modular) batteries, or varying capacities (three or four “brick” designs). The entire Zero powertrain system is optimized to 102 volts. A new, proprietary and patented high-efficiency, air-cooled motor is launched, as well as a Bluetooth app that enables users to customize performance parameters via smartphone.
2013: Another Transcontinental Ride: Ben Rich Goes 7,200 km on a Zero
Ben Rich becomes the second person to ride an electric motorcycle across the U.S., traveling 7,200 km from Charleston, South Carolina, to Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California. It marks the beginning of annual mega-distance rides for Ben: in 2014 he rides 9,600 km on a loop starting and ending in New York City. In 2015 a 11,250-km loop takes him from New York City to Florida, Mexico, and Montreal, before returning to New York. The latter is featured on the cover of “American Motorcyclist” magazine.
2013—Race to the Clouds: Zero and Hollywood Electrics Win Pikes Peak
For the first time, the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb includes an electric motorcycle division. Electric vehicles are ideally suited to the harrowing, 10-12-minute “Race to the Clouds,” which takes place every June in Colorado, because they don’t experience power loss in the thin air at 4,270 meters. Zero and prominent dealer/partner Hollywood Electrics team up to win the production class in its inaugural run, and have done so every year since.
2014—Actor Perry King on Zero Motorcycles: “It’s Just Better”
Television star, motorcycle collector, rider, and Zero owner Perry King embraces electric motorcycles in a video titled, “It’s Just Better.”
2014—A Banner Year for the Zero SR: Triple-Digit Top Speed and Torque
Zero’s most powerful model, the SR, now boasts 144 Nm of torque, a stump-pulling figure that’s exceeded by only a few production motorcycles, of any kind. It’s also capable of going from 0-100 km/h in 3.3 seconds and has a top speed of 164 km/h. We introduce the Power Tank accessory, adding significant range.
By 2014, more than 25 police departments in the U.S. were using Zeros.
2015—We Have Arrived: Zero Adds New Suspension, ABS Brakes
Zero steps squarely into the mainstream motorcycle market with addition of top-shelf parts like Pirelli tires and fully adjustable Showa suspension. In a first for production electric motorcycles, Bosch ABS braking is made standard across the street-legal line, adding a huge measure of safety and control.
2016—Hooligans Rejoice: Zero Goes Supermoto
Capitalizing on the growing “supermoto” trend, Zero introduces the FXS. Weighing less than 140 kg and offering 95 Nm of torque, the bike turns the most mundane city streets into an urban playground. Another new model, the DSR, offers 144 Nm of torque in a go-anywhere, dual-sport platform. A new, Z-Force IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor offers simplicity, durability, and improved performance during prolonged, hard riding. And that isn’t all: the company introduces the Charge Tank, a fast-charging option that allows the use of increasingly common Level 2 public charging stations, reducing charge time to two to three hours.
In 2016, Zero reached 150 employees.
2016—Skateboarder and X Games Legend Bob Burnquist Rides Zero: “It’s the Future”
Skateboard legend Bob Burnquist, the most winning X Games athlete in history, visits the Zero Motorcycles factory, and acquires two Zero motorcycles for personal use on the roads and trails near his home in southern California. “It’s the future,” says Bob in a video he helped produce. “You can start now, or be the last to get on the wagon. Things are going electric.”
2016—An Amazing Decade: Zero Celebrates with Special Anniversary Model
To mark 10 amazing years of progress, Zero introduces a special DSR adventure motorcycle that includes high-gloss, metallic black paint, custom anniversary graphics, fast charging thanks to an integrated Charge Tank, a Dual Sport windscreen, rear rack, and hand guards.