When it comes to a (relatively) affordable mass-produced electric motorcycle, Santa Cruz, California’s Zero is the most prevalent manufacturer of e-bikes. Sure, Italy’s Energica has a high-end line of electrics and KTM and BMW are bringing to market electric dirtbikes (the Freeride E-XC) and scooters (the C Evolution), respectively, but we’re still waiting on Harley’s LiveWire and an Indian version of the Brammo/Victory Empulse platform. Then there’s the ultra e-bike, Lightning’s LS 218, which is offered in small-scale production, as well as the RedShift dirtbike from Alta Motors.
That leaves Zero as the major player among e-bikes. We’ve reviewed many Zero models over the company’s first decade in existence, but what’s the current (heh, heh) state of the art when it comes to electric motorcycle range?
Zero’s first model, the S supermoto, offered a paltry 60 mph of top speed and a claimed (and probably exaggerated) 50 miles of city range – barely enough to make it an effective around-town playbike, more of a scooter, really. But the dudes in Zero’s battery department have been hard at work the last decade delivering a practical product to consumers ready to plunk down $8,495 to $16,495 for a new FX, FXS, S, DS, SR or DSR. Now, Zero claims you can go well over 200 miles on a single charge when used in urban riding… if you have the cash.
An electric vehicle is basically a giant battery you drive or ride around on, and different riders have different range and speed requirements. Zero caters to its customers by offering multiple battery options for each model. The lightest, lowest-priced models (both priced at $8,495), the dirt-oriented FX and supermoto FXS come standard with a single 3.6 kWh battery that should go 50 miles at lower (around 30 mph) city speeds or 20 miles at a steady 70 mph. But the bikes have a modular design – paying an extra $2,000 gets you an additional 3.6 kWh battery that slots in next to the first one. (No, it’s not that convenient to pull them out so you can charge them in your apartment or at work.)
This bumps power to 46 hp (from 27), adds 42 pounds to the FX/FXS’ 251-pound claimed weight and doubles the range, to 100 city and 50 highway. If you’re wondering, the ranges are based on the EPA’s EDDS test cycle for electric vehicles, and are pretty accurate.
If you want to go further (and faster), the standard-styled S and dual-sport DS offer two basic battery options. The first is a 7.2 kWh pack that offers less range than the 7.2 kWh you’d get out of an FX or FXS (due to the S’ greater power output and weight), but also lighter weight, better handling and a tasty $10,995 price tag. Sure, you’ll only go 89 miles around town and 45 miles at 70 mph, but for most commuters, that’s all they need. Opt for the $13,995 13 kWh pack and you can go 161 miles at low speeds and 81 miles at 70 mph. Shell out $2,895 for the ‘Power Tank’ – it adds 3.6 kWh of capacity – and you can go a claimed 206 miles around town or all the way to 103 miles at 70 mph. The DS, with a bigger front wheel and different gearing, loses about 9% of that range.
If you want to spend top dollar in a Zero dealership, you’ll be checking out the high-spec SR and DSR. In addition to having beefed-up motors capable of higher sustained top speeds, the two models come with 14.4 kWh batteries. The SR can travel a claimed 179 miles around town or 90 miles at a steady 70 mph. Slap on that Power Tank and the numbers jump to 223/112 miles. You’ll pay for it, though: the SR runs a cool $16,495 without the Power Tank.
Of course, once you’re out of juice you will want to recharge. The onboard charger plugs into any 110-volt socket – it’s convenient but slow, as it can take up to 10 hours to charge. You can cut that time in half or less by using one or more of Zero’s accessory chargers, or cut it to just an hour or two (depending on model) by opting for the $2,295 Charge Tank, which works with standard J1772 EV chargers… but doesn’t let you add the Power Tank (sad trombone sound!).
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about the current ranges for the current Zero model line!