What’s it like to live with an electric motorcycle long-term? Fully electric vehicles gather more attention than ever nowadays, so we are setting out to answer that question. Zero Motorcycles’ top-of-the-line SR (MSRP $15,995) emerged as our bike of choice, powered by its standard 13.0 kWh main battery pack along with the optional factory-installed Power Tank 2.9 kWh battery upgrade ($2,695). The critical choice out of the chute focused on the Power Tank accessory for extra range vs. Zero’s Charge Tank option that triples recharging speed. There’s sufficient space under the faux “fuel tank” for either one or the other, but not both. We often revisited this dilemma between range vs. charging speed.
The great news is there’s really impressive power on tap; thanks to its high-output 775-amp controller, the SR cranks out a claimed 116 lb-ft of torque and 70 horsepower. Considering that track-capable liter-class hypersport bikes top out around 80 lb-ft of peak torque, that 116 lb-ft stat illustrates how remarkably strong this electric bike can accelerate. And you can dial in this tsunami of torque from a standing start; until you experience it firsthand, it’s difficult to comprehend just how exhilarating such effortless acceleration feels when you’re not waiting for engine speed to ramp up as with internal combustion engines.
To kick things off, I first approached our SR as I would any other bike. Which is to say, I’d simply ride the wheels off it, making as few accommodations as possible to its electric-powered nature. I love riding aggressively on tight, twisty two-laners, and I’m fortunate enough to reside mere minutes away from world-class roads. So there I was on one of my favorite deserted canyon roads, just whipping along and laughing like a loon while rocketing from corner to corner—no noise, no vibration, no clutch, no fueling considerations, no gearbox, no powerband—just focus on the next corner and beam yourself forward. It was all splendid fun until my shenanigans overheated the motor and it kicked down to default mode—unfortunately, right as I was passing a wide-butt dually pickup laboring its way uphill. Not a pleasant surprise, but lesson learned.
Also, the Zero SR chassis is plenty good for sport-oriented street work; check out the spec chart and you’ll discover that key chassis figures such as wheelbase, rake and trail hover in the same neighborhood as 600-class full-on sportbikes such as Yamaha’s R6. At 458 pounds, curb weight runs a moderate 40 pounds higher than the R6. The big battery mounts up higher than is optimal for best handling, but it’s not a big bother. Also, the standard fully adjustable Showa suspension components are higher-grade units, well matched to the bike’s overall performance envelope. In short, there’s plenty of genuine motorcycle performance to be found in the Zero SR.
2017 Zero SR Specs
Base Price: $15,995
Price as tested: $18,690 (Power Tank excl. dealer installation)
Warranty: 5 yrs., unltd. miles
Type: Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent high-temperature magnet, brushless motor
Controller: High efficiency, 775-amp, 3-phase brushless controller w/ regenerative deceleration
Battery: Z-Force Li-Ion intelligent
Max. Capacity: 13.0 kWh (16.3 kWh with Power Tank, as tested)
Nominal Capacity: 11.4 kWh (14.3 kWh with Power Tank, as tested)
Standard Charger Type: 1.3 kW, integrated
Input: Standard 110V or 220V
Transmission: Clutchless direct drive
Final Drive: Belt
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar w/ aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.0 degrees/3.2 in.
Seat Height: 31.8 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm USD cartridge fork, fully adj. w/ 6.25-in. travel
Rear: Single piggyback reservoir shock, fully adj. w/ 6.35-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ asymmetric 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.00 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 110/70R-17
Wet Weight: 458 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 318 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 776 lbs.
Claimed Peak Horsepower: 70
Claimed Peak Torque: 116 lb-ft
Claimed Top Speed: 102 mph
Range: 153 miles (combined city/highway, as tested)
Charging Time (110V): 11.0 hours (as tested)
(Via Rider Magazine)