We recently took a ride to Hollywod Electrics, a new electric motorcycles store on Fairfax, in West Hollywood, where Zero Motorcycles was hosting an open house. Zero has a range of four models now—two street-legal versions and two off-road variants—and the company was keen to have us put them through their paces. Zero’s Z-Force power pack is essentially identical in principle throughout the range, featuring a brushed permanent-magnet electric motor which has about 23 horsepower and 50 pound-feet of torque on tap in the X and MX dirtbikes, and 26 horsepower and 98 pound-feet in the S and DS streetbikes. Power is supplied by a Lithium-Ion cell array good for about 4 kW/hr in the street models and 2 kW/hr on the dirt models. The bikes all feature direct-drive by chain, and are recharged from either 110 or 220-volt household supplies. The street machines have larger battery packs than the off-road equivalents, and weigh a little more. But none of them is heavy. Zero claims 277 pounds for the dualsport DS model and 161 pounds for the X trailbike. Designed by aero-engineer and accomplished mountain-bike designer Neale Saiki, the Zeros feature aviation-grade lightweight aluminum frames weighing just 18 pounds in the roadgoing models, and 13 pounds in the off-road editions. Light wheels and suspension components, mostly sourced from Taiwan, help keep the overall mass down.Zero’s S model is a pure street model, featuring sport tires and a legal complement of lights and turn signals. We can see this machine used as a commuter, its 50-mile range and 67 mph maximum speed equipping it suitably for that run to work and back. The DS model is a dual-sport version, with knobbier tires and different suspension pieces designed for occasional soft-road work. Zero MX is a track playbike, said to provide about 45 minutes of moto mayhem, and the Zero X is a trailbike, geared way low for big torque multiplication and good grade climbing potential. On the street it feels dog slow, but it’ll climb a big rock without slowing down much. The first thing that most riders notice when riding an electric motorcycle is how quiet it is. Without a noisy gas engine providing accompaniment, the sound of the chain, suspension and tires suddenly acquires a new prominence. One is not sure whether sound is being transmitted through the lightweight frame, too, since the experience is so new. The second thing is how strange the experience can be. Making a U-turn without a clutch can be peculiar, since an insensitive input at the throttle may produce an unwanted surge of acceleration. Overall, the throttle response calibrations are not bad; they just require a little getting used to. We believe a rider could use one of these models to satisfy a particular need (commuting or off-roading) with great success. While the purchase price is not particularly low in these limited-production models, the federal and regional discounts pull them down quite a bit (think seven to nine grand), and the operating costs thereafter are minimal. Zero quotes $0.01 per mile! We’d love to keep one of the models for a week or so to assess real-world operating realities, but based on our short time in the seat and the promises made on paper, the whole idea may quickly go from Zero to Hero.