The 2015 model year follows a big 2014 for the electric motorcycle industry.
Zero made significant upgrades to its entire lineup, the Harley-Davidson Livewire concept was unveiled and toured around the country, and Brammo updated its flagship Empulse.
Some of the higher-end bikes--among them the Energica Ego, Lightning LS 218, Lito Sora, and Agility Saietta--have been seen at test drives and a few are even in owners' hands now.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This article, published in October 2014, has been updated to reflect price cuts of $1,400 on all electric motorcycles sold by Zero, effective May 20, 2015. The prices shown are the new, reduced prices.]
While the primary list of "Buy Now" motorcycles stays pretty much the same as in last year's guide, some of the "Pre-Order" bikes have now started to be delivered, mostly on an individual basis.
These high-end electric motorcycles offer excellent performance and some impressive options such as standard Level 2 charging and optional DC fast charging.
Interest in electric motorcycles spiked last summer when Harley-Davidson announced its Livewire tour, during which it brought 40 concept electric bikes around the U.S. to gather market impressions and get a lot of people to take a test ride.
Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle prototypeEnlarge Photo
Because of the Livewire tour and a higher level of press coverage, electric motorcycles are better understood now than they were a year ago. Due to the significant interest the Livewire generated, it is included on this list--even though Harley-Davidson made it abundantly clear that the Livewire was never meant to become a production bike.
A pair of motorcycles that have received media coverage as well are the poorly named Yamaha PES1 and PED1, which stand for "Passion, Electric, Street" and "Passion, Electric, Dirt". Yamaha announced that the bikes will become available in 2016.
Both are small electric motorcycles that have been making the rounds at motorcycle shows as concept bikes. A promotional video shows the Yamaha concept going 62 mph at 82-percent power, so it can achieve highway speeds, but it appears too small to have much battery onboard--and hence will have limited range.
The motorcycles in this guide are broken into three categories: Buy Now, Pre-Order, and Concept & Off-Road.
Now that Harley has entered the mix by showing off their concept bike, we included a few additional concept bikes as well. But note that it often takes a long time for concept bikes to enter production--if they do at all.
2015 Zero SR
$16,000 - 12.5kWh - 151mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 67HP - 106ft-lbs - 408lbs
$18,500 - 15.3kWh - 185mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 67HP - 106ft-lbs - 452lbs
The Zero SR is currently the top dog of production electric motorcycles. With blistering acceleration, you will have to spend at least $15k more to find an electric motorcycle with more punch.
Throughout 2014 motorcycle media outlets praised the SR for its strong performance, but wished the suspension and brakes were up to the task. Zero addressed those issues and added 10% more range for good measure. Now featuring fully adjustable Showa suspension and Bosch ABS, the SR now has the components to make it a truly inspired riding experience.
The icing on the cake is the addition of Pirelli Diablo Rossa II tires, which truly give you the grip necessary for a day at the racetrack. Not only that, but a more comfortable seat, new grips, cast allow wheels and a deeper red hue put a nice finish on an already impressive machine.
There is also an App for iPhone or Android that gives the rider the ability to check a variety of stats including charge time, battery state of charge, speed and energy use.
2015 Zero S
$12,000 - 9.4kWh - 113mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 376lbs
$14,000 - 12.5kWh - 151mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 408lbs
$16,500 - 15.3kWh - 185mi - 1.3kW charger (110V) - 54HP - 68ft-lbs - 452lbs
Zero has improved its street bike by leaps and bounds while keeping the price down. In 2012 the top of the line Zero S ZF9 had a 9kWh battery good for a range of 114 miles and cost $14,000. It was outfitted with cheap suspension, a dirt bike seat, awkward plug placement, and weak acceleration.
The 2015 Zero S with the least range goes 113 miles, has fully adjustable Showa suspension, Bosch ABS, a fitted seat, much better plug placement, and enough acceleration to put a grin on your face. Also, it costs $600 less than the 2012 version!
The Zero S remains an excellent bike for getting around town and on the highways with some zip. The range has increased by 10%, and the new shocks and brakes make it a high quality vehicle that is very comfortable to ride. The Pirelli Sport Demon tires give it enough grip to have some fun on twisty mountain roads. Zero has an App that allows the rider to check the vitals on the bike including charge time, battery state of charge, speed and energy use.