Is the world ready for an electric adventure motorcycle?

Business Technology
Is the world ready for an electric adventure motorcycle?
In the 2020 documentary series Long Way Up, actor-friend duo Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman made their way through South and Central America—a 13,000-mile journey—on a couple of electric motorcycles. The bikes were highly customized “near-production” versions of Harley-Davidson’s all-electric, urban-focused LiveWire motorcycle, and they were accompanied by two prototype Rivian R1T trucks.

The show started filming in 2019, and while much of what went on behind the scenes obviously didn’t make it onto the screen, many viewers came away with the same conclusion: The world of international motorcycling wasn’t quite ready for an electric adventure bike then.  Fast forward to late 2022, and electric motorcycle manufacturer Zero has just launched the DSR/X, described by the company as “the world’s first electric adventure sport bike.”

So what, if anything, has changed?

Adventure vs. electric motorcycles
While much of the motorcycle industry has been battling flat or declining sales for years, adventure riding is on a steady incline. Also commonly referred to as adventure touring or ADV, it’s a fast-growing segment focused on taking the road less traveled. ADV motorcycles are rugged, capable machines designed to tackle both pavement and off-road terrain while carrying everything the rider needs for a multi-day (or longer) overlanding adventure.

While BMW and KTM have long been the market leaders, almost every major motorcycle manufacturer has thrown its hat in the ADV ring in recent years in order to compete for this highly desirable audience.

Early adopters of electric motorcycles, on the other hand, typically use them for urban riding and commuting. If you live in a city and climate that makes motorcycle commuting possible for most of the year, it’s a quick, easy, and eco-friendly way to get to work at an extremely low cost, beyond the vehicle purchase price. Just plug the motorcycle into a regular wall outlet overnight, and you’ll essentially never have to find a commercial charging station.

But while they’re fast and fun to ride, taking a longer road trip on an EV motorcycle is not as easy as a trip to the office or grocery store. Most electric bikes on the market today are built with aerodynamics in mind; they’re smaller-framed, sit lower to the ground, and feature a forward-leaning riding position in order to increase battery life. Motorcycle batteries are smaller than those found in electric cars, and they’re unable to provide the same range. This combination doesn’t necessarily translate well into epic, multi-day adventures off the grid.

With the launch of its new adventure bike, Zero is attempting to change this.

Electrifying the backcountry
Zero Motorcycles was founded in 2006 in Santa Cruz, California, by a former NASA engineer. Although the company now operates in more than 40 countries, everything is still designed, built, and assembled in California. The DSR/X isn’t Zero’s first off-road-focused bike, but it is its first full-size adventure motorcycle.

“It’s really cool because every time we launch a motorcycle, it’s transportation history,” says Dan Quick, director of communications at Zero.

In another first for an EV company, Zero recently announced a partnership with BDR, or Backcountry Discovery Routes, an adventure motorcycling non-profit. The organization works with communities, government agencies, and industry partners to create multi-day backcountry motorcycle routes on public lands across the U.S. “People who ride our routes see parts of the country that they would never see if they weren’t riding a motorcycle,” says Inna Thorn, executive director at BDR.

A typical BDR is around 1,000 miles long, give or take a few hundred miles, and stretches through an entire state or region. The routes are designed to be traveled over multiple days, mainly on remote, scenic trails. As part of the partnership with Zero, all digital BDR maps now feature an added layer showing charging stations within 25 miles of each route.

A big part of the BDR mission is to drive business to the small communities along the routes, many of which are remote with limited economic opportunities. “Sometimes there’s like 20 people who live there, and they’ve lost mining or forestry—basically, the economy’s gone,” Thorn says. “But all of a sudden, a BDR route goes through their little town, and it brings enormous economic stimulus. We’re buying gas, we’re stopping at restaurants, staying in hotels.”
Share This News On: