(Zero Motorcycles)

Zero Motorcycles says it's ready to take on Harley-Davidson with new electric bikes

Zero Motorcycles isn’t afraid of the big bad hog.

If you’re not into motorcycles, especially electric ones, you may have never heard of the Scotts Valley, Calif., based brand, but it is currently the undisputed leader in battery-powered bikes. The privately-held company’s CEO, Sam Paschel, won’t reveal exactly how many motorcycles it sells each year, but puts the figure between 2,000 and 10,000.

(Zero Motorcycles)

That’s a rounding error for a major manufacturer, but about 2,000 to 10,000 more electric motorcycles than pretty much anyone else is delivering these days. That could change very soon with the introduction of the highly anticipated Harley-Davidson Livewire and a full lineup of electric models that the Motor Company is planning.

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson

Paschel tells Fox News Autos that he welcomes the $29,799 Livewire’s arrival because it is bringing attention to the segment thanks to Harley-Davidson’s brand recognition. The subtext being that Zero is happy to ride the coattails of H-D’s huge marketing budget. But while the high-priced Livewire is destined to be a niche product, Zero has a range of eight bikes ready to go that starts at $8,885.

(Zero Motorcycles)

The newest is the DSR Black Forest, an adventure touring-style model equipped with a trio of trunks, a tall adjustable windscreen, accessory bars and other ADV equipment. It was originally a Europe-only special edition, thanks to the popularity of this type of bike over there, and is now available in the U.S. and the more than 30 countries Zero sells in starting at $18,995 for one with a range of 157 miles per charge during slower, stop and go riding. (Interestingly, H-D will be launching its own adventure bike, albeit with a conventional V-twin engine, next year.)

(Zero Motorcycles)

However, Zero’s headliner is the SR/F, which represents Livewire’s most direct competition. The sporty $19,450 bike features a motor with 110 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque plus 161 miles of range that is upgradeable to 201 miles. Along with the much higher price, the Livewire checks in with 105 hp and 86 lb-ft of torque and a 146-mile range per charge.

(Vanderhall)

Paschel thinks the electric bike market is close to reaching the tipping point of mass appeal, but it’s been a long time coming. Zero has already been in business for 13 years, but he says the hardest part of his job is still raising money to fund the production needed to keep up with demand, and not just for its own products. The company has branched out in recent years to provide electric powertrains to vehicles from other companies, including the Utah-built three-wheel Vanderhall Edison, another ride you probably haven’t heard of unless you're into that sort of thing.

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