Zero Motorcycle's FXS - Is This Electric Beast For You?

OCT 23, 2015 - Easily considered the world’s leading electric motorcycle manufacturer, Zero Motorcycles revealed and discussed their 2016 line-up at the recent motorcycle extravaganza, AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida.

Clutch and Chrome recapped not only the line-up shown on October 15th but also the advances which continue to push the California motorcycle manufacturer forward on the road of this unique type of ride in this article. While Zero Motorcycles certainly enjoyed plenty of bragging rights at AIMExpo, it could be said they were most proud of the new Zero FXS model.

The Zero FXS model joins the FX family of electric motorcycles. When your big brother has already been described as ‘world’s most entertaining electric motorcycle’ it’s expected the new addition has to work extra hard get noticed.

It appears the Zero FXS does just that. Calling the Zero FXS a ‘supermoto on steroids’ it’s clear the company’s engineers sat down at the design table with the goal of making this particular model the most powerful ride in the electric motorcycle manufacturer’s line-up.

At the heart of the motorcycle’s soul is the new Z-Force 75-5 interior permanent magnet (IPM) motor which is designed to produce power more efficiently, cool more rapidly and enjoy a higher thermal capability.  Essentially designed from the ground up by Zero Motorcycles to be the world’s most efficient, powerful, compact, brushless and sealed air-cooled motor, the new Z-Force 75-5 produces 95 Nm of torque.

“You think you’re going to lose your driver’s license every time you get in the saddle of this motorcycle,” Scot Harden, VP of Global Marketing said of the Zero FXS during the media presentation of the 2016 line-up unveiling.

What could be considered the best feature of the Z-Force 75-5, for those who ride their motorcycles hard at least, is the new and previously mentioned higher thermal capability which significantly improves performance during hard riding and allows higher sustained top speeds.

Calling the motorcycle’s direct-drive system ‘just ride’, Zero considers it sophisticatedly simple and lets the biker focus on the electric experience of riding the Zero FXS. There is no clutch, no shifting and consequently, no need to carry a heavy and complex transmission. This lightens the weight considerably which helps not only with handling but the motorcycle’s performance as well, seen most notably in its range capabilities.

This feature also promises more riding time as the maintenance-free powertrain and belt drive help bikers spend more time on the road and less in the local servicing department.

Wanting to stand alongside those motorcycles considered in the performance category, custom-tuned, fully adjustable Showa suspension have been added to improve comfort and control. The Zero FXS features 17”wheels and softer compound Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires for superb traction on pavement, providing superior grip and corner control.

Continuing to follow the well-taken route of performance motorcycles, the Zero FXS enjoys a custom riding mode setting which allows riders to set their own performance profile in addition to the factory preset “sport” and “eco” riding modes.

Setting custom riding modes leads to an interesting selling point of Zero Motorcycles. Because their models are more technology than motorcycle, riders can access a lot of information through the Zero Motorcycle’s smartphone application, adding another reason for younger riders to take a serious look at the company’s electric offerings.


Zero FXS - Source Zero Motorcycles

The Zero FXS features dual-level and adjustable regenerative braking, a method of braking in which energy is extracted, stored and reused, certainly a handy feature for an electric motorcycle. Throw in the Bosch anti-lock braking system to improve control in a wide array of conditions and riders enjoy the best all-round braking performance.

The appearance of a Zero Motorcycles is familiar yet different, causing riders to stare just a fraction longer than they should. Adding to this look are the dual projector beam headlights and integrated fly screen provide a refined and contemporary front profile.

High-contrast backlit LCD screen shows riders the motorcycle’s state of charge, performance profile and other useful riding information.

It’s at this point the discussion turns to the two options available for the Zero FXS. Would-be riders can choose between a 3.3 kWh to 6.5 kWh battery supply, defined model wise as either a Zero FXS ZF3.3 or Zero FXS ZF6.5.

In real terms choosing the larger capacity batteries, the 6.5, extends the motorcycles range as well giving a slight, and we mean slight, improvement in performance.  The Zero FXS ZF6.5 manages to go from zero to sixty in 3.8 seconds while it takes the slothful ZF3.3 a whole 4.1 seconds to reach that speed from a full stop.

The choice in models really comes down to how a rider plans on using their Zero motorcycle with range being the biggest difference in the two. The Zero FXS ZF6.5 can manage as many as 90 miles of city riding while the ZF3.3 will squeak out just under 45 miles. On the highway, where bikers are more likely to ride the motorcycle harder and there is less regenerative braking to help the battery along, 53 miles is as far as the ZF6.5 will take a rider and 27 miles is the maximum range of the ZF3.3 model.

Range has always been a challenge with electric vehicles and knowing this Zero Motorcycles have come up with several clever solutions. Removable power pack modules can be charged on the motorcycle using the standard charger, off-board with optional accessories and swapped in and out regardless of individual state of charge.

According to Zero, they have effectively tripled the speed of charging with a new Charge Tank accessory which is designed to work with Level 2 charging stations. This advancement is intended to allow riders to take advantage of the rapidly expanding network of public charging stations. Using this accessory and type of charging station, a 95% charge can be achieved in two to three hours depending on the model.

Finally, the motorcycle’s 650W onboard charger can be plugged into any household outlet and used in combination with the optional Quick Charger accessory to reduce charge times at home or office.

Thinking about its customers, Zero Motorcycles makes it easy for owners to get more juice. Fully modular Z-Force quick-swap technology allows riders to easily upgrade from 3.3 kWh to 6.5 kWh battery technology.

Fully modular Z-Force quick-swap technology - Source Zero Motorcycles

As with any motorcycle review, numbers can be weighed and performance measured but the choice of whether to buy any bike comes down to the rider’s gut.

To sum up the Zero FXS, it features a unique, patented modular power pack system that allows recharging either on or off the bike, making it ideal for the city. With advanced ABS, fully adjustable suspension, dual projector beam headlights, alloy wheels and high performance street tires, it’s ready to hit the supermoto track or turn formerly mundane tasks into thrilling rides.

While the first thought of a Zero Motorcycle customer might be the young rider or those who are considering the future of energy, Scot Harden VP of Global Marketing told Clutch and Chrome many returning to the saddle after some time away from riding are a growing number of its customers.

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