How Reliable Are Zero Motorcycles? (We Checked)

Zero has been a lead contender in the electric motorcycle scene for the better of two decades.

The first Zero street bike hit the market in 2009—since then, the motorcycle has offered multiple packages for temperate commuting, hard sport riding, and even sport touring.

Still, the hefty price tag on a Zero EV motorcycle leaves many moto-shoppers asking themselves, just how reliable are Zero motorcycles? 

Here’s the Short Answer to How Reliable Are Zero Motorcycles:

Zero motorcycles are more reliable, if not more so, than their gas-powered, Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) counterparts. Gas-powered combustion engines require upwards of 2,000 moving parts for standard operation, while a Zero gets the job done with just 25 components. 

That said, there’s no denying the limitations electric motorcycles put on riders regarding their long-distance riding due to the unreliable short EV battery life.

Still, Zero motorcycle riders claim that their bikes boast superior reliability, lower maintenance, and a clear performance advantage over the competition.

That said, when it comes to investigating reliability, we are looking into how much time the bike is off the street due to conducting or awaiting repairs.

This article analyzes the breakdown frequency, and reliability of Zero electric motorcycles, compares the upkeep requirements and longevity of Zero bikes to traditional gas-powered motos, and looks at whatever common problems Zero bikes have.

How Often Do Zero Motorcycles Break Down?

Zero motorcycles don’t break down as often as other motorcycles because they contain fewer mechanical systems, have no clutch, no gearbox, no ignition system, and because their eclectic motors don’t require oil lubrication or air/fuel combustion.

The simplicity of the design not only leaves less room for error, but the electric motor also generates less heat and friction during standard operation, incurring less wear.

No bike is perfect, of course; electric motors can also experience freak failures. The good news is that the company tends to accept responsibility, according to some online consumer reports, and will work with the bike’s owner to rectify the situation even if you’re not the original owner of the motorcycle:

I bought a used DS and it turned out the motor was bad. I believe the dealership said that the motor was around $2k… they agreed to pay for parts if I paid for labor, which was $300. Full replacement.

My 2016SR had the charger die at 7000 miles. It was replaced under dealer warranty. Contactor won’t always release after charging but a few key switches gets it to drop. Only get about 70 miles of range on my my battery (don’t know what it’s supposed to get, but that seems bad). I love it anyway.

That said, it seems from other consumer reports that the quality of dealership support is sometimes lacking, causing Zero motorcycle-break downs to last longer than they need to:

  1.     The intrinsic reliability. It was low in the early years, and it improved somehow. There is a list of recalls in the zero unofficial manual, which gives you an idea of the number and severity of the issues.
  2. The quality of the customer service at Zero. I had a better experience in the early years (Zero 2012), but less later, and awful after the warranty period. This seems to be [worse] in Europe.
  3. The quality of the service shop of your dealer, and their negotiation power / talent at dealing with 1+2. Several of the issues I had could have been solved in days instead of seeing my bike sitting for months. The root cause was that my dealer knowing the Zero Europe will say no to everything and ask the dealer to pay for the problems; the dealers pushes on the customer and did the minimal, even in cases in which things could have been solved in 30 minutes.

I own a 2018 7.2 S with 2k+ commuter and errand running miles. One sidestand fault fixed with jiggling the connection, no biggie. More annoying: I am having ongoing front brake issues that I’m pretty sure are manufacturer defects. Brake chatter leading to front rotor warping. Zero gave me a new front rotor, but still chattering. Problem is not resolved.

My 2016 S was PRETTY reliable.  Just before the two year warranty expired, I had to have the motor replaced.  At that point, the bike already had over 16,000 miles on it, and the replacement motor was covered by the warranty.  It did take Zero an uncomfortably long time to work with my dealer to finally diagnose the problem and ship them the replacement motor though…  but I was satisfied enough with it to buy a 2018 S model this past October.

Do Zero Motorcycles Last As Long As Other Motorcycles?

While parts like tires, wiring, lights, and even the bike’s chassis last as long on a Zero as on traditional ICE motorcycles, Zero’s electric motor last longer than a combustion engine.

Combsuton engines have 2,000 parts in dynamic contact with one another; a Zero motor has 25 parts that don’t touch.

How Long Does a Zero Battery Last?

Short battery life is one of the reasons why electric motorcycles are a bad idea. Zero motorcycle batteries can last for over 150,000 miles, provided the bike’s owner maintains, stores, and charges the battery per the owner’s manual’s instructions. 

Here are a few real-life examples of high-mile Zero batteries taken from online consumer reports:

  • 120k mile 2016 ds battery with 70% capacity remaining. Abused, ridden hard and charged at 6kW daily to 100% every single day for years.
  • 70k mile battery charged at L1 from 40/50%-100% daily, and once more each night. So nothing but 50%-100% each day and night for 70k miles. It had 81% capacity remaining and got replaced under warranty.
  • 150k km battery that the owner says still gets about the same range as it always has, but I haven’t seen his data log info or his charging habits. It had 1C worth of chargers, and with that much use, I’m sure got charged to 100% quite often.

How Do Zero Motorcycles Handle Rough Weather?

Like many electric motors, the engine equipped by Zero motorcycles experiences a dip in power when the weather is lower than 50 degrees F, 10 C, as the cold weather hinders the amount of energy Zero’s power pack can produce. 

According to Revzilla, Zero claims these effects are temporary and have no lasting impact on the bike’s power pack.

It was 33 degrees F outside… I had some errands to run, so I suited up and rolled the SR/S into the light. I turned the key on and the bike’s color LCD dash went though its start-up animation. It displayed the dash image briefly, then blinked out, and rebooted… After going through its startup animation again, the SR/S display showed the Universal Yellow Triangle of Alarm, complete with its mandatory exclamation point.

Do Zero Motorcycles Require Less Maintenance?

Zero motorcycles require less maintenance than traditional, gas-powered, ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)-equipped motorcycles because they stock significantly fewer engine parts, translating to less upkeep, lower labor costs, and less frequent tune-up services and inspections. 

While the tires and brakes on a zero motorcycle require about the same amount of maintenance on both ICE and Zero motorcycles, as they are made of similar materials, brake fluid lasts for about 10,000 miles on average for both.

That said, while brake pads on gas-powered motorcycles cost about the same to replace as they do on a Zero, an ICE bike goes through brake pads between 10-15k miles-about every two years.

Conversely, while Zero’s service manual suggests inspecting the brake pads’ condition between two and three years, the regenerative braking function employed by Zero to spare battery drainage during braking also extends the life of the bike’s brake pads and rotor discs.

  •  Most motorcycles use a chain drive to send power to the rear wheel.
  • These chains work hard to keep the bike’s wheels spinning, often requiring maintenance, cleaning, adjustment, and lubrication every 2,000 miles.
  • Furthermore, these chains wear out eventually and need to be replaced.
  • Even many other EV motorcycles use chain drives, not just bikes with combustion engines.
  • Chain and sprocket upkeep averages around $150 a year.

Zero motorcycles use noise-and-adjustment-free tension belt-drives to transfer power to the rear wheel, which lasts for around 40,000  miles and eliminates the cost of chain maintenance.

An elaborate oil system keeps the engine cool on a combustion engine, preventing friction, overheating, and metal expansions. This system includes oil filters, locking washers, and drain plugs that need to be replaced every time the oil is changed, between 3,000 and 6,000 miles, depending on the make and model.

  • Furthermore, many ICE bikes include a radiator-powered cooling system which requires coolant fill-ups and radiator fan inspections.
  • And all combustion engines require a spark to kick-start the combustion process.
  • This mission is accomplished by your spark plugs,m which need to be inspected regularly and replaced.

A Zero motorcycle’s electric engine works differently than a fuel-injected combustion engine and doesn’t generate as much heat.

A Zero bike doesn’t use coolant or oil systems, air, oil, or fuel filters, nor does it have an ignition system requiring spark plugs, saving its owner close to $850 on maintenance. For daily riders, charging a Zero battery costs an average of $350 a year; ICE motorcycles use around $2,000 of fuel annually.  

How Long Are Zero Motorcycles Expected to Go?

Zero motorcycles are expected to go between 95 and 223 miles on a single battery charge, depending on the model and the power pack capacity; the average internal Combustion Engine-powered motorcycle can go for 300 miles on a tank of gas.

The Zero motorcycle that can travel the furthest is the Zero SR with the full-sized power pack, which can go for 223 miles on a single charge.

That said, battery pack maintenance, storage, and ambient temperature all impact how long a zero motorcycle can travel on a single charge.

Talking about the range, make sure to check whether electric motorcycles are easier to ride before buying one.

What Are the Most Common Problems with Zero Motorcycles?

The most commonly reported problems with Zero’s motorcycles seem to be improper factory installation on small but critical components. The 2022 year models SR, SR/F, and SR/S were all shipped out of the factory with improper brake pads installed in place of the spec pads. 

To their credit, the electric motorcycle manufacturer issued a recall as soon as the problem was brought to their intention, instructing all their dealerships to replace the incorrect brake pads with proper ones free of charge.

But while replacing brake pads is an easily correctable issue, the improper brake pads failed to meet the Federal Motorcycle Brake Systems’ basic requirements and performed inadequately when riders applied their brakes.

We don’t have to tell you the potential tragedies that can occur upon increasing the chances of a collision on some pretty fast sports bike.

Another factory problem with Zero motorcycles that became so widespread it resulted in a recall was the improper installation of the front brake switch, responsible for disengaging the bike’s cruise control and regulating the rear brake lights, another factory oversight that put riders at risk of a crash.

Please make sure to also read our article about how fast are Zero motorcycles.

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