Zero Has “Best Batteries”, Fears Nobody, Says “No Scooters” and More

2 years ago by Ted Dillard 23

Scott Harden, Zero Motorcycles

Scott Harden, Zero Motorcycles (photo via AutoEvolution)

In a remarkably frank, and detailed interview from EICMA, our friends at AutoEvolution posted some very interesting comments and statements from Zero’s Scott Harden.  Brew up a cuppa, and have a nice sit-down and read the whole thing (here), but for a tease, here are the highlights we found particularly interesting.

On their strategy:

SH: …Building two prototypes does not make you a motorcycle manufacturer, things are far more complicated than this.

ae: Lovely to see you being so confident, especially as Brammo is no more, and Mission Motors is also extinct. What do you think about such companies, that looked promising, but did not quite make it through?

SH: I believe we had a good strategy from the very start. We’ve always taken a stance that we wanted to be real, we wanted to talk about things we were REALLY doing.

We had a joke at the beginning of time, that if you could build one or two working prototypes and write a press release, you were an electric motorcycle manufacturer, but we always took it more seriously.

We only talked about the things we were PRODUCING, and we always had the strategy of building motorcycles, going to the market, continuing to improve them, and evolving them. Basically, building a real motorcycle that would be affordable and offer what the people needed.

Our studies show it, people are looking for the right balance of weight, range, performance, reliability, durability and cost. We wanted to be that company!

You know, Mission was a great motorcycle, but there is not much of a market for a $40,000 motorcycle. Brammo, they liked to write a lot of press releases about what they were going to do, and often nothing happened, and I don’t think that people could ever trust what these were…

OK, we feel validated now.  For years we’ve been of the opinion that much of the progress Zero made was because they “stuck to the knitting”…  foregoing a lot of noise and blather, factory sponsored racing, vaporware concepts and other indulgences of larger companies, and put all of their resources into production and R/D.

On their goals for their model lines:

ae: What’s more important for Zero, building new bikes, offering a model for virtually any type of rider, or making the current line-up better and more affordable?

SH: Definitely the latter…

Sorry Cruiser dudes.

Sales numbers?

SH: We could always sell more, that’s sure. Our trend is in the right direction, even though I can’t say our growth this year exceeded 30%.

We are still a small company, we don’t even sell 10,000 units a year, it’s much less than that, but we are happy with the progress, and so are our investors. We are looking forward to the day when Honda, Yamaha, or KTM will be serious about electric motorcycles.

OK, one last snippet, a little light shed on their investors, and the strategy there:

SH: We are very blessed with our investors, who are not the typical investors. They have very deep pockets; they manage a $4-5 billion fund and have plenty of money to see this project through. They are happy with the current state and don’t need money from additional sources, so we can afford to be selective who we work with.

This is particularly interesting.  It tells us a number of things about Zero’s fairly unique position, especially in light of its past history of management, investor backing, and rate of innovation.  It seems to us that a company has to have backing for the long-term in a game like this, with deep pockets, yet a laser focus on ultimate profitability. Sort of an interesting mix of visionary dreamer, well-heeled risk-taker, and grounded bean counters, dare we say?

Well, one very  last snippet.  Just a little jab, well, let’s call it reality, pointed at Harley Davidson Livewire.  A veiled jab, but nevertheless.

ae: What about the Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle project?

SH: What they did is great, because when they announced the model they attracted a lot of attention. We recorded the highest traffic on our website ever in that period, so it helped us. Seeing H-D going electric, even in prototype form validates what we are doing.

They literally acknowledged that electric bikes were coming. From that standpoint, it’s great, from the execution standpoint, we blow them away. The bike is heavy, pricey and has a very low range.

I think they looked at it and understood that there is so much more work to do. When you start comparing apples to apples, you see how far Zero has come. With their deep pockets and talented design and R&D people, the LiveWire was the best they could come up with…

ooOOOoo, the burn.

Thanks to AutoEvolution for the insightful interview (which we encourage you to check out in full here), and Harden for some forthright discussion.  annnnnnd, a tip of the hat to Chris Rowe for the heads up!

ZeroCast: Z-Force Motors with Ryan Biffard

ZeroCast: Z-Force Motors with Ryan Biffard

Stay tuned, on Dec. 9 Zero is hosting its third ZeroCast, this time featuring Ryan Biffard and the Z-Force Motor story.  Details here, on the Facebook.

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23 responses to "Zero Has “Best Batteries”, Fears Nobody, Says “No Scooters” and More"

  1. AlphaEdge says:

    I don’t see any claims about batteries, as mentioned in the subject line? How are their batteries the best?

    1. Foob says:

      Page 2, search on “ae: Who makes your batteries?”

      1. AlphaEdge says:

        Thanks. I missed that link.

        Chinese supplier!

        I would never buy a bike with a Chinese supplier for the batteries, unless they had a reputation that was equal to Panasonic or LG.

        1. Now you’re being foolish. Not ALL Chinese stuff is bad, you know. That’s just a stigma China has. It’s a big country.

          Besides, Zero assembles the batteries in-house. It’s only the CELLS they get from China. LOTS of companies get the cells themselves from China.

          I’ve owned two electric bikes with Chinese batteries and they’be been golden through all kinds of weather and abuse, and temperature extremes.

          1. Robb Stark says:

            And you can keep your Chinese POS.

            A Western, Japanese or Korean company overseeing manufacturing in China is one thing but a Chinese company building critical components is another.

            Apple Iphone Nike Air Jordans Yes.

            BYD Motorcycles No Thanks.

            1. Drake says:

              Farasis Energy is Zero’s battery cell supplier. They ARE a western company overseeing manufacturing in China.

          2. protomech says:

            “Besides, Zero assembles the batteries in-house.”

            I believe not only the cells but also the bricks are assembled in China, at least at one point. A brick is 28 cells in series; the “S” bikes use 3 or 4 bricks, with an optional 5th brick assembled out of older lower-capacity cells as the Power Tank.

            Zero designs the bricks and does final assembly into the “S” monoliths or removable ZF3.3 modules.

            1. Ted Dillard says:

              As per the interview: “We get our cells from the Chinese manufacturer Farasis, they are partners in this. The packaging, the peripherals, the management systems, the design, and all the rest are done internally at Zero. We actually build the batteries on an assembly line at our factory.

              We take the raw cells that come from our supplier, and we build everything around it. We guide our own destiny in this, and we even work with Farasis when it comes to the chemistry of the batteries. We have very talented people working on fine-tuning and tweaking every detail. This year’s range increase comes from tweaks to the chemistry of the batteries that our people implemented.”

  2. SparkEV says:

    I hope Zero never goes cruiser. That’s the relic of Harley trying to sell “American” in 1980s bailout with overpriced, overweight, underpowered geriatric bikes. As he said, Zero is doing great by pushing performance and pricing. I’d love to have one of their bikes some day.

    1. finecadmin says:

      But what rate should Hong Kong tax them at, SparkEV?

    2. mhpr262 says:

      Nevertheeless, the vast majority of motorcycles sold in the US market are cruisers. It’s not a “niche”, it’s more like 70-80%. The ZEROs are basically classical, frugal commuter bikes … that cost two or three times a smuch as comparable gas bikes. Frankly, it’s a wonder they sell at all.

      1. wavelet says:

        ROFL about “classic, frugal commuter”. That would be electric scooters or bicycles, which unfortunately the US disdains (the US has 20x less e-bikes per capita than the world at large…)
        Zero makes motorcycles, off-street, on-street and dual-sport, that are all decent performing; the bikes can serve as decent commuters for people who have significant commute distances on highways or roads without bicycle paths.

        Cruisers motorcycles are a US aberration, so, yes, a niche market.

      2. Richard Gozinya says:

        It’s not really a wonder that they sell, anymore than it’s a wonder that Leafs sell. They sell electric motorcycles with essentially zero competition. Brammo was never able to compete, and it’s doubtful that Victory will be able to either, as when it comes to motorcycles, Polaris is long on hype and sponsored content disguised as reviews, and short on delivering.

  3. EVcarNut says:

    It Would have “A GREAT” time to buy Harley Stock Instead of their Bikes @ 25cents a Share, As it Proceeded To Hit $125.00 Plus ….So many missed opportunities………

  4. kdawg says:

    ‘Sorry Cruiser dudes.”

    Nooooo…
    I want my electric cruiser.

    1. Scott says:

      Make one, Dawg. Considering a CB350 conversion right now. I think it would be very competitive with a Zero.

      1. kdawg says:

        I think if I was retired I would.

    2. Vinny says:

      kdawg, Here you go. http://brutusmotorcycle.com/brutusV9.html#specs

      It looks far more like a HD than Livewire. You can get up to a 33.7 KwH battery and over 200 mile range. It is a full size cruiser at 886 pounds. It would be interesting to see what 277 ft lb of torque does with this bike.

      1. kdawg says:

        Yikes $32,490 for the 18kWh battery version! I can only imagine what the 33.7kWh version costs.

        The Brutus 2 pricing at $19,900 is a bit more palatable, but still expensive.

  5. Working the mumbers, using “The Rule of 72” and comparing their Range and Speed results Versus Price since 2011, we could determine an estimate on a doubling of range or a halving of cost , but so long as they grow a few % each year and continue to build and produce better motors, better batteries, and reduce costs and selling price, they will in due time become the “Everyman” Motorcycle Company they want to be! Obviously, survival is key!

    1. protomech says:

      2011 Zero S: $10k, 43 miles city ($233/mile)
      2012 Zero S ZF6: $11k, 76 miles city ($145/mile)
      2012 Zero S ZF9: $14k, 114 miles city ($123/mile)
      2013 Zero S ZF11.4: $16k, 137 miles city ($117/mile)
      2014 Zero S ZF11.4: $15k, 137 miles city ($109/mile)
      2015 Zero S ZF12.5: $14k, 151 miles city ($93/mile) (after mid-year price drop, initial price was $15.3k)

      2016 Zero FXS ZF3.3: $8500, 45 miles city ($189/mile, $122/mile with the second battery)
      2016 Zero S ZF9.8: $11k, 121 miles city ($91/mile)
      2016 Zero S ZF13: $14k, 161 miles city ($87/mile)

      They’ve certainly made big strides, every year the bikes get better and slightly cheaper, though they’re still working their way down from the big jump in range, price, and capability in 2012 and 2013.

  6. ZeroPride says:

    10,000 electric miles on my Zero. Commuter? It is ideal. Initial electric vehicle? It is ideal. First motorcycle? It is ideal. Want to be on the technical leading edge? It is ideal. Cost? Not ideal, but still affordable. Range? Good enough. Ride? Oh balls is it fun!

  7. Richard Gozinya says:

    Never dug their bikes, but the company is obviously on the right track, and kicking the few asses that pop up in the field.