Common Tread

Why the homely little Zero has my interest

Oct 16, 2015

Zero, the only serious electric motorcycle company left standing in the United States, introduced its 2016 line yesterday, including two new models. No one who has suffered hearing me gripe about electric motorcycles will be surprised to learn that of the two new bikes, I'm more interested in the smaller, cheaper, homelier one.

It all goes back to the discussion we had last week after I posted photos of the Honda EV-Cub concept bike and wondered why we don't see more electric scooters.

Electric motorcycles make lousy replacements for today's internal-combustion-engine motorcycles, but they make an excellent urban transportation alternative for people who want a low-maintenance, easy-to-ride, convenient way to commute to work or get around town.

So that brings us to the two additions to Zero's lineup for 2016: the handsome, burly, more powerful (and expensive, starting at $15,995) DSR with its adventure-bike styling, and the homely little FXS supermoto that puts out the least power (44 horsepower) in Zero's lineup. Why do I quickly brush past the DSR to look at the FXS's specs?

Zero DRS
The new 2016 Zero DSR looks good and has more power. Yawn. Zero Motorcycles photo.

Zero FXS
The new 2016 Zero FXS looks kind of homely and has the wimpiest horsepower number in the line. Now, I'm interested. Zero Motorcycles photo.

It's all about what I can do with these two motorcycles. I think the adventure styling of the DSR looks great, but to recreate that photo at the top of the story, I'd have to ride 40 or 50 miles from my home, ride that one dirt road, then turn around and go home before I ran out of juice. That's an adventure? Meanwhile, most of the trips I take around town would be totally feasible on that insectoid little 44-horsepower, 293-pound FXS.

Zero FXS
This photo (not the one at the top) shows an electric motorcycle in its natural habitat. Zero Motorcycles photo.

I once sought out some blogs by electric motorcycle owners to read their firsthand accounts of living with one. I remember one rider talking about his FX, the dual-sport model the 2016 FXS supermoto is based on, and it was all about riding around the city. I asked him why he got a dual-sport model since all he did was urban riding. He admitted somewhat sheepishly that it was the only one he could afford. This FXS would make a lot more sense for someone like that, and there will always be more people using electric motorcycles as urban transport than as true dual-sport rides, I believe.

The ZF6.5 version of the FXS (MSRP $10,990) will do 90 city miles or 54 highway miles, Zero says. That's enough for all the riding I do other than trips, basically. That makes it useful, to me. I could never again put gasoline in a motorcycle unless I was leaving on a journey.

Zero FXS power packs
The Zero FXS can carry two power packs that can be removed for convenient charging. Zero Motorcycles photo.
The FXS has two power packs. You can run the motorcycle with one or both. Using both is the ZF6.5 version. You can remove the power packs and charge them remotely, which is a big advantage for urban apartment dwellers who don't have a convenient street-level charging location. You can even ride the bike on short hauls with one pack while the other is home charging. That sounds a lot more sensible to me than loading a Zero DSR on a trailer and hauling it out to the wilds to have a 150-mile "adventure."

The kind of versatility and convenience the FXS is capable of is what will make electric motorcycles attractive, in my opinion. Not making them more like an existing motorcycle.