Best Electric Motorcycle of 2014
Electric Motorcycle of the Year Winner: Zero SR
By Troy Siahaan
My jaw dropped the first time I rode the Zero SR. I hadn’t prepared myself to brace my neck when twisting my wrist. I didn’t need to when testing previous Zeros, so why would I now? Oh, how wrong I was. It shattered my expectations of just how fast a production electric motorcycle could really be. We had expected an improvement when Zero announced the SR would be a hot-rodded version of the Zero S, our 2013 Electric Winner, but we had no idea it would be anything like this. We should have known better considering the SR packs a purported 106 ft-lb of torque – almost five more than a Suzuki Hayabusa! For dazzling us with such eye-popping performance, it’s only right we award the Zero SR our 2014 MOBO for Best Electric Motorcycle.
The SR’s increased power comes from an upgraded motor with higher amperage (660 vs. 420) and higher-temp magnets to help deal with the added oomph. However, the SR also benefits from a 43mm fork upgrade seen on the entire Zero lineup, dramatically improving its handling. A revised dash layout and steel-braided brake line both add useful functionality. Of course, Zero topped it off by distinguishing the SR in the world’s fastest color: red.
We’ve established the SR makes power, but what also impresses us is the option to add Zero’s $2495 Power Tank (essentially a single 2.8 kWh battery from the FX model). With this addition, Zero says you can get as much as 171 miles in the city, 88 miles on the freeway at 70 mph, or 116 miles combined. That’ll go a long way toward alleviating range anxiety for most riders.
Sure there are better performers on the e-bike market right now – the Mission RS, Lightning LS-218 and Energica Ego come to mind – but all three are virtually impossible to get at this point in time. For $16,995 you can actually take an SR home with you today. Congratulations, Zero.
Honorable Mention: Zero FX
By Tom Roderick
Whoa! Zero scores Best Electric and Honorable Mention too! What gives? Well, we’ve tested the Energica Ego, Lightning LS-218, Mission RS and Harley-Davidson LiveWire and the fact is these are all either extremely expensive or, more importantly, presently unobtainable. We gave the Brammo Empulse the Runner’s-up win last year, and though it has received updated firmware, recalibrated power output, slightly more range and small styling and ergonomic tweaks, Zero has gone further, upgrading last year’s winning Electric, the S, to the highly impressive SR (this year’s class winner).
While we’ve spent countless hours aboard Zero’s very streetable S and SR models, we took the popularity of current hooligan bikes as an opportunity to test another street-legal Zero, the FX “Stealthfighter,” in an unusual setting. The location was essentially the backyard of Zero’s VP of Global Marketing and Baja legend, Scot Harden, in a field surrounded by ranch-style houses and equestrian facilities. There, the FX’s relative silience allowed us to play all day in an environment that would naturally be hostile to a gas-powered dirtbike, illuminating the unique ways in which an electric-powered motorcycle can be used to a rider’s advantage, a situation explored in this editorial/video.
A few months on, we took an FX supermotoing against a Suzuki DR-Z400SM and were impressed with the performance of the e-bike relative to a gas-powered rival. The FX was impressive each time we tested it, highlighting its multi-use capabilities – on the street, in the dirt, or both. The FX’s versatility exceeds its pavement-only kin, the class winning SR, and the ability to swap batteries in seconds is a feature not seen anywhere else.
But what also lends to us choosing a double win for Zero this year is the fact that the company has a bona fide dealer network, parts availability, customer support and is relatively affordable in the niche market of electric motorcycles. Best of all, it wheelies!