Can an electric bike cut it in the real world?
£16k Zero DSR takes on a CB500X that costs just £5k on the MCN250
Electric vehicle firms go to great lengths to convince us batteries are fast and exciting, as well as good for the planet. Mugen’s multi-million dollar Shinden proudly laps the TT faster than a 250cc two-stroke GP bike, Tesla cars silently assassinate Porsches at traffic lights and from next year a bunch of the world’s best racers will line up on the grid on Energicas in the MotoE championship.
It’s not high voltage marketing spin, either: electric cars and
bikes can be rapid. Take the £21,085 Zero DSR Black Forest you see in the pictures. It makes a claimed 108ftlb of torque (3.5ftlb more than a supercharged Kawasaki H2), so it accelerates swiftly and so smoothly that mirrors stay blur-free. And it’s not even that heavy at 190kg. Things look even better when you start looking at how little it costs to run, which all starts when a £1500 Government grant plops on to your doormat. A full overnight home charge costs less than two quid and public chargers aren’t much more. Some are free.
So far so good, but the jumbosized elephants in this electroncharged room are battery range, charging time and, of course, the Zero’s eye-watering price. Current technology means that an electric bike’s forte is commuting a set distance and being able to plug it in when you’re at work and home. You could argue it isn’t fair to take the DSR around our MCN250 route, but range and charging time are the two mostasked questions about E-bikes. To give the Zero some context we’re pitching it against a Honda CB500X. It has similar styling, is around the same physical size, has the same upright riding position and tall screen. The CB’s 471cc, 47bhp parallel twin might be giving away a zillion torques to the Zero, but it’s only 22bhp down and there’s only 6kg in it (the Honda is heavier). With a recharging time of two to three hours, we need to plan our stops carefully and eke out as many miles as we can on each charge. Riding the MCN250 usually takes between seven and nine hours but it’s going to take two days on the Zero and that’s if we take it steady. Our start point is MCN’s HQ in Peterborough, where there’s a charging point, rather than the usual petrol station in Oundle where there isn’t. Even with a 100% charge displayed and a range of 80-odd miles showing on the Zero’s digital dash I resist the temptation to open it up straight away. Instead I select Eco mode and ride like an angel. The idea works and within a few miles the range has gone up to 100 miles. You know how you ride when you’re on reserve and you don’t know where the next petrol station is? Well that’s how I’m having to ride and by the time I’m in Northampton I’ve got used to lorries leaving me in
The Zero’s headlight (left) is pretty hopeless