Just to get it out of the way, here's the headline number: 202-mile estimated range in city riding for the 2017 Zero S ZF13.0 with the optional Power Tank. Yes, 200 miles.
Now, here's what I think is really the important news about the 2017 Zero lineup.
New models, more torque, better warranty
Let's face it, right now an electric motorcycle makes the most sense for someone who commutes daily, wants maintenance-free urban transportation and has no personal desire to visit gas stations. Yes, by jumping through hoops, people have traveled cross country on electric motorcycles, but what these machines are best suited for is getting to work and back and personal urban transportation.
Zero has two new models for 2017 that address exactly that usage, so they come not at the headline-grabbing top end of the line, but at the lower end. Zero is adding the S ZF6.5 and DS ZF6.5 to the lineup for riders who are willing to give up some range in exchange for lower weight and cost. The new S and DS models have city ranges of 81 and 74 miles, respectively. The S is the street version, while the DS has mild dual-sport trappings, with a 19-inch front wheel and seven inches of suspension travel at both ends, compared to just over six inches for the S.
With the S and DS ZF6.5 models, you're basically giving up range to cut weight and price by eliminating a battery. The S ZF6.5, compared to the S ZF13.0, gives you roughly half the range (estimated 81 miles city versus 161 city), weighs 95 pounds less and costs $3,000 less. Since 75 percent of U.S. commuters travel 20 miles or less to get to work, most of us could ride a S ZF6.5 every day, round trip, do some errands on the way home, charge it overnight, and forget how to operate a self-serve gas pump until we leave town for a road trip.
As another nod to urban commuters, the place where the other battery would be has been converted to locking storage space on the S and DS ZF6.5 models. That's on top of the locking compartment in the "tank" area of all the S, SR, DS, and DSR models.
Zero says it has improved its Z-Force powertrains for 2017. Temperatures were a problem for earlier Zero models. The motors would get hot under hard use, limiting performance. The interior permanent magnet motors released last year helped with that problem, and Zero says the 2017 models have even higher temperature thresholds.
They also reportedly produce more torque: a max of 116 foot-pounds in the SR and DSR models. Most models also get a wider and strong final-drive belt for 2017, too.
Other changes for 2017 are appearance, tech and protection. Instead of plastic pieces with molded-in color, new Zeros are painted. The company says they look better and have more durable finishes as a result. You can still use Zero's free mobile app to fine-tune the performance of your motorcycle (Lemmy picked this as one of his favorite tech bits for the year), but for 2017 you can also use it to update your ride's firmware. Finally, Zero now offers a power pack warranty of five years and unlimited mileage, instead of five years or 100,000 miles, as before.
Oh, and what about that 202-mile range number? That comes in city riding (101 miles of 70 mph highway riding) on the S or SR ZF13.0 models with the optional Power Tank. So if you want that maximum range along with the maximum torque figure of 116 foot-pounds, you're looking at an MSRP of $18,690, before the federal tax credit of 10 percent, plus other incentives in some states. That's a chunk of change for a commuter and urban runabout, even after you factor in the almost negligible cost of maintenance.
That's why Zero's expansion of the lineup, with new options at lower cost points, makes perfect sense, in this writer's opinion.
The nature of EV progress
Internal combustion engines have been mass-produced for more than a century. Improvements are continual, but very incremental, at this point. What's so much fun about electrical vehicles is that you can see the big steps forward being taken each year.
Let me illustrate with an example. Let's say you're an urban commuter looking for a relatively low-cost, lightweight electric motorcycle to get to work and for running around town. From Zero's 2016 lineup, you might choose the FXS ZF6.5 supermoto, to get the range you need for a round-trip commute at the lowest possible price. Let's compare that to the 2017 Zero S ZF6.5.
Zero FXS ZF 6.5
Zero S ZF6.5
|Range (city)||90 miles||81 miles|
|Range (70 mph)||39 miles||41 miles|
|Torque||70 foot-pounds||78 foot-pounds|
|Weight||293 pounds||313 pounds|
The stats are fairly similar, except for the 11.4 percent increase in torque. But when was the last time you saw a new model come out in the internal combustion world with an 11 percent increase in power over the one it replaced? Beyond that, with the 2017 Zero S ZF6.5 you get the upgraded warranty, handy locking storage compartments and the S is simply a more substantial looking motorcycle than the hooliganesque FXS supermoto. That's a fair amount of added power and refinement for $5.
That's half the fun of the electric motorcycle world. It's moving fast and nobody offers a bigger line of real electric motorcycles right now than Zero.