When it comes to vehicular design cycles, it’s common for the same basic car or motorcycle design to be used for between five or eight years without any major updates in drivetrain, power plants or features, save for a mid-cycle refresh that serves to keep the vehicle’s design current until its replacement is unveiled.
But over in Scott’s Valley California, where Zero Motorcycles designs its range of all-electric two-wheelers, there’s a relentless refresh cycle which sees incremental improvements in range, performance and specifications year on year. And this year has been no exception, with the announcement of a host of refinements to the 2016 model year Zero S, Zero SR, Zero DS, and Zero FX electric motorcycles over last year’s range.
In addition, Zero has announced two brand new models designed to join the Zero SR at the high-performance variants of its DS and FX motorcycles: the Zero DS-derived DSR and the FX-Derived FXS.
With an emphasis on performance, the DSR is fitted with a more powerful 660-amp motor controller than the standard DS which results in a total power output of 50 kilowatts — 25 percent more power than the 2016 DS — and a total of 106 pound-feet of torque. When fitted with a 13 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, this results in a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds — substantially faster than the standard 5.7-second 0-60 time of a standard 2016 DS fitted with a 13 kWh pack– and a maximum sustained top speed of 90 mph (98mph for short bursts).
As the DSR is to the DS and the SR is to the S, so too is the FXS to the FX. Weighing less than 300 pounds, the supermoto style electric two-wheeler manages to produce a total of 70 pound feet of torque from its lightweight motor, and either 20 kilowatts of power when fitted with the smaller 3.3 kWh battery pack or 33 kilowatts of power when fitted with the 6.6 kWh battery pack. As with the FX, batteries are interchangeable, making the FXS the ideal ride for someone who needs a powerful but short-range motorcycle to get to and from work but doesn’t have a place to charge outside their home.
All motorcycles in the new 2016 Zero range benefit from an updated, more powerful Z-Force electric motor fitted with internal permanent magnets which Zero says is more efficient and cooler-running than its predecessor. In addition, all motorcycles in the rang benefit from an updated battery pack made with the latest generation of lithium-ion cells which, claims Zero, has the highest energy density of any electric vehicle on sale today (but sadly didn’t go into specifics in its press release).
That additional energy density boosts range across the entire Zero family, but is most noticeable on the lightweight 2016 Zero FX fitted with the optional 6.6 kilowatt-hour battery, which now boasts between 50 and 80 miles of range per charge, depending on how it is ridden. The Zero DS, meanwhile gets a range boost to between 95 and 130 miles when fitted with the 13 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Add the optional Power Tank supplemental battery pack, and that range leaps to between 116 and 180 miles, depending on riding style. With road going tires instead of the go-anywhere tires of the DS, the Zero S with 13 kWh pack and optional Power Tank manages nearly 200 miles of range around town at 30 mph, or 131 miles in combined cycle.
But it’s not just two new performance models and tweaks to the motors and battery packs which get our attention about the new 2016 Zero lineup. Also worthy of note is a brand-new Charge Tank, a tank-mounted $1,988 optional add on for DS and S-derived models which brings higher-power J1772-compliant charging to the Zero range for the first time. Containing a built-in on-board charger to supplement the one already on the motorcycle, the Charge Tank increases overall charging power from 1.3 kilowatts to 2.8 kilowatts, meaning a full charge can take as little as 2.5 hours when combined with a suitable level 2 public charging station.
Sadly, if you opt for the Charge Tank option, you’ll find that you do so at the expense of the Power Tank, since both accessories fit in the same place on Zero’s 2015 and 2016 model-year DS and S-derived motorcycles. Given the fact the Zero S and Zero DS still offer some pretty impressive ranges without the Power Tank option — and most riders will need to get off and stretch their legs every hour or so — we’re thinking most will opt for the added charging compatibility of the Charge Tank over the Power Tank.
As always, the biggest challenge facing Zero (as with any other electric motorcycle) is the price point, especially when similarly-powerful gasoline motorcycles cost far less to purchase. But thanks to such a wide range of options, Zero has done a good job catering to as many different budgets as possible.
At the budget end, the 2016 Zero FX with 3.3 kWh battery can be purchased from as little as $8,495, with the highest-spec Zero FXS 6.5 kWh model setting you back $10,990. For those who prefer a streetfighter look, the Zero S with 9.8 kWh battery starts from $10,995, while the 13 kWh variant of the high-performance Zero SR will set you back $15,995.
The DS, combining street cred and off-road capability in a functional dual-sport package, matches the Zero S dollar for dollar too, making your preferred riding style the key to choosing between models — not your bank balance.
We’ve yet to get our hands on any of these new rides for 2016, but we’re already talking to Zero about test rides, so watch this space for more info.
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