2013 Zero S: Proof That Electric Motorcycles Have Grown Up At Last

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As any parent will tell you, watching children grow up and mature is a powerful, life-changing experience. 

We’re not sure the same can be said watching a car or a motorcycle grow and evolve from one generation to the next--but if the 2013 Zero S were to have parents, we think they’d be proud. 

Zero Motorcycles--based in Scotts Valley, California--was founded in 2006 by former NASA engineer Neal Saiki to produce competition-ready electric dirt bikes.

After a few years of making a stir in the motocross arena, Zero decided to bring its expertise into the world of road-legal two-wheelers--and the first 2010 Zero S was born. 

With a limited top speed of 67 mph and barely enough range to tackle the daily commute, the 2010 Zero S was hardly what most people would call a motorcycle. Its design didn’t help either, with the seat perched flat on top of the frame in a way that made it look like the love child of a motocross champion and a moped. 

To its credit, Zero listened to criticism, learned from its mistakes, and continued to innovate, resulting in the 2012 Zero S. With a new motor, better battery pack and more sensible performance specifications, it could hold its own in the city and even enjoy the occasional freeway sprint.

But despite Zero’s hard work, even the long-range 2012 Zero S ZF9--with a 9-kilowatt-hour battery pack good for 114 miles combined range--didn’t quite feel like a real motorcycle. 

If the first six years of Zero’s history were its formative years in elementary school, though, the 2013 Zero S has thrown away the insecurities of junior high and is ready to play with the big kids.  

In fact, the Zero S has been given a complete ground-up redesign for 2013, with a more grown-up design, bigger, 40-kilowatt motor and either 8.5- or 11.4-kWh battery packs, depending on the model you choose.

Along with the extra power, big-boy sports-bike looks, and larger battery pack comes a redesigned chassis, better steering geometry, and a sub-6 second 0-to-60-mph time. 

Before we get to performance, though, let’s look at the design

With aggressive shoulders, accentuated ‘faux’ tank (which hides an impressively deep tank bag in a space most bikes would hold gasoline) and a two-tier seat, the 2013 Zero S is a motorcycle you sit in, rather than on.

While this might sound like an insignificant design feature, it isn’t. By making the seat lower and giving the Zero S a more conventional appearance, it becomes a much more approachable and enjoyable motorcycle to ride.

Most importantly, it also makes the Zero S look and feel like every other sports bike out there--gaining the respect and admiration of pretty much every biker we came across on our weekend-long test-ride. The last time we went out on an electric motorcycle, we got stares and pity laughs. 

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