I've been to the future on an electric motorbike – it's quiet there | RenewEconomy

I’ve been to the future on an electric motorbike – it’s quiet there

Australia’s sixth registered electric motorcyclist takes his 2010 Zero DS for a coast. The result? Some problems, some benefits, 100% motorcycling.


I knew getting an electic motorcycle registered wouldn’t be smooth sailing, but in the end it happened much easier than expected.

I’m now an eBiker.

I loaded my 2010 Zero DS up and took it to the local weigh bridge this morning as the first stage of registration. Weighed, I switched on and rode it inside the ever so typical  local workshop, immediately causing all three mechanics to do a quizzical double take.

The boss strode in and said “Ill handle this;………….. what is it?”.  “Electric bike, mate; but don’t worry I have all the paperwork, import documents and I know there five others registered so the RTA has them on their database,” I pleaded.

His raised eyebrow and “hurrumph” did not bode well, but the younger mechanic uttered  “cool” and the boss vanished into the office. He reappeared, asked a few more basic questions and asked me to show him that the lights and such worked.

“Well, this is going to take a while, I just know it; you might as well go and I’ll call you some time.” A short hour later he called back saying the RTA was insisting on knowing the engine capacity (in cubic centimetres) and the engine number. I quickly dialled up the forums and called a friend who has one and raced back down to the workshop. Turns out the motor does have a serial number which we found and we had to guess the capacity class equivalent to the motor power, which put it in the under 200cc category.

Engaging in motorcycle banter helped smooth the process, and he even went and grabbed his aging dad to take a gander (turns out he has a shed full or motorcycles). “Check it out dad; it’s electric!” he exclaimed.

“What’s it go like?”

“What’s it sound like?”

“How far can you go?”

“Aren’t you worried people won’t hear you coming?”

“Chicks won’t go for it, you need  a massive, shaking V Twin mate”

Etc, etc etc.

Sure enough though, I loaded up and raced off the the RTA, paperwork in hand, heart pounding with anticipation like it did the first time I got a bike.

At the RTA counter, I got lucky and scored a young guy who stared intently at the paperwork, flicking back and forth through it again and again, and occasionally glancing up at me.

I dared not speak.

“I’m told they are on your data base and I think everything is in order, what do you think?” I said after a few minutes.

“Only one way to find out”. He hammered away at the keys, again flicking back and forth with a sort of bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. It seemed to take an eternity but after  a few minutes more, he shoved the all-powerful registration sticker in the printer and bingo, I was Australia’s sixth electric motorcyclist.

“What made you buy that?” he said. I recounted the benefits of low emissions, low running costs and how the majority of my riding these days was short commutes, perfect for such a machine. “Why not!” he enthused. “Its the future!” I gushed.

Within 3.3 seconds I was back home screwing on the number plate and registration, ready to head off for an appointment at number two son’s music concert.

Would I make it that far? Should I take the Guzzi in case, I wondered?

Logic over ruled my virgin-like range anxiety and I suited up, switched on and climbed aboard.

Problem number 1.

My dog is pretty typical; loyal, goofy and loves to pretend to be  a vicious hero dog by barking at me to protect the kids, whenever I normally ride up the driveway. In this case however, the lack of sound barely raised a sleeping dog in the sun eyebrow and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid running the clot over.

He sprang to life and pinned himself against the wall while I zinged past, pretending to run after me but utterly confused.

Onto the road and for the first time in my  life, I was on my own electric motorcycle.

Problem number 2.

The Zero has a soft take off and as you gain speed the torque seems to come in stronger and stronger when you hit the gas power. Without the growl of an engine, I had to re-learn my sense of speed and watch the speedo. Before long I realised that it seems to gain momentum as speed rises and acceleration gets snappier.

And the grin on my head was making my face hurt.

Benefit number 1.

Stopping at traffic lights in complete and utter silence is surreal. Everyone looks at you strangely. As you zing past people on the street they stare as if you are  ghost. So I quickly realised that as long as I don’t sneak up on people and scare the crap out of them, most people will sense your motion with their peripheral vision but when the ears fail to connect they actually look harder.

Benefit number 2.

As I blasted up my first big long hill I pinned the throttle (hey, you would wouldn’t you?) as if to prove to the perplexed world around me that I could make it with the grown ups. I was impressed that once again, I had to back off as I passed the 70km speed limit with the Zero just pulling nicely, the torque doing what it should. In my mind, it felt like a 350cc bike might, strong, adequate, but not massively powerful.


I took a detour though the back route to school over the crappiest roads I could find and even did a water crossing for good measure. I got more agressive with cornering and reminded myself that at less than half the weight of my main (former??) bike it was very nimble and demanded little input. Very easy to ride and pretty nice balance.

With my first 35kms on the clock I pulled up, got off and stood there shaking just a little, a bit like  you would when you had gone through the Star Trek tele-porter for the first time (I’m guessing).  The battery gauge said I had used around just over a third of the capacity.

Problem number 3.

Having a new bike is always a problem because all you want to do is ride it so I admit, in between tears of joy and off pitch induced pain, I was a little distracted at the violin concert. Plumb job done by number two son, I suited up and headed back to the office.

Getting more familiar with the whole package now, I was getting more out of it and learning to “coast”; after having a big V Twin for so many years I’m used to huge engine breaking so coasting is more like bicycling. But I’m doing it on Mars.

Excellent. An L Plater on a 250.

I followed closely and at the lights had  a great opportunity to compare the acceleration to a late model, hi revving 250. I took off a little slower, but again as the momentum built I rapidly ended up on the tail of the novice who was so busy watching me in the mirror that he nearly collected a bus. I backed off and parked under the office with around half my capacity left, more than enough for the trip home and worth about $0.16c at off peak rates to re-charge

Surreal, but in some ways more real because you can hear and smell eveything going on around you.

Visceral, but not in a raw mechanical way, in a technological, modern, “look out, I am the future” sort of way.

Fun. It is clearly, 100% still motorcycling.

Nigel Morris is the Director of SolarBusinessServices. The post I’ve been to the future on an electric motorbike. It’s quiet there. appeared first on Solar Business Services. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Paul Wittwer 8 years ago

    I really enjoyed that story Nigel, thanks.

  2. David 8 years ago

    I recall in my youth in England in the 1950’s that Velocette had an electric motorcycle of modest performance. It was used by the local village constabularly, and reputably gained notoriety when used to warn an errant cyclist by ‘silently’ coming up behind him and tapping him on the shoulder. After that it was always known locally as “the silent Velo” but it was no match for the BSA Gold Star, or Triumph Trophy etc etc.

  3. Glen 8 years ago

    Great article ! Can I ask why you decided to import the bike and was it difficult ?

  4. Di 8 years ago

    Loved your story. It’s like that riding an e-bicycle too – lots of fun and you still get some exercise 🙂

  5. Tim Buckley 8 years ago

    Great story – now everyone in our office wants one! What did it cost you? The US website says USD13k, sounds too good to be true.
    Cheers Tim at Arkx

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