2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 Electric Motorcycle: Fun and Efficient Commuting? Yes! [Review]

[photo: Arv Voss]
Last year, I reviewed the electric dual sport adventure motorcycle – the Zero DSR ZF13.0 equipped with the Power Tank option that priced out at $18.699 before any tax incentives were applied. It was powered by Zero’s Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent hi-temp magnet, brushless motor with a high efficiency, 660 amp, 3-phase brushless controller featuring regenerative deceleration. The horsepower rating was 67 at 4,000 rpm (50kW), and the torque was rated at 106 (144Nm). This review will deal with the 2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 model, which was developed with the commuter in mind.

[photo: Arv Voss]

What’s New

The range for the commuter version Zero is 74 miles in city riding and 44 miles on the highway at 55 mph on level terrain. Peak power is 34 horsepower (25 kW) at 4,300 rpm along with 78 pound feet of torque. Top maximum speed is 91 mph or 80 mph sustained. The horsepower and torque ratings for the commuter bike are less (24 and 78 respectively) due to the smaller battery size, which allows for an extra side locking storage compartment in addition to the locking and removable top trunk pack.

Power for this commuter version Zero comes from the same Z-Force 75-5 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, 550 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration. The Power System consists of Z-Force Lithium-Ion intelligent integrated battery pack with an estimated pack life to 80% (city) or ~165,000 miles. Max capacity is 6.5 kWh. Nominal capacity equals 5.7 kWh.

There is a standard integrated charger type 1.3 kW with a charge time of 4.2 hours. With the max accessory chargers that shrinks to 1.6 hours-100%. Input-standard 110 V or 220 V. The average recharge cost is $0.73.

The Zero DS has a wheelbase of 56.2-inches and an overall length of 83.2-inches. Ground clearance is a respectable 8.5-inches, and the bike tips the scales at 317 lbs. with a carrying capacity 417 lbs. Suspension componentry consists of Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping with 7-inch travel up front and – Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping with 7.03-inches of travel out back. The DS6.5 rolls on a Pirelli MT-60 100/90-19 x 2.50” tire forward, mounted on 5 “slanted “Y”-spoke alloys and on a Pirelli MT-60 130/80-17 x 3.50” tire aft – mounted on 4-wide “U” spoke alloy wheels.

Bringing the Zero DS ZF6.5 commuter bike to a halt is a Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc up front and a Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc in the rear, with regenerative braking playing an important role in maintaining battery charge.

My test 2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 was outfitted with the Charge Tank, accessory with J1772 compatability and was finished in Orange and Black, looking a lot like a KTM off-road bike. The base sticker was set at $10, 995., while the estimated as tested price came to $13,440. *MSRP does not include shipping, applicable taxes, PDI, registration or dealer installation of optional accessories. Government incentives may apply. Dealer prep may add to cost and can vary.

For additional power and extended range capability, one could move up to the Zero DS or DSR ZF13 which does not include the Power Tank and places battery weight in a lower position.

The Zero commuter bike comes with a 2-year/unlimited mileage warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack and the lithium-ion power packs are fully recyclable utilizing a chemistry that allows taking advantage of continuously improving battery-recycling programs.

Many governments from the national to local level, around the world offer incentives for those who purchase and operate electric motorcycles. Zero Motorcycles works with organizations to ensure that maximum exposure and benefits are provided to this new industry, including: government tax breaks and credits; clean air grants for organizations that often cover the entire cost of new electric fleet motorcycles; special parking and access to, lanes/roads and riding areas; positive recognition from the public, politicians and government agencies; and free charging stations.


The Zero DS ZF6.5 is based on an aircraft aluminum frame and looks for all the world like any other dual sport adventure bike. The seat height is a comfortable 33.2-inches – great for my 6’4” long-legged frame, but perhaps not so much for the vertically challenged. The bike is lightning quick and is immediately responsive with instant torque, a seamless linear power range, a comfortable and commanding riding position and plenty of suspension travel. The Zero DSR is equally at home on either pavement or in the dirt.

Handling characteristics are excellent. Handlebars are positioned for optimum control and the mid-positioned foot pegs and brake pedal complete an ideal riding position. There are also foot pegs and hand grips for a passenger, but riding two-up obviously depletes the battery’s charge more rapidly.

There are Normal, Eco and Sport riding modes, switchable on the fly, which obviously impacts one’s range, and instrumentation consists of a graphic percentage of charge indicator, mode indicator, a dual trip odometer and turn signal indicator (indicators do not self-cancel by the way).

The DS6.5 Charge Tank represents half the battery capacity of the DS13, but under its simulated normal fuel tank structure, but the bike still handles with exceptional balance. Ride it around town in the Eco mode for normal errands or just plain short fun jaunts, or hit off road trails with equal capability. In other words, the


Zero DS is pleasurable in virtually any riding environment. It’s not your run of the mill electric bicycle “wannabe” motorcycle, but the real deal. If there were a negative issue, it would be that it’s so quiet that other motorists are often unaware of your presence, requiring extra vigilance on your part.

A Zero Motorcycle app is available that allows riders to view a real-time customizable dashboard, and also enables riders to change performance characteristics utilizing Bluetooth‑enabled iPhone and Android mobile devices. Riders can adjust acceleration, top speed and regenerative braking to their exact specifications. The app provides two fundamental interfaces. The riding interface may be customized showing real-time data and acting as a secondary, more detailed motorcycle dashboard. When parked, it provides riding statistics and motorcycle data that helps with diagnostics and allows the rider to customize both the motorcycle performance and the riding dashboard. The app includes Bluetooth-enabled connectivity for both iPhone and Android mobile devices, and the customizable display reports the precise state of charge as well as real-time power usage while riding.

TFLCAR’s TAKE: The 2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 makes for an excellent addition to anyone’s personal riding stable, and for some riders it is certainly capable of serving as one’s only motorcycle with some very practical benefits, such as minimized maintenance and service—no oil to check or change, no spark plugs to replace, no transmission parts to wear out, no cooling system to contend with, no exhaust system issues to deal with and no valves to adjust or replace.

Optional accessories are available to make travel more comfortable and convenient, including: the Power Tank, Charge Tank; a scalable quick charger system that reduces charge times by up to 75%; top box and side storage cases developed with GIVI, commuter and dual sport Windscreens developed with MRA; and hand guards developed with Cycra Racing.

[photo: Arv Voss]
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Zero DS ZF6.5 Electric Motorcycle

  • Base Price: $10,995, price as Tested: $13,440. *
    * (estimated) Dealer handling and prep may vary -Pricing is before state, federal and regional tax incentives or credits. Charge Tank- $1,995, Note: The Charge Tank is compatible with earlier Zero models, but may not used in conjunction with the available range-extending Power Tank accessory, since both occupy the same real estate on the bike. The bodywork includes a completely new tank section and occupies the area where the integrated tank bag would normally be positioned.
  • Motor Type and Size: Z-Force 75-5 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent magnet brushless. High efficiency, 550 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration.
  • Power System: Z-Force Lithium-Ion intelligent integrated. Estimated pack life to 8% (city) = 165,000 miles. Max capacity-6.5 kWh, nominal capacity – 5.7 kWh. Charger type 1.3 kW, integrated. Standard charge time – 4.2 hours (100% charged). With Charge Tank accessory – 1.9 hours-100 %. With one accessory 2.9 hours-100%. With max accessory chargers 1.6 hours-100%.Input-standard 110 V or 220 V.
  • Horsepower (bhp): 34 (25 kW) @ 4,300 rpm
  • Torque (ft./ lbs.): 78 (106 Nm)
  • Transmission: Clutchless Direct Drive – 90T / 20T, Poly Chain
  • Final Drive: HTD Carbon™ belt
  • Suspension: Front – Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping with 7-inches of travel. Rear – Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping with 7.03-inches of travel.
  • Brakes: Front – Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc. Rear – Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc.
  • Tires: Pirelli MT-60 100/90-19×2.5”- front / and Pirelli MT-60 130/80-17×3.5” rear, mounted on alloy wheels.
  • Wheelbase: 56.2  inches
  • Length Overall: 83.2  inches
  • Rake: 26.5  degrees
  • Trail: 4.6  inches
  • Curb Weight dry: 317  lbs. – carrying capacity 417 lbs.
  • Ground clearance: 8.5  inches
  • Range: 210 MPGe / 74 miles-city / 44 miles-hwy
  • Seat height: 33.2  inches
  • 0 – 60 mph: Not tested, but in the sub 4 second range.
  • Top speed – Max: 91 mph / Sustained: 80 mph