The new, 2020, Zero SR/F is the latest creation from the American firm that is now firmly established in the electric motorcycle world, but this bike could be the model that takes them more mainstream.
The SR/F is a completely new model, which is out now, and has been given a styling makeover that owes more to the likes of the original Ducati Monster than some of the previous generations of Zeros or other electric motorcycles, which often appear to have left styling as a bit of an afterthought.
The newly-designed steel trellis frame is very Italian in design, the single front headlight owes a look to the Monster too. It’s a very well-proportioned design that works well; especially when you consider the ‘fuel tank’ is a useful storage compartment.
This compartment can be filled with an extra-capacity battery that is sold as an extra to give a 25% boosted range.
The bike on test was the Premium model which has a 14.4kW/h maximum capacity battery which gives a claimed combined range of highway and city riding of 123 miles. The Standard model has a 3kW integrated charger, but this has been upgraded to a 6kW charger on the Premium model. If you only plug in at home, where you will get a maximum of around 2.3kW of charging through a three-pin plug, the standard set-up is all you need, but the premium model halves the charging time when hooked up to public rapid chargers. The Premium bike, £2000 more than the standard model, also gives you a small flyscreen and aluminium bar ends.
The Standard model takes around 4.5 hours to charge to 100% but this reduces to around 1.8 hours with the optional 6kW charger.
Zero claim the SR/F produces ‘effortless power’ and the way the 190Nm (140 ft lbs) of torque and 110bhp are delivered definitely goes along with this description. I started off in the least powerful Eco mode which works to conserve battery life and has so much regenerative braking as to almost remove the need to use the brakes.
This Eco power mode works fine around town with a smooth throttle action and once you get a feel for the regenerative braking and how effectively it slows the bike down, you quickly get into the mood of not braking.
The other modes include Street, Sport and Rain and there are also up to 10 other programmable modes that you can customise to how you want by using an app on your smartphone.
There are noticeable differences in performance and throttle response between the modes with the Sport mode delivering stunning acceleration that would match many sportsbikes into three figure speeds.
Just as using more performance will shorten the range of a petrol-powered bike, caning the SR/F will of course deplete the battery more quickly, but it soon becomes natural to want to extend the life of the battery as much as possible by using as little performance as you need while still maintaining a good pace. Smooth riding is definitely rewarded on an electric motorbike.
This is the most advanced Zero in terms of rider aids like traction control, ABS, cornering brake control and torque control too. All of this is governed by Bosch MSC systems which work with the Zero Cypher III operating system to deliver a top notch rider experience.
Out on the road, once you forget this is an electric bike – which is hard because of the lack of engine noise of course – what you have is an extremely good motorcycle regardless of what is powering it. It handles well, stops decently (despite a slightly soft feel to the front brake lever), has performance that can still excite you and rider aids that stay out of the way of fun until they are needed.
There is no getting away from the weight of this bike. In itself, 226kg is not an excessive kerb weight for a motorcycle, although it’s fair to say other motorcycles that weigh this much are the likes of the large capacity adventure bikes and not relatively small roadsters. However, once you are up and moving beyond walking pace, the weight does seem to diminish significantly.
The elements of the bike that do need some work is the front suspension and braking feel with the forks just set-up a little too soft and this allows the weight of the bike to pitch the front end downwards under braking.
I’m certain much of the front end softness could be dialled out with the available adjustment from the Showa Big Piston Separate Function forks which are fully adjustable. Those brakes – which are made by J-Juan – are some way off the feel you would get from a set of brakes from the likes of Brembo. When you’re paying nearly £20,000, the fact there aren’t a top name set of brakes fitted (especially with the weight of the bike to take into account), feels like short sighted penny pinching.
While the Thin Film Transistor (TFT) full-colour dashboard offers some nice graphics and very handy information like the state of charge and the remaining range, on our early production test bike there were some rather unsightly blemishes around the very outside edges that are out of place on a bike costing nearly £20,000.
Zero has been at the cutting edge of electric motorcycle development for the past 13 years and now the likes of Harley-Davidson are attempting to follow with the new Livewire. It’s definitely worth pointing out the Harley is more expensive at £30,000, has less range and less power.
The SR/F is a more traditionally-styled (and most would agree), much better looking bike than Zero have designed to date and this may well be enough to sway some into buying one. What those doubters need to do is test ride one and see what they think because for some people who can ride to work, charge at their workplace before riding home, the SR/F could make a lot of sense.
Clearly those riders who do big miles and need a longer range aren’t going to see the sense in the SR/F of any other electric bike but that’s fine, they have the choice not to own one. Whatever the future holds for personal transport, electric bikes are going to be a part of the solution and it’s perhaps not that far off when big cities ban combustion engines completely. If that does happen, it’s definitely not a bad thing as long as development of electric bikes carries on improving at the rate they have at Zero.