Zero DS Motorcycle Review — What’s an electric motorbike like to ride?

Richard Eaton
6 min readAug 3, 2018

This is just a quick first impressions review of the Zero DS electric motorcycle. I only had a quick 15 minute demo ride so it’s certainly not an in depth review. I’d love to have one for a longer period in future so I’m able to do a full review, but this is it for now! It was also my first time on an electric motorbike, so I thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on that.

The exact model I rode was the 11kW Zero DS ZF14.4. So what on earth does all that mean? The 11kW means this is the limited power version (more on that later), and the 14.4 means it has the larger long range battery pack. Zero claim that the bike will do between 100 and 200 miles on a full charge which sounds pretty practical to me. A big difference between electric and petrol powered motorcycles is where they are most efficient. The Zero’s lower 100 mile range is when you’re at higher cruising speeds, and the 200 miles is at lower speeds typically in stop, start, town traffic. This is mainly down to the regenerative system that puts power back into the battery when braking and off the throttle.

As I mentioned above, the 11kW model of the DS is the limited power version. This is actually CBT friendly and can be ridden on L plates. Don’t be fooled into thinking it will feel on a par with a 125cc motorcycle though. It’s much much quicker than that! There’s a strange difference in the law for petrol and electric motorcycles and CBT. Petrol motorcycles can have up to 14.6bhp (11kw) peak power. Electric motorcycles can have that same 14.6bhp (11kw) but measured as continuous power. The peak power figure of the low power Zero DS is actually 60bhp! But even that doesn’t tell the full story. It’s the torque of an electric motorcycle that makes it so quick as all torque is delivered from 0 revs. This so called “low power” version produces 81 ft-lb (110 Nm) of torque. To put that into perspective, that’s around the same as a Triumph Speed Triple!!! A bit of research online suggest a 0–60 time of sub 4 seconds. And remember, this is a bike you can ride with just a CBT!

So how did I find it to ride? When you get on it, everything feels very familiar and just like any other motorcycle really. Then you notice the lack of clutch lever. The first really strange feeling comes when you’re ready to go and switch the ignition on. Obviously there’s no starter or engine noise, just the dash lights up and you’re ready to go. A gentle twist of the throttle and you’re off. I only lasted a few seconds until I automatically went for the non-existent clutch and the gear lever! I very quickly got used to this and after 5 minutes it just felt normal.

Apart from that then it just feels like any other motorcycle, just with an eerie silence. The torque I mentioned earlier means it very quickly gets up to speed. Talking of which, because of the lack of exhaust noise, you have to keep on eye on your speed as you don’t realise how quick you’re actually going. When accelerating hard, the noise from the motor is pretty cool too. It reminded me of a jet or a supercharger. However, at low speeds it’s almost silent, and this lack of noise did make me feel a little vulnerable when filtering through traffic.

Although the brakes are just a single disc, and looked quite small to me, they worked really well, both front and back. The suspension was really decent being fairly firm but not uncomfortable, and the handling was good and predictable. The suspension is made by Showa and is fully adjustable too.

The build quality and the quality of all parts of the bike was very impressive. Overall it really is a quality product. But then again, you’d hope that for what it costs, it would be. Yes, you’re paying a premium to be an early adopter of this new technology. But at least it isn’t just about tech, and is also about quality. I, and others, consider Zero to be the Tesla of motorcycles. Just like a Tesla though, it isn’t cheap. The version of the Zero DS I was riding will cost you around £12,000 on the road, and that includes the £1500 low emissions grant. However, to balance this out, it will only cost around 1p a mile to run and will require much less maintenance. The battery has a 5 year warranty too.

So to my usual part of my review where I list the best and worst things about a bike…

My 3 favourite things about the Zero DS are:

  1. You feel like you’re from the future!
  2. The torque and power delivery is both instant and linear. It’s really quick!
  3. How easy it is to ride.

As for negatives, the biggest one is the cost. Then second biggest is that unlike a petrol bike, you can’t just stop and be full refuelled in a couple of minutes. The standard plug in charger (just a kettle lead) takes nearly 9 hours for a full charge. An optional charge tank (that allows car superchargers) or optional fast charger brings that down to 2 hours though. Apart from that, the only niggles I can think of was a fairly poor steering lock, and that worry about other traffic not hearing you and knowing you’re there when in traffic.

So in summary, I really, really enjoyed my first ride on an electric motorcycle. Beforehand, I wasn’t sure if it would feel like a prototype and something that still wasn’t quite ready to be mainstream. The Zero does feel like the finished product though, and I do think it’s a viable alternative to a petrol engined motorcycle for most circumstances. Like most people I’ve heard of who have tried a Zero (no matter how cynical they were beforehand), I’m now a bit of a convert…

Finally, just a quick thank you to English Electric Motor Company who let me try a demo bike at the recent Motorcycle Social event in Leeds. They really do know their stuff and it’s definitely worth speaking to them if you’re interested in riding electric.





Richard Eaton

Marketeer. Technologist. Petrol Head. Left the UK for a year long round the world family trip and forgot to go back. Currently living in Vietnam 🇻🇳