Electric motorcycles are famous for their torque, so how do you improve on them? If you are Zero Motorcycles, you add even more torque, of course! You also take steps to improve reliability with more robust battery hardware, add peace of mind with a 5-year unlimited-mile battery warranty, and cut down on dealer visits by enabling over-the-air software updates with your revamped mobile app.
After years of continually improving its product, going from almost-toy-like bikes with long-term reliability issues to full-fledged motorcycles with performance that can go wheel-to-wheel with traditional gas-powered machines, the California-based company has now launched its 2017 lineup. Its value proposition has never looked so good – literally. The company moves forward with a painted finish instead of its previous "molded-in" colors, to very nice effect.
Zero boasts a range of six main models based around two separate platforms. Different battery configurations are available for each. The FX and FXS are its lightest and most affordable bikes, the former wears Pirelli Scorpion knobbies suitable for off-road riding (you'll want to upgrade from the belt drive to a chain if you plan on a lot of hardcore dirt action) while the latter comes with wheels swathed in Diablo Rosso II rubber that better suit its supermoto modus operandi.
Both can be had with either a 3.3-kWh or 6.5-kWh battery. Range, of course, depends on which battery you buy, your riding speed and conditions, but it could be as much as 82 miles (on the super-generous SAE J2982 schedule) on the FX with the large battery, and a bit better with the FXS. Zero says the supermoto can go 54 miles on a charge at a constant 55 miles per hour. Charging from empty to full takes the better part of nine hours, though with additional chargers, that can be lowered to 1.7 hours.
With as much as 34 kW (46 horsepower) and 78 pound-feet of torque available, they will wheelie, so keep that in mind when twisting that throttle for the first time.
The Zero S and SR, DS and DSR all share the brand's other lightweight aluminum chassis, with the R designation denoting higher performance versions of its streetfighter and dual sport models. For 2017, the R's get a bump in power, with 52 kW (70 hp) and 116 lb-ft now waiting to quietly smoke just about anything they line up against at traffic lights.
Though the size of the largest battery option hasn't changed this year – still 13 kWhs – the smaller available battery (for the S and DS only) has actually shrunk, and is now 6.5 kWhs. The petite pack does pare down the power a bit – 34 kW (46 hp) and 78 lb-ft of torque as compared with 45 kW (60 hp) and 81 lb-ft – but it also lops off 95 pounds of weight (down to 313 lbs) and adds a clever bit of lockable storage space. Range is, of course, halved on the lighter bike, with 49 miles at a steady 55 mph instead of 98 miles for the bigger box.
If distance is really the decider for you, there is a way to push slightly past the 200-mile mark (again, using that unrealistic-for-most SAE J2982 measure). The optional Power Tank ($2,695), has grown to 3.3 kWhs, making it possible to have a total of 16.3 kWhs (14.3 kWhs nominal) of energy on board. Perhaps the more useful measure of this bonus booster, though, is the 123 miles at a constant 55 mph or 101 at 70 mph.
Charging times for the S and DS family vary with battery size and optional equipment. Basically, the 13 kWh battery can take as long as 8.9 hours to go from empty to completely full, but that can be cut down significantly with additional chargers or the optional Charge Tank ($1,995) with its level 2 J1772 connector.
Beyond the numbers and other various metrics – you can find all the digits your heart desires on the Zero Motorcycles website – the electric riding experience offered by these bikes is something that can't be really quantified. The thrill of unrelenting acceleration, the guilt-free joy of battery-powered speed remain uncaptured by adjectives and adverbs. But where words fail, a leg thrown over a seat fills the gap, and so we highly recommend at least a test ride. Sadly, for many that moment of truth will have to wait until warmer weather, but for a taste of what to expect, we have videos below demonstrating what each model offers, including the special police package. Enjoy!