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Electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero Motorcycles unveiled two new models on Monday, the latest step in its quest to challenge gas-burning bikes and fend off competition in the small but growing segment.
The California company is releasing its newest bike just months after American heavyweight motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson unveiled its LiveWire motorcycle in November. Other established bike manufacturers intend to produce electric motorcycles, but Zero has something of a head start. It specializes in electric motorcycles and has been making them since 2006.
"We sell more full-size premium electric motorcycles than all our competitors combined," said Zero Motorcycles CEO Sam Paschel, at a launch event in New York on Monday. The Zero SR/F is a brand new product "from the ground up," he said.
The bike comes in two trims, a standard model starting at $18,995 and a premium model available starting at $20,995.
That means Zero's higher-end version is about $10,000 cheaper than the Harley-Davidson LiveWire, a new electric bike the venerable motorcycle company hopes will help it attract new riders, including those who are excited about the potential for electric powertrains. The LiveWire's price hovers around $30,000, which means it could need to come down if Harley-Davidson wants to compete with an upstart like Zero.
The Zero SR/F will feature a brand new battery motor and rapid charging system. The SR/F has 140 pound-foot of torque and "unbelievable acceleration," Pashel said. It has a top speed of 124 miles per hour and over 100 horsepower. The bike can drive up to 200 miles in the city with its largest available battery, about the same as Zero's current motorcycles. It can be charged to nearly full capacity in about an hour.
The company said the motorcycle, which will begin shipping in April, will connect to the cloud and comes with an integrated mobile app.
"I certainly applaud Harley's efforts to attract new riders with electric bikes, which should appeal to a younger, urban dwelling demographic," said Raymond James analyst Joe Altobello. "That said, it will likely take time to really move the needle for them given the relatively small size of the market, the potential improvements in battery life, and the relatively high price point, with LiveWire starting at nearly $30,000."
Rising sales of all electric vehicles indicates there is a future for a plug-in motorcycle, Pashel said.
"From 2008 to 2010, over that three year period, the total number of plug-in vehicles of all types sold in the United States, were under 5,000 units," Paschel said, speaking to a room full of reporters at the vehicle launch. "Now if you compare that with last year, there were over 300,000 plug-in vehicles of all types sold in the United States. Your presence here indicates that the idea of electrification has gone from something of a novelty to something that has a lot of excitement around it."