Zero Motorcycles has absolutely nailed it. The Zero SR/F model released this week is gorgeous, puts to rest almost all the criticisms people have had about electric bikes so far, and seems positioned to finally lead motorcyclists to take electric motorcycles seriously.
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Really: if you’re still complaining about electric bikes after this, you may need to consider the very real possibility that you’re just old and busted. OK, price remains an issue; we’ll get to that, but first let’s take a look at this huge leap forward in e-bikes.
“Zero’s new streetfighter delivers an unprecedented combination of industry-leading power, control and connection in the first fully ‘smart’ motorcycle,” states a Zero media release. “The SR/F sets a new standard for premium electric performance.”
Range and Charge Time
The first thing I look at when it comes to electric motos is range. I have long felt that 200 miles on a single charge would be the holy grail – the point at which we can no longer use range as a mark against electrics. With the additional Power Tank, Zero’s SR/F achieves just that. Or, well, claims to. Range claims are always optimistic, regardless of whether you’re talking electric or traditional petrol-powered vehicles.
That 200-mile figure is for city riding, of course – where electric bikes excel (and where internal combustion engined bikes can often disappoint). In pure highway riding (sustained speeds of 70 mph), the SR/F claims to be capable of covering in excess of 80 miles on a charge. In light of the bike’s charging time (see below) it makes travelling by motorway a realistic proposition. Here in the United Kingdom, charging stations are to be found at every motorway services (as well as any number of other places), which are positioned every 20-30 miles. The SR/F is a naked bike, so it’s not really designed for long hauls, but the point is that you could realistically ride from Cardiff to Glasgow (400 miles) in a relaxed day of riding.
There are two versions of the SR/F, standard and premium. The more expensive premium version comes standard with a number of bells and whistles, one of which is the 6kw Rapid Charger, which brings full charge time down to just 1.5 hours. Importantly, the bike will charge to 95 percent in just one hour. Sure, it would be nice to have an even shorter recharge time – and no doubt such a thing will come in the future – but I really do feel that, combined with the bike’s range, the complaint about charging time ceases to be valid in many people’s case.
As mentioned in a recent vlog, I think many electric critics are guilty of not correctly visualising the charging process. They imagine it as identical to the gas station experience: pull up to a charging station, then just stand there in the elements, waiting for the “tank” to be “full.” But, of course, in reality you don’t have to be standing next to a bike while it’s charging; hook it up and go have lunch. Take a relaxed break and you can easily eat up an hour – especially if you’re parked at a beauty spot.
Performance and Handling
The SR/F looks to be ridiculous levels of fun, promising 110 horsepower and a colossal 140 pound-feet of torque, all delivered instantly – one of the great benefits of electric bikes. There are no revs here, no power band to find, just oomph from the first twist of the throttle.
“The bike is propelled forward by the class-leading performance and efficiency of Zero’s new ZF75-10 motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery,” states Zero.
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I’ll admit those motor/battery numbers are gibberish to me but I know from having ridden the DSR and SR that Zero makes bikes that are a whole hell of lot of fun to ride. The SR/F seems a big leap forward from those. It has more horsepower, looks infinitely better, and has top-level bits and bobs, including adjustable Showa suspension and Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires.
“The SR/F’s uniquely designed steel-trellis frame and concentric swingarm optimizes torque delivery to the rear wheel, allowing the bike to harness the full capabilities of the new powertrain,” claims Zero.
Also a massive step forward from other Zero models is the number of rider aids on the SR/F. The bike makes use of Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control system, “resulting in best-in-class straight-line ABS and cornering brake control, traction control and drag torque control,” according to Zero.
The bike also has riding modes up the wazoo: Street, Sport, Eco, Rain, and up to 10 programmable custom modes.
Bells and Whistles
All those modes and rider aids are regulated by the SR/F’s Cypher III operating system, with which the rider will interact via a TFT screen and and app that delivers all sorts of info, including:
- Bike Status and Alerts: The SR/F alerts riders regarding bike status, including interruptions in charging and tip-over or unexpected motion notifications. In addition, the “Find my Bike” function allows riders to keep tabs on the motorcycle at all times.
- Charging: The SR/F takes the convenience of recharging to new levels with the ability to remotely set charging parameters, including Targeted Charge Levels, notification of State of Charge (SoC), Charge Time Scheduling and Charge Tracking. These notifications allow riders to control all aspects of charging and to monitor charge status even when away from the motorcycle.
- Ride Data Sharing: Riders can gather, relive and share extensive data about their ride through the app. An industry first, the motorcycle records bike location, speed, lean angle, power, torque, SoC and energy used/regenerated. Riders can replay each ride and also choose to upload additional content to record and share their full experience. Riders also have the option to keep data anonymous.
- System Upgrades and Updates: New updates and diagnostic capabilities allow the rider to remotely download the latest Cypher III operating system release to ensure optimal performance and provide access to feature improvements.
All this comes standard on both versions of the bike. Buy the premium version and you get the 6 kW Rapid Charger, fly screen, heated hand grips, and aluminum bar ends.
The element of the Zero SR/F that may still raise eyebrows of doubt is, admittedly, its price tag. In Zero’s home turf of the United States (the company is based in California and its bikes are built there), the standard SR/F will set you back US $18,995; the premium bike starts at $20,995. In the UK, it works out to £17,990 for the standard model and £19,990 for the premium. A government grant, however, will take £1,500 out of that.
So, £18,500 for a SR/F premium. That’s a hell of a lot of money but also not insane. It’s less than the Harley-Davidson FXDR, for example. Speaking of which, Harley’s own electric bike, the LiveWire, has a starting price of £28,995 (or £27,495 with government grant). You really have to wonder about how that particular model will fare when Zero is offering a bike for up to £10,000 less that looks just as good (possibly better, depending on individual tastes) and has almost twice the range.
I question how grounded in reality is Harley’s pricing, but the cost of the Zero – albeit beyond my personal financial ability – doesn’t strike me as outrageous. Zero suggests it’s possible to set up financing that would see you paying ‘just’ £250 a month for the bike, though doesn’t offer details on what sort of deposit is required and so on. Still, it means the SR/F is (somewhat) within reach – certainly so for riders who might be considering premium Harleys, Ducatis or BMWs.
As someone who rides to work every day I would love to have this bike. My daily commute is about 32 miles in total; the SR/F would leave me with plenty of juice to run errands or take the long way home on nice days. I have no doubt that haters will find a new way to hate, but as far as I’m concerned Zero is absolutely killing it with this thing.