Things are moving steadily forward in the electric department, but for 2015, the Zero SR maintains its place atop the electron chain due to Zero’s customer support, parts availability, dealer network and relative affordability. Zero’s SR shattered our expectations in 2014 of just how powerful a production electric motorcycle (one able to be bought today) could really be, with a claimed 106 lb-ft of Hayabusa-style torque coursing through its 458-pound frame. The Santa Cruz, California-sourced sizzler uses a high-performance 660-amp motor controller and high-temp magnets to produce 25% more power and 56% more torque than the S model.
For 2015, the SR gets a raft of worthy upgrades, including all-new custom Showa suspension, Bosch ABS and Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires fitted to lighter wheels, which makes riding the super-smooth stealth machine sweeter than ever.
As with all electric vehicles, price and range remain the main issues, but plenty of other motorcycles that aren’t eligible for government rebates are catching up to the $15,995 base model ZR, and they burn petroleum-based fuel which costs $4 per gallon lately in our neighborhood. Zero claims its ZF12.5 power pack (11.0 kWh nominal rating) can squeak out 150 miles of range when the SR is used in low-speed urban commuting, and Zero’s optional Power Tank ($2,495) provides 2.5 kWh additional range.The batteries are designed to last the life of the motorcycle, and there are never any valves to adjust or engine oil to change.
For typical urban/suburbanite commuters, range isn’t really a problem at all, since most daily routines require way less range than the Zero provides. A great choice for many motorcyclists who like the idea of smooth, clean, quiet two-wheeled high performance.
There are quite a few interesting developments on the electric bike market, but very few are actually brought into production, and none are as immediately attainable and useful as the Zero FX – our Runner-Up electric bike again for 2015. This one starts at just $8,495, weighs an enduro-svelte 247 pounds and will carry you up to 21 miles (combined use). What? Okay, you probably need the $10,990 FX5.7, the dual-battery version, which will travel twice as far on a charge; 42 miles isn’t all that far either, but it is if you’re using your FX like a big powered skateboard to zip around town, duck down alleys and roost up dirt roads in full-silent running stealth mode – or maybe mix it up with Preston Petty on the dirt track. The FX plugs into any standard outlet for recharging, or has the ability to swap in a fresh battery instantly.
Though Zero seems to have a lock on affordable electric bikes for hooning around on in the privacy of your own backyard or go-kart track, that didn’t stop it from upgrading the ’15 FX, like the SR, with new Showa suspension and Bosch ABS-equipped brakes. The new Showa gear on the FX gives it 8.6 and 8.9 inches of suspension travel, front and rear. And 21- and 18-inch Pirelli Scorpion tires mean you can probably get into all sorts of places you may not be officially authorized to be in, also thanks to the Zero’s silence.
Now that Polaris owns Brammo and H-D’s LiveWire is in the works, we look for lots more e-bike excitement in the years ahead. But for electric motorcycles immediately available for purchase in America, this duo maintains its place in our list of MOBOs.