The race is on in the electric motorcycle market, and it’s heating up for 2016 with big names such as Harley and Energica enjoined in the fray with U.S. newcomer Victory and of course, Zero Motorcycles.

Some of these are even in their second- and third-generation of development. No longer a novelty, electric bikes are becoming more viable each year, and I expect they will start to put some serious pressure on the smoker bikes as the technology advances and public charging stations become more ubiquitous. That’s one unfortunate consequence of a new technology; infrastructure factors into public acceptance, and we need both product and infrastructure developed concurrently. Zero takes steps to minimize the pain by offering a number of charging and storage options for long ranges and quick recharges. Let’s look at Zero’s 2016 S “Streetfighter” and SR “Max Performance” and see what Zero is doing to push into this new, and increasingly important, category.

Continue reading for my review of the 2016 Zero S and SR.

  • 2016 Zero S / SR
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Top Speed:
    102 mph
  • Price:


2016 Zero S / SR
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Zero’s choice of model initials tells the whole tale. The “S” is the streetfighter, a naked bike with nothing of fat to speak of, and the “SR” has the more race-tastic plant with higher burst and sustained top speeds. The overall look is rather Spartan, and everything that is left contributes to performance in some way. An aggressive rider triangle places the rider’s feet under the butt in the jockey position, and it encourages the forward-leaning sport position. The faux fuel tank shroud maintains traditional upper lines, and the visible running gear also conforms to the standard look, but the slab-sided motor compartment gives it away as something out of the ordinary. I will give credit where due; although the engine cowling isn’t as sexy as, say the Energica Ego, it does have a certain form that makes the differences blend into the background. In short; it’s obviously an electric bike to all but the most casual observer, but it doesn’t advertise the fact.

The factory takes full advantage of the available technology by offering a Zero Motorcycle app for your smartphone. Here you can customize the power deliver curve, monitor various drivetrain parameters and dial in max torque and regenerative braking levels, or use the phone as a dynamic performance display while riding. This is a nice selling point, ’cause people do like their gadgets, and expect to be able to integrate them into everything.


2016 Zero S / SR
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The factory didn’t stop at the drivetrain, but instead carried its futuristic bent to the very bones of the project. Aircraft-grade aluminum makes up the twin-spar frame, and a trellis-like cage protects the engine compartment. Arranged to keep the center of gravity low for handling performance, the lightweight frame sets the tone for the rest of the bike. Cast, Y-spoke, 17-inch front rims and a hollow front axle keep unsprung weight down to milk the most out of the purpose-built Showa suspension components.

Big, 41 mm usd front forks come fully adjustable for compression/rebound damping and spring preload, and the cast fork boots further lighten the unsprung weight at the front end. A center-mounted, 40 mm, coil-over monoshock supports the rear from its inconspicuous location, and it too comes with the same array of adjustments as the front forks. Front and rear suspension travel is plush, with 6.25 inches up front and 6.35 in the rear, but this travel comes at the expense of shorter riders who may find the 31.8-inch seat height to be in their tiptoe zone, or worse.

While both models share common chassis components, there is a divergence at the tire choice, and the hoops reflect the performance capabilities of their host. The S comes with Pirelli Sport Demon tires, which are quality tires and adequate for the job, but the SR steps it up with the super-sticky, Diablo Rosso II race tires. Reasons for this change may vary, but most of them will become clear when we look at the drivetrain options.

At 414 pounds, these rides don’t quite rate dual front brakes, but they did get some nifty brake features all the same. J-Juan calipers bind the 320 mm front, and 240 mm rear, wave-cut brake discs, and the Bosch Gen 9 ABS stands watch over the whole business. All in all, it’s a nice suite of features, even by smoker-bike standards.


2016 Zero S / SR
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As with the tires, the drive motors set the two models apart and we finally see where the “R” comes from. The Z-Force 75-7 electric motor in the S model is adequate with 68 pound-feet of torque as soon as you crack the throttle, and 54 horsepower at 4,300 rpm. Weight varies depending on which power-storage options are installed, but max curb weight is 452 pounds with all the bells and whistles. The power-to-weight ratio suggests a bike designed first for cornering performance with something less than brutal acceleration. The S tops out at 95 mph and can sustain 80 to 85 depending on power supply gadgets, but 0-to-60 is relatively sluggish at 4.8 seconds for the lightest version, and 5.8 seconds for the heaviest.

All this changes with the SR. The 75-7R electric motor packs a wallop with 67 ponies at 4,000 rpm, and a tire-shredding 106 pound-feet of torque as soon as you roll on. Best of all, the SR stays light at 414 pounds for the base model and 458 pounds with the Power-Tank accessory, so all that extra power goes directly to straight-line acceleration. Although the SR is a bit quicker on the quarter-mile at 3.3 seconds stock, and 3.9 seconds with the Power-Tank, it really isn’t all that much faster. It tops out at 102 mph, and can sustain 95 mph, so you can expect some very sporty acceleration, but you can forget about racing any Energica electrics anytime soon. I’m OK with that, because seriously, how often do you get to break 100 mph safely anyway?

Things get a little complicated with the power-storage and charging options. The S can be had with the Z-Force, Li-Ion intelligent 9.8 kWh power pack, the 13.0 kWh version or the 13.0 with the Power-Tank accessory with ranges from 61 miles to 197 miles, depending on capacity and riding conditions. Storage for the SR is limited to the 13 KwH version, with or without the optional Power-Tank, leaving it with an 81-mile minimum and 197-mile maximum range, again depending on the Power-Tank and city versus highway driving.

If faster charging times are preferable to larger storage capacities, you can opt for the Charging-Tank in place of the Power-Tank and reduce charging times by roughly 60 percent. Separate accessory charges augment the built-in charger for faster charge times in lieu of the Charge-Tank, and two accessory chargers roughly equal the charge time of the Charge-Tank.

While this sounds cumbersome, and the specs for the various combinations and expected ranges are too numerous to post up here, this system does lend a certain flexibility. Since most of my trips are 100 miles or less, I think I would opt for the Charge-Tank for quick turnaround trips. Too bad the Tanks are dealer-installed components; t’would be mighty nifty to be able to switch between range and charge speed as conditions demand, though it would be a nervous thing.

The power controller on the S is rated for 420 amps, and the SR comes rated for 660 amps, which is plenty to knock your butt in the dirt to an altitude of about minus-six feet, so maybe this truly is best left to the service department. Best of all, the charging system will run off 110 as well as 220-volt power, so you can literally plug up anywhere there is power. The drive is fairly economical, with costs that vary between $1.10 and $1.78 per complete recharge depending on storage capacity, at $0.50 per 60 miles in the city, and $0.98 per 60 miles on the highway.

Both models run with clutchless direct-drive systems for seamless acceleration with twist-and-forget speed management. The final drive consists of a Poly-Chain belt drive, and while the S comes geared at 130/28, the SR picks up a couple of teeth on the drive sprocket for an overall 130/30 drive ratio; probably where the extra top end comes from. Both rides feed backtorque through the final drive to drive the regenerative braking function that converts some of your kinetic energy back into electrical energy – the electrical equivalent of engine braking.


2016 Zero S / SR
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The base-model S with the 9.8 kWh power pack starts out at $10,995 and jumps up by 3 grand for the 13.0 kWh version. A bit prouder because of the motor size, the SR starts out at $15,995 for the stock, 13.0 kWh power pack. This price includes a two-year warranty on the bike, and a five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack, but it doesn’t include much in the way of colors; the S comes with canary yellow “sheet metal” and the SR comes in a not-quite fireplug red.

And now, for the rest of the story. Far from being casual accessories, the extra power-gadgets can significantly inflate the sticker. The long range, Power-Tank accessory will pad the bill by another $2,674, or you can go the quick-charging route with a Charge-Tank for $1,999. Power-Tank owners can still rapidly slam a charge into the pack by using multiple Quick-Charge accessories, but at $600 a pop, this will quickly add up.


2016 Zero S / SR
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2016 Victory Empulse TT
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Since the Italian-made Energica bikes are so sexy, and the Harley Livewire still isn’t a production model, I decided to go with another slab-sided, electric sport/streetbike from the domestic sector, the Empulse TT from Victory.

Right off the bat, the overall look is cut from the same cloth, and they both follow the general sportbike formula; aggressive, forward-leaning and well-positioned for weight shifts in the corners. Both manufacturers shroud the motor and power pack behind unflattering body panels that lack the flair of the Energica bikes, but at least they serve a function by funneling cooling air over the hot spots.

The Empulse is roughly equal to the base-model Zero S with its 10.4 kWh power pack, 61 pound-feet of torque and 54 ponies, though the top speed does break into SR range at 100-plus mph. As you might imagine, the SR comes out of the hole a lot stronger with 106 pound-feet of grunt and 67 horsepower, so the race version Zero carries the brute performance category.

Empulse falls behind in the range department with approximately 100 miles stored in the pack. While this is comparable to the smallest capacity Zero power pack, it pales next to the 200-mile range of the 13.0 kWh SR with Power-Tank. Charging times are likewise similar enough, and vary depending on battery state, charging accessories and charging-station type.

One major difference resides in the drivetrain. While the Zero uses a direct-drive system, Victory opted for a traditional six-speed transmixxer. Granted, you don’t have to shift to stay in the powerband, and it doesn’t save any power, but it does allow you to ride around without the motor wound up tighter than Dick’s hatband. Personally, I think I would prefer the twist-it-and-forget-it, automatic-style operation.

While the Zero S starts out around 10 grand, within entry-level range, the options can quickly drive the price up to 15 k. Start with an SR and add a bunch of gadgets, and you will absolutely ruin 20 grand. Victory doesn’t offer the same flexibility, and so the price is a fixed $19,999. All told, at half that price with similar performance, the Zero S ZF9.8 is a lot of bike for the buck with plenty of wiggle room for a few upgrades.

He Said

“As always, I love green technology, and I really enjoyed learning about these Zero sleds. Even though they don’t fit with my preferred motorcycle mold, I would ride the hell out of one of these, maybe even get me some Power-Ranger-looking riding gear to boot!’

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Oh, I’d love to see my husband in a neon yellow spandex suit and matching helmet. Yeah, I know that’s not what he meant, but I gotta take the opening. As far as the bike goes, I really like these electric bikes and I like that the big manufacturers are getting on board. The Energica bikes are kinda scary-go-fast, which isn’t in my comfort zone, but the Zero S and SR are more to my liking."


Model: Zero S Zero SR
Motor: ZF9.8 - Z-Force® 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, permanent magnet, brushless motor, ZF13.0 +PT - Z-Force® 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent magnet, brushless motor Z-Force® 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent hi-temp magnet, brushless motor
Controller: High efficiency, 420 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration High efficiency, 660 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration
Maximum Torque: 68 Pound-Feet 106 Pound-Feet
Maximum Power: 54 Horsepower at 4,300 rpm 67 Horsepower at 4,000 rpm
Maximum Top Speed: 95 mph 102 mph
Sustained Top Speed: ZF9.8 - 80 mph, ZF13.0 +PT - 85 mph 95 mph
0 to 60 mph: ZF9.8 - 4.8 seconds, ZF 13.0 - 5.23 seconds, ZF13.0+PT - 5.8 seconds ZF13.0 - 3.3 seconds, ZF13.0+PT 3.9 seconds
Transmission: Clutchless Direct Drive Clutchless Direct Drive
Final Drive: 130T / 28T, Poly Chain® GT® Carbon™ belt 130T / 30T, Poly Chain® GT® Carbon™ belt
Suspension, Front: Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Suspension, Rear: Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Suspension Travel, Front: 6.25 inches 6.25 inches
Suspension Travel, Rear: 6.35 inches 6.35 inches
Brake, Front: Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc
Brake, Rear: Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc
Wheel, Front: 3.00 x 17 3.00 x 17
Wheel Rear: 3.50 x 17 3.50 x 17
Tire, Front: Pirelli Sport Demon 110/70-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 110/70-17
Tire, Rear: Pirelli Sport Demon 140/70-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II 140/70-17
Power System:
Power Pack: Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent
Input: Standard 110 V or 220 V Standard 110 V or 220 V
Charger Type: 1.3 kW, integrated 1.3 kW, integrated
Charge Time, Standard:
100 Percent: ZF9.8 - 6.8 hours , ZF13.0 - 8.9 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.8 hours ZF13.0 - 8.9 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.8 hours
95 percent: ZF9.8 - 6.3 hours , ZF13.0 - 8.4 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.3 hours ZF13.0 - 8.4 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.3 hours
City: ZF9.8 - 121 miles , ZF13.0 - 161 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 197 miles ZF13.0 - 161 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 197 miles
Highway at 55 mph: ZF9.8 - 74 miles, ZF13.0 - 98 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 120 miles ZF13.0 - 98 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 197 miles
Highway at 70 mph: ZF9.8 - 61 miles, ZF13.0 - 81 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 98 miles ZF13.0 - 81 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 98 miles
Wheelbase: 55.5 inches 55.5 inches
Seat height: 31.8 inches 31.8 inches
Rake: 24.0 degrees 24.0 degrees
Trail: 3.2 inches 3.2 inches
Frame : 23 Pounds 23 Pounds
Curb weight: ZF9.8 - 376 Pounds, ZF13.0 - 408 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 452 Pounds ZF13.0 - 414 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 458 Pounds
Carrying capacity: ZF9.8 - 399 Pounds, ZF13.0 - 367 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 323 Pounds ZF13.0 - 361 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 317 Pounds
Typical Cost to Recharge: ZF9.8 - $1.10, ZF13.0 - $1.46, ZF13.0+PT - $1.78 ZF13.0 - $1.46, ZF13.0+PT - $1.78
Warranty: Two-year unlimited mileage warranty and Five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack Two-year unlimited mileage warranty and Five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack
Color: Yellow Red
Price: ZF9.8 - $10,995, ZF13.0 - $13,995 $15,995
What do you think?
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