In a span of seven days, two San Francisco Bay Area electric motorcycle manufacturers made the news for completely different reasons.
On October 16, motocross-focused Alta Motors closed its doors in Brisbane, doling out severance checks to its nearly 100 employees without any notice. After an early 2018 investment bump from Harley-Davidson seemed to be a knight in shiny Milwaukee armor, the marriage came to an abrupt halt just six months later due to Alta’s increasing monthly cash burn and H-D’s interest in opening its own Silicon Valley tech center (Yamaha has something e-brewing in Palo Alto, too). An anonymous insider told me Alta’s Chief Revenue Officer flew to Morocco two days prior to Black Tuesday, leaving the dirty work of firing the whole company to other top management personnel. News sources suggested the shut-down was a strategy to finalize a buyout of Alta, but no further details were provided: let’s hope this excellent technology gets a new life.On October 23, 63.5 miles to the south in Scotts Valley, Zero Motorcycles announced its 2019 lineup of revamped models, introducing new technology and extended range topped off with new styling.
No official comment has come from Alta management. In fact, nothing on the corporate website reflects the recent shuttering of the business.
Zero, on the other hand, has been hard at work refining its latest offering of six models.
“We’ve defined the electric motorcycle industry over the past 13 years by developing a diverse lineup that features the world’s most power and energy dense EV tech,” Zero CEO Sam Paschel said. “Having sold more electric motorcycles annually than all our competitors combined, we continue to be the driving force behind two-wheeled electrification. This is going to be a very exciting year for Zero Motorcycles.”
Earlier this year the producers of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick 3 vetted three electric motorcycle makers for a critical scene in the movie, due out in May 2019. Wick (Reeves) on horseback will be battling the bad guys on Zeroes through a city street at night, beating out Alta and Energica for movie stuntman bragging rights.
Dual sport is Zero’s focus for 2019, with the entry-level $10,995 Zero DS ZF7.2 now boasting 35 percent more horsepower and an 8 percent higher top speed. At 96 pounds lighter than its longer-range counterpart, this model could be an ideal commuter during the week and a nice whip for weekend adventure.
The new $13,995 Zero DS ZF14.4 extends its range by 10 percent over the 2018 model by using the same battery as the premium Zero DSR. This allows the 2019 Zero DS to be configured by adding the $2,895 Power Pack to stretch the range to 204 miles in the city and 97 miles on the highway.
The $16,495 Zero DSR has received several technological and cosmetic changes for 2019, including 116 ft-lb of torque, a dual-sport windscreen, tank grips, hand guards and a 12V accessory socket.
Former Buell designer and longtime Zero CTO Abe Askenazi has been leading development for nearly nine years, and it’s been a steady increase in power, range and line extension since he took over design in 2011. And he’s jazzed to be expanding Zero’s dual sport offering.
“Zero was founded with an emphasis on off-road and how electric powertrain technology can transform that riding experience,” Askenazi said. “Whether bombing down a fire road or quietly weaving through a forest, Zero’s dual sport line strips away noise and complication to redefine what a motorcycle can be. Just you, two wheels, and a fist-full of always-there torque for wherever the road takes you.”
Not wanting to ignore the rest of the lineup, Zero’s $10,995 entry-level and lower weight S ZF7.2 now offers the same 35 percent performance jump as the base model Zero DS. The new $13,995 longer-range Zero S ZF14.4 travels 10 percent farther than last year and can be configured with a $2,895 Power Tank to deliver the lineup’s longest range with up to 223 miles in the city and 112 miles on the highway.
Zero also introduced a backwards-compatible accessory version of its 6kW Charge Tank that can now be installed at authorized local dealerships to expand the charging capabilities of its dual sport and street line. The Charge Tank “refuels” up to six times faster than a standard wall outlet, adding up to 85 miles of city range in an hour using standard Level 2 charge stations, and is designed with long-term owners in mind by being compatible with Zero S, Zero SR, Zero DS and Zero DSR models dating back to 2015.
Zero’s industry-first “Long Term Storage Mode” automatically puts the bike into a low-power mode to optimize battery state-of-charge and further improve long-term battery health. According to Zero, its 2019 models are available in select dealerships around the world and will begin shipping to customers immediately.