WORLD EXCLUSIVE: First ride of ZERO’s SR/F streetfighter.


It’s a game-changer. The all-new American-made Zero SR/F – as in StReetFighter – sets new standards for an electric motorcycle that anyone can buy. Costing £17,990 inc VAT but not OTR with a 3 kW onboard charger, or £19,990 for the Premium version, including heated grips, a flyscreen and aluminum bar ends, plus a 6 kW “Rapid Charger” package, it’s arriving in dealer showrooms now.  

Essentially, it’s taken $250 million of venture capital invested over the past 11 years by Zero’s owner, NYC-based Invus Group, to get Zero this far. But after spending two days riding the SR/F for around 170 miles in every kind of situation on the demanding roads of Northern California, and growing first to respect it, then to love riding it, it’s clear that, finally, it’s showtime for an electric motorcycle with lights and a horn that anyone can buy. Invus deserves to start recouping on its investment right now.

Why so? Until now there’s been one major drawback to deter anyone who rides bikes for fun, as much as to go places, from Going Electric. Besides range anxiety and recharging time issues, there’s always been too many inherent compromises in E-bike design to make them genuine rivals to more conventional bikes. Running on skinny tyres to increase range via reduced drag, or downsizing brakes to lower weight – and then there’s been the invariably nerdish styling. Unless you really wanted to make your own contribution to saving the planet, there’s been no real incentive to buy electric. Until now.

It’s logical that it should be California-based Zero Motorcycles which has finally smashed this barrier down, because it essentially invented the electric motorcycle only a decade ago with the 2009 Zero S – the first series production E-bike ever. Until now, Zero has focused on producing ever more capable versions of that original model, with greater range and reduced recharging times. The fact that Europe has now overtaken the USA in the company’s sales charts confirmed that Zero management’s decision 30 months ago to produce a radically reworked, more Euro-friendly E-Streetfighter focused on performance rather than parsimony, was the right call. The SR/F has performance and handling to match its butch looks.

To create that vision Zero’s CTO/Chief Technical Officer Abe Askenazi, who’s been driving Zero’s steep development curve since he came on board in 2010, after being CTO at Buell, started from zero (sorry!) – fewer than 10% of the old SR’s components are retained. The SR/F’s ZF75-10 air-cooled brushless AC motor created in-house represents a significant upgrade to the previous design. Mounted in the swingarm pivot, it’s 30mm wider than before, which helps produce more power – 110bhp/82kW at 5,000 rpm, and a constant Nm190/140ft-lb of torque from 1rpm onwards. Compare that to the 70bhp/52kW and 157Nm/116lb-ft delivered by the previous model. The SR/F is the first Zero model to produce over 100bhp. Top speed has risen to a claimed 124mph, from 102mph on the SR.

Wrapped around the battery pack is a triangulated tubular steel spaceframe worthy of any Ducati, bolted to cast aluminium plates which each comprise the outer housing of the twin-sided swingarm made from two halves of pressed steel welded together to form an ultra-sturdy structure – that massive hit of torque delivered by the new Zero motor all through the rev range was too much for an aluminium structure to handle, says Askenazi. That’s why the swingarm pivots on a 100mm diameter oil-impregnated sintered bronze plain bearing, to tie everything in tight to create a massively solid integrated swingarm pivot which encircles the motor’s drive shaft in a coaxial arrangement which none other than Massimo Tamburini pioneered on his first generation Bimota designs, and for the same reason – constant chain tension for him, and a constant drive belt tension on the SR/F.

The fully-adjustable Showa suspension features a 43mm Big Piston fork and a cantilever rear monoshock offset to the right, which delivers 140mm of travel to the cast aluminium rear wheel. This carries a 180/55-17 Pirelli Diablo Rossi III tyre that’s far larger than anything Zero has used before – the SR carried a 130/80-17 rear Pirelli MT-01. Brakes are provided by J.Juan, but their front four-piston calipers are now doubled up and radially mounted for the first time on a Zero to bite upsized 320mm floating discs. The SR/F’s claimed 220kg/485lb weight for the standard SR/F, and 226kg/498lb for the Premium, with its bigger charger, explain the need for the uprated brake package. This is much heavier than the outgoing 2018 SR with the same battery and 3kW charger at 187kg/414lb, thanks to the upscale brakes, suspension, tyres/wheels and other chassis hardware. There’s now a weight differential between the Zero SR/F and its comparable rival ICE high-end streetfighters like the 209kg/461lb Ducati Monster 1200 – but the American E-Rod more than makes up for that in the way it performs, thanks to its huge 190Nm/140ft-lb dose of constant torque, compared to the Ducati’s 118Nm/87ft-lb that’s positively wimpish by comparison….

Indeed, I found the SR/F’s performance of the new Zero to be totally intoxicating, with ultra-muscular acceleration delivered by that massive but smoothly delivered hit of torque. Sorry, Ducati – but this is a Monster 1200 on steroids, that’s much easier to ride for the simple reason that you’re always in the right gear. Zero has made the bike super controllable via the quartet of well-defined riding modes on offer, plus up to ten Custom modes you can programme yourself via the Zero app. No need for Eco, though – returning to base after 85 miles of hard riding saw 12% of charge still in the ‘tank’ after a brief 30-minute top-up when we stopped for lunch.

The SR/F is most at home on a twisting hillside road, where the motor’s formidable torque delivery and capable, confidence-inspiring handling, make it king of the road. The J.Juan brakes deliver fabulous stopping power, with heaps of feel. The Pirelli tyres are a sound choice, too – aside from delivering outstanding grip (and the Zero’s massive torque was a stern test of how well the rear Diablo Rosso III hooked up), they’re lighter than their rivals, so they contribute to that impressive acceleration via reduced rotational inertia. And neither trail braking nor grabbing a handful of front brake mid-corner would deflect the SR/F from its chosen line. Its handling is very forgiving.

I can immodestly claim to have ridden more different electric motorcycles – not scooters – than anyone else on this planet, including each Isle of Man Zero TT race-winner and the current holder of the E-bike LSR, as well as a huge variety of streetlegal E-models produced over the past decade in Europe and the USA. The Zero SR/F is the best production electric motorcycle I’ve yet ridden, and it sets a new benchmark for others to aim at. Zero has produced an E-bike for which no excuses are in order, which delivers intoxicating performance coupled with inherent practicality, that’s ready to be compared on equal terms dynamically with any equivalent combustion-engined bike.

Words: Alan Cathcart // Photos: Kevin Wing

2020 Zero SR/F Technical Specifications

Range ZERO SR/F Standard ZERO SR/F Premium
City 161 miles (259 km) 161 miles (259 km)
Highway, 89 km/h 99 miles (159 km) 99 miles (159 km)
 » Combined 123 miles (198 km) 123 miles (198 km)
Highway, 113 km/h 82 miles (132 km) 82 miles (132 km)
 » Combined 109 miles (175 km) 109 miles (175 km)
Range (based on EU standard) 98 miles (158 km) 98 miles (157 km)
Motor
Peak torque 190 Nm 190 Nm
Peak power 110 hp (82 kW) @ 5,000 rpm 110 hp (82 kW) @ 5,000 rpm
Top speed (max) 124 mph (200 km/h) 124 mph (200 km/h)
Top speed (sustained) 110 mph (177 km/h) 110 mph (177 km/h)
Continuous power 54 hp (40 kW) @ 5,000 rpm 54 hp (40 kW) @ 5,000 rpm
Licensing Requirement A Licence A Licence
Type Z-Force 75-10 enhanced thermal efficiency, passively air-cooled, interior permanent magnet AC motor Z-Force 75-10 enhanced thermal efficiency, passively air-cooled, interior permanent magnet AC motor
Controller High efficiency and power dense, 900 Amp, 3-phase AC controller with regenerative deceleration High efficiency and power dense, 900 Amp, 3-phase AC controller with regenerative deceleration
Power system
Power pack Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent integrated Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent integrated
Max capacity 14.4 kWh 14.4 kWh
Nominal capacity 12.6 kWh 12.6 kWh
Charger type 3.0 kW, integrated 6.0 kW, integrated
Charge time (standard) 4.5 hours (100% charged) / 4.0 hours (95% charged) 2.5 hours (100% charged) / 2.0 hours (95% charged)
 » With 6 kW Rapid Charge option 1.8 hours (100% charged) / 1.3 hours (95% charged) 1.5 hours (100% charged) / 1.0 hour (95% charged)
Drivetrain
Transmission Clutchless direct drive Clutchless direct drive
Final drive 90T / 20T, Poly Chain® HTD® Carbon™ belt 90T / 20T, Poly Chain® HTD® Carbon™ belt
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front suspension Showa 43 mm Big Piston Separate Function forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 43 mm Big Piston Separate Function forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension 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
Front suspension travel 4.72 in (120 mm) 4.72 in (120 mm)
Rear suspension travel 5.51 in (140 mm) 5.51 in (140 mm)
Front brakes Bosch Advanced MSC, dual J-Juan radial 4-piston calipers with radial master cylinder, 320 x 5 mm discs Bosch Advanced MSC, dual J-Juan radial 4-piston calipers with radial master cylinder, 320 x 5 mm discs
Rear brakes Bosch Advanced MSC, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc Bosch Advanced MSC, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc
Front tire Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 120/70-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 120/70-17
Rear tire Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 180/55-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III 180/55-17
Front wheel 3.50 x 17 3.50 x 17
Rear wheel 5.50 x 17 5.50 x 17
Dimensions
Wheelbase 57.1 in (1,450 mm) 57.1 in (1,450 mm)
Seat height 31.0 in (787 mm) 31.0 in (787 mm)
 » Accessory, low 30.3 in (770 mm) 30.3 in (770 mm)
 » Accessory, tall 31.9 in (810 mm) 31.9 in (810 mm)
Rake 24.5° 24.5°
Trail 3.7 in (94 mm) 3.7 in (94 mm)
Weight
Curb weight 220 kg 226 kg
Carrying capacity 234 kg 228 kg
 
UK Pricing
MSRP (Includes 20% VAT and transport to the dealer. Additional PDI, local shipping and road registration fees may apply, please confirm with your local dealer.) £17,990 £19,990
Warranty
Standard motorcycle warranty* 2 years 2 years
Power pack warranty* 5 years/unlimited miles 5 years/unlimited miles

For more information, visit: www.zeromotorcycles.com

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