WORDS: Kevin Hipp PHOTOS: Zero
Electric motorcycle technology has advanced to a point where people are starting to take these motorcycles seriously. Longer battery life, shorter recharge times, more powerful motors, and higher top speeds have all upped the appeal for riders who would have formerly dismissed these bikes.
Zero Motorcycles calls itself the global leader in electric motorcycles, touting its status as the only company to offer multiple models. For 2013, Zero has taken another step forward by adding a fifth model to the lineup—the Zero FX Stealth Fighter—along with increasing performance across its full model line.
To achieve better performance and reel in more customers, Zero has designed a new Z-Force motor. The new unit is said to deliver up to 125% more power than the previous version, and Zero says it’s the world’s most powerful and compact air-cooled electric motor. Zero will slot the new Z Force motor into every bike they offer, providing increased power and efficiency. All Zeros are direct drive—no transmission or clutch—so the rider only has to twist the throttle to go.
Zero complimented the new motor with a new battery pack system with a range of up to 137 miles. Each model has two battery pack options allowing customers to select the range that best fits their needs. The Zero MX, XU, and new FX have the option of running the 2.8 kWh or the 5.7 kWh battery packs, while the larger, more powerful Zero S and DS use the 8.5 kWh or the 11.4 kWh battery packs. With the addition of an optional accessory, all models can be charged to 95% at CHAdeMO charging stations in less than an hour. These stations are the most widely adopted electric vehicle DC chargers with over 1600 installations worldwide. Nissan estimates that 2000 chargers will be installed in the US by the end of 2014, with at least 400 in California alone. To help get the most out of each battery charge, Zero motorcycles also use regenerative braking to help recharge the batteries during deceleration.
The new Zero models also have smartphone integration with Bluetooth connectivity. The app is downloadable via Apple and Android app stores and allows the user to adjust motorcycle performance from sporty to economical. A customizable display allows the user to view state of charge and real time power usage while riding.
ZERO FX – Stealth Fighter
New for 2013, the FX is a go anywhere, do anything motorcycle based on the MX platform. It delivers the most torque in the lineup with 70 lb.-ft and 44 horsepower at a weight of only 275 pounds. It uses the modular power pack system, where batteries are easily swappable between the ZF2.8 and the longer running ZF5.7. The FX reaches a top speed of 85 mph and has a range of 15 miles to 70 miles depending on battery size and type of riding involved.
To make the FX off-road capable, it has been fitted with 21-inch rubber up front and an 18-inch hoop out back. Braking power is provided by front and rear Nissin calipers. Standard seat height is 35.4 in. but an optional seat is available dropping it to 33.4 in.
The FX comes with a two-year limited warranty and will be available in January 2013. MSRP starts at $9495 for the ZF2.8 and $11,990 with the ZF5.7 power pack.
ZERO S – Streetfighter
The Zero S is the sportiest of the bunch with a top speed of 95 mph. The new Z-Force 75-7 motor puts out 54 bhp and 68 lb.-ft of torque for quick acceleration around town. There are two power pack options. The ZF8.5 gives an approximate range of 53 to 103 miles and the ZF11.4 has a range of 70 to 135 miles, depending on type of riding. City range is 20% greater than the longest-range 2012 model. Charging rate has increased 25% using standard outlets and can reach 95% charge in an hour or less using the optional accessory for CHAdeMO charging stations.
The Zero S weighs in at 350 lbs for the ZF8.5 and 382 lbs for the ZF11.4 with a seat height of 31.3 in. Comes with 17-inch rubber front and back and Nissin calipers for stopping. New sculpted bodywork comes with an integrated, lockable and removable storage compartment in the front “tank” area.
The Zero S comes with a two-year limited warranty and an MSRP of $13,995 for the ZF8.5 and $15,995 for the ZF11.4. Available in January 2013.
ZERO DS – Dual Sport
Built off the Zero S platform, the DS is designed to be both comfortable off-road and on the street with rugged wheels and fully adjustable suspension. It packs the same 54 bhp motor with 68 ft-lbs of torque as the Zero S and it also reaches a top speed of 95 mph. The DS weighs in 13 lbs heavier though, resulting in a little less range. The ZF8.5 gets 46 to 95 miles on a single charge and the ZF11.4 gets between 61 to 126 miles depending on the type of riding.
For better off-road stability, the DS comes with a 19-inch front and a 17-inch rear wheel. Seat height is 34.4 in. and the handlebars are now 2 in. wider than in previous years. The DS received new rugged bodywork and an integrated, locking and removable storage compartment.
The Zero DS comes with a 2-year limited warranty and an MSRP of $13,995 for the ZF8.5 and $15,995 for the ZF11.4. Available in January 2013.
ZERO XU – Urban Crosser
The Zero XU is designed to be a lightweight, affordable, beginner friendly urban commuter. The 27 bhp Z-Force 75-5 motor gets the XU to a top speed of 77 mph. Like the new FX, the XU uses the same battery module system with quick-swap technology. One of the two module bays may be used as an optional lockable storage area.
The XU weighs in at 218 lbs for the ZF2.8 and 260 lbs for the ZF5.7 and has a low seat height of 29.1 in. The equivalent fuel economy figure for city riding comes out to 512 miles per gallon (MPGe) with the cost of recharging around $0.30 for the ZF2.8 and $0.60 for the ZF5.7. The ZF2.8 gets 17 to 38 miles on a single charge with the ZF5.7 getting between 35 and 76 miles depending on the type of riding.
The Zero XU comes with a 2-year limited warranty and has an MSRP of $7995 for the ZF2.8 and $10,490 for the ZF5.7. Available starting January 2013.
ZERO MX – Motocross
If off-road is your thing, Zero Motorcycles has you covered. Besides the two off-road capable street machines they offer, Zero has a pure dirt-only motocross bike based on their World Electric Indoor Motocross championship-winning machine. The motor packs a punch with 68 lb.-ft of torque and up to 54 bhp, making it capable of reaching speeds of 85mph.
The new Z-Force motor increases power by up to 125% over the previous model and paired with the new power pack technology, up to 80% longer ride times can be achieved. The ZF2.8 has a range of 20-60 minutes during track use and 30-70 minutes when ridden on a trail. The ZF5.7 can go 35-120 minutes on the track and 50-140 minutes on a trail. The quick 2x charger can bring a 95% charge in 1.1 to 2.2 hours depending on battery module used.
The MX has a standard seat height of 35.9 in. but an optional low seat brings it down to 33.9 in. It rolls on a 21-inch front wheel with an 18-inch rear, and has 9.44 in. of front suspension and 8.94 in. of rear suspension help absorb rough terrain. The ZF2.8 version comes in at 223 lbs and the ZF5.7 weighs in at 265 lbs.
The Zero MX comes with a 1-year limited warranty and has an MSRP of $7995 for the ZF2.8 and $10,490 for the ZF5.7. Available starting January 2013.