Enjoy Working on Your Bike? Not for much longer!
Zero’s latest tech allows you to virtually change your motorcycle into another!by Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 04:30
The days of the spanner are numbered! The latest Zero electric motorcycles can unlock more power, quicker charging times and even heated grips simply with your cellphone.
The Future Is Here and it’s a bit worrying
Time was when all you needed to work on your bike was a wallet and a set of spanners. a new exhaust or larger jets for the carb would give instant power benefits, however small. Even into the electronic age, you can have your ECU flashed to unlock more power or better throttle response. The upgrades weren’t necessarily already there, but manipulation of parameters such as fuel/air mixture richness and throttle position - with ride-by-wire throttles - could unlock more power that had been hidden by the manufacturers in order to make their bikes conform to ever-more stringent emission regulations.
However, a worrying trend is coming to the fore. Well, it’s worrying if you’re a complete luddite like me! KTM gave a taste of this with the new 890 Duke: the soft- and hardware for a quick shifter/auto-blipper is already fitted but you have to pay more at dealer level to have it ’unlocked’: a code is sent to the dealer on receipt of the paid invoice and that is simply plugged into the bike’s electronic brain and, hey presto, one quick-shifter without anyone wielding a spanner.
Now, Zero Motorcycles has revealed the full extent of what can be achieved with nothing but a cellphone and a credit card.
Come spring 2022, when the company’s Cypher Store comes online, you will be able to download upgrades to the Cypher lll+ operating system, which is what is fitted to the 2022 SR/F, SR/S and SR models.
For example, the Zero SR is a lower cost version of the SR/F. The SR costs $17,995 and has a 14kW/h battery, producing 74bhp and 122lb.ft of torque. However, if you flash the cash (or credit crd these days!) you can upgrade that to an SR/F-matching 113bhp and 140lb.ft of torque for a lot less than it would take to buy the SR/F ($21,495). That includes Bosch’s Advanced Motorcycle Stability Control system. Another download gives you a 17.3kW/h battery!
Other features that can be unlocked give faster charging times, ranging from 10% faster to 100% faster, on-dash navigation or even heated grips!
What this means is that the technology is already there: you’re just paying to unlock it. But what is the point? Well, for one thing, it simplifies manufacturing, which in turn, reduces overall costs while still being able to offer a lower-spec and, therefore, cheaper model.
Of course, this is nothing new. Tesla has been doing this for years and BMW is going a similar route for certain features such as heated seats, but there is a big difference between the car and motorcycle world.
Sell your Tesla and any upgrades you have purchased can be removed by Tesla itself, leaving the next owner to spend the money again to get the car back to the spec it was when it was sold by the previous owner. Sell your Zero, however, and the upgrades will remain so you have the satisfaction of increasing the value of the bike that you should be able to realise at sale time.
The upgrades aren’t cheap - well, items such as the navigation and heated grips are, but the performance and range extenders certainly are - but they do allow you to buy into a Zero and then, when you have saved up, upgrade as much as you can afford.
Of course, this is all the same as buying a Ducati Panigale and then spending a small fortune on a Termigioni or Akrapovic exhaust system. Mind you, then you have to pay a mechanic to fit it for you and set up the ECU to let the bike run properly with the new kit, unless you have pretty advanced skills and diagnostic equipment in your own garage which, I am guessing, many of us don’t!
But it’s all part of the fascinatingly rich tapestry of the future of motorcycling. The further into the long descent towards a petrol-less future we get, the more new avenues of interest open up before our eyes. The future may look very different to what we are currently used to, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be as bleak as some would have us think.