2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review | Real World

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a BMW S1000XR and Honda Grom. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, a KTM 1050 Adventure, Yamaha MT-10, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

Every new electric motorcycle is claimed to be better, faster and with a bigger range. But in the last few years, battery technology hasn’t seen a quantum-shift in performance, so just how many miles can you really squeeze from a Lithium-ion battery? By riding the 2020 Zero SR/F electric bike just as I would my own internal combustion engine (ICE) powered bikes, I’ve found out whether the future really is here for the majority of motorcyclists.. Is electric power still the preserve of early-adopters and city commuters?

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle price

Don’t stop reading here. Alternative power vehicles are inevitable, so there’s lots that’s worth knowing, but the price will put this one out of the reach of many.

£18,490.

And that’s after the UK government’s grant of 20% off, up to a maximum of £1,500. The grant covers a large range of zero CO2 emission level electric bikes, but only the ones that have a range of at least 50km (31 miles).

This Zero is the more expensive ‘Premium’ model, which includes aluminium bar ends, heated grips and, more interestingly, a 6kW charger. We’ll get into why this is important, but know that if you go for the standard model with a 3kW charger, and want the 6kW unit later, it’ll cost an extra £2,640.

You also need to stump up £445 for the essential cable that’ll let you charge this bike up at home, or about £120 for a public charging point cable – it doesn't come with either! Personally, I’d push very strongly for my dealer to throw one in.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

Charge your bike at home and it won’t cost much at all

 

What does it cost to run an electric motorcycle?

A 10,000mAh Anker battery pack costs £22. That’s about 50Wh. The Zero SR/F has a 14.4kWh battery. To put things into perspective, that’s 288 Anker packs – £6,336. Of course, it’s not that simple – with that much energy contained in the cells, the Zero’s battery needs to be incredibly well managed and protected. It’s also claimed to last 160,000 miles before its capacity is down to 80%. That’s with city riding, and there are numerous factors that’ll affect it, so only time will tell. Zero does give a five year warranty on the battery though (two years on the rest if the bike), and these things don’t just go into landfill when they’re finally finished – early hybrid and electric cars have had their batteries sold on for projects such as greenhouse heating and off-grid storage.

The other thing to take into account with the price is the fact that you’ll pay no road fund licence, no ULEZ charge in London (and beyond potentially) and like any bike, usually nothing for parking. Let’s do some more rough maths…

If you’re going to charge your bike at home, we’ll assume you use pretty much all of its capacity each day, so charge to full every night. Filling the battery will take about 14.4 units of electricity; on average, that’s about 14.4 x 12.8p – £1.84.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

The battery is made up of lithium-ion cells, producing 14.4kWh of energy

 

Now let’s guess that you’ve got a range of 80 miles that day (you’ll see why this is realistic later) – doing that on an MT-09 (roughly equivalent performance) would cost £10.26

(42.5mpg average based on Fuelly.com, £1.20/litre unleaded price).

So, assuming you keep the Zero charged at home, you’ll save £8.42 per day.

Now let’s compare prices; the Zero costs £10,091 more than the MT-09, so this rough-and-ready maths would indicate that it’d take three years and four months for the Zero to justify its extra cost. To pay for its full price entirely in fuel would take six years.

But that’s not taking into account road tax, which is currently £91 for any motorcycle over 600cc. Over three years you’ll also have saved £273, or £546 over six years.

Then there’s servicing – the Zero takes about an hour of labour for a service, so you should expect to save over pretty well any ICE-powered bike, with its need for replacement oils, filters, plugs etc. Besides tyres, only the drive belt, brake pads and brake fluid should need replacing on this machine.

Now what about if you always charge your bike at work, so either use your company’s power, or a free charging point? Saving the entire estimated fuel cost over that 80 miles a day would see the Zero pay for the difference over an MT-09 in two years and eight months. It’d pay for itself completely (and we’re not counting road tax or servicing here) in four years and eleven months. Granted, I’ve assumed you’ve done 80 miles every day on the bike – 29,200 miles per year – but it gives you an idea.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

I took the bike to Bike Stop in Stevenage – the café gave me plenty of reason to hang around while the Zero charged

 

Is an electric bike cheaper than public transport?

Let’s assume you work in Canary Wharf and live in Royal Tunbridge Wells. That’s 40 miles, so a daily commute of 80 miles. It’ll take 59 minutes each way and cost £39 by train, but you’d buy a season ticket – from Tunbridge Wells to London Terminals is £4,792 per year.

Assuming you charge the Zero for free at work or with a public charging point, it will pay for itself in three years and ten months, and you’ll have the freedom of your own transport, with roughly the same journey time as the train. If you charge it at home, you’ll pay £465.52 in electricity over 253 working days every year, so the Zero will pay for itself in four years and four months.

If you only used the bike for work, a Yamaha MT-09 would cost an estimated £2,686 in fuel and road tax. That’s a saving of £2,106 over the train price, so the MT-09 would pay for itself in four years – given that we’ve ignored servicing costs, we’ll call it quits against the Zero.

Sure, I’ve made a lot of assumptions, but it gives you an idea of the value of using any motorcycle for transport into a major city, regardless of whether it’s electric or petrol-powered.

We can’t be naïve though – while there are currently free charging points and incentives for electric machines, they won’t be free forever. When electric vehicles become the norm, they’ll no doubt be taxed, and charging points won’t be free. But the vehicles will be cheaper.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

Planning a route to a charging point can be stressful – what if it’s in use?

 

Charging the bike

The charger is built into the bike, sitting just on top of the battery pack. There’s only a socket on the Zero, so you’ll need either the ‘Type 2’ charging cable (the most common public charging connection), or the Type 2 to wall socket cable; if you’re not sure what you’ll need, you’ll have to lug them both. You can have a specific charging point installed at home, with government grants making them pretty cheap, but as most owners will keep their bikes in a garage or shed, they’ll likely use a 13A wall socket.

Both the Standard and Premium models will charge at the same rate at home – around 2.1kW, which delivers 20A. It takes about four and a half hours to fully charge the bike at home, and you can schedule that to happen when your electricity’s at its cheapest.

There are 22,761 charging connections available across 13,380 charging points. You’ll find three main types of charger – slow, fast and rapid. The slow ones use 13A home supplies or a Type 2 socket (as on the Zero). Fast chargers use Type 1 or Type 2, while Rapid devices are either AC or DC, and use a Type 2 cable that’s built into the charging point (so you don’t need to carry your cable) or a CCS, CHAdeMO or Telsa Type 2 for Rapid DC. Oh, and there’s the Tesla Superchargers, which pump out 120kW.



2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

Find a fast charger and you can top up your bike pretty quickly. If the infrastructure was in place, it’d be more realistic to just top it up every time you stop for a break.

 

There are currently 3,293 slow charging points, 11,459 fast and 4,366 rapid at 8,318 locations in the UK. 26.1% of them are in Greater London. Only 1,130 of the rapid charge points have the Type 2 Mennekes 43kW connector required by the Zero.

Confused?

Public slow chargers are only slightly faster than a home charger, but not by much. As the Premium Zero has an onboard 6kW charger, it can drop its charging time down to 2.5 hours when plugged into a fast or rapid charger.

Not all charging points are free – this press-fleet Zero came with a Polar card that costs £7.85 per month, and gives you access to over 6,500 devices. Others might cost £4 for a charge – still cheap, but that’s better value if you’re filling a Tesla than a smaller capacity motorcycle.

 

London has the vast majority of charging points… head 60miles north and the picture changes

 

You can find the charging points using a variety of apps or websites – Polar Plus and Zap-Map are two I tried, and I had the apps on my phone while using the Zero. But these companies want you to use their apps, so don’t offer downloadable Points of Interest (POIs) to use on your own sat-nav. That meant I had to plan my route beforehand, looking for where the charging points were that I’d guess I’d need. Once I got where I was going, I’d have to get my phone out and try to find the charger or add it as a waypoint on my route. If you use phone for navigation, you’ll still have to switch between apps. It’s a far cry from glancing at your TomTom to see where the next petrol station is.

 

How far will the Zero SR/F go on a full charge?

Zero quotes standardised figures based on SAE J2982. As with any economy figures, these will vary a lot based on your riding style…

City riding (stop and go)

161 miles

Highway (steady 55mph)

100 miles

Combined city/55mph

123 miles

Highway (steady 70mph)

82 miles

Combined city/70mph

109 miles

 

The EU demands higher sustained speeds and a greater rolling resistance in its testing than the US-based SAE…

EU standardised range

98 miles

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

In my testing, I found the Zero’s dash range figures to be very accurate – of course, it will drop significantly if you ride hard, but it’ll soon become clear how far you’ll get.

I programmed a winding route into my TomTom Rider 550 for a great back-road blast on the Zero to Bike Stop in Stevenage. The 61 mile route was exactly what I’d do on a petrol-powered bike, and I rode it in just the same way – that meant sticking firmly to 30, 40 and 50mph speed limits, and ‘making progress’ elsewhere. It was a spirited ride.

Throughout most of the journey, when I had a clear run the bike would show a range that was about equal to the distance left on the sat-nav, but when I got into villages and towns it’d increase. I got to Bike Stop with just one mile left.

When you get down to about ten miles remaining, the bike restricts its output – this means that it’ll still pull away just as sharply, but beyond about 40mph the throttle does nothing after around a third of a turn – it’s fine for getting away from the lights, but I was overtaking a car when it first happened. While you soon learn, a clear warning on the dash would have been appreciated. The bike will still get up to 70mph or more, but it takes a lot longer.

I was lucky to reach my destination without running out of juice, but given how I was riding, I’d have no real worries doing a typical 80 mile commute of city-centre and dual-carriageways; I really did push the bike on the back roads, but coming home on the A1 and keeping speeds sensible, the range was closer to the claimed figures.

I used a charging point in a car park just behind Bike Stop, but it was a slow one. I panicked when I saw there was already a car using it, but luckily it had two sockets, so I used the charging cable I’d carried with me to plug in. It charged the bike at 2.8kW, delivering 29A. In the two and a half hours I was there, the bike got back up to just over 70%.

Those cables are pretty bulky – you can get one into the locking box in the ‘tank’, but if you want to carry the household cable too, you’ll need a rucksack or tail-pack.

 

You can carry one of the cables in the cubby box. This space would be taken up with an optional extra battery for longer range, but that will cost more, and add weight up high. Otherwise, you’ll need a rucksack or tail-pack.

 

I wasn’t confident I’d get home, so also stopped off at another Polar charging point – this was a 43kW fast charger with its own cable at the Days Inn in Sandy – after 90 mins of use you’d be charged £10 per hour, but I just stopped for about twenty minutes; enough time for a drink and a chat with a great woman who it turns out races a GSX-R and runs the Sandy Bike Night at the Days Inn conference centre. While there were two parking bays, the point only had one Type 2 cable, so if it had been in use, I’d have been stuck.

This was where the Premium model showed its worth, the 6kW charger able to take advantage of some of the 43kW pump out, so charging at 5.7kW / 56A. Enough to easily get me home at my usually motorway speeds.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

Power and torque

Electric bikes are known for their instant response and full torque from everywhere in the throttle range. With a claimed 190Nm peak torque, this thing should be a beast – the Ducati Panigale V4 ‘only’ makes 124Nm.

Peak power is 110bhp @ 5,000rpm, though the maximum continuous power is 54bhp. So what does that actually mean? To put it simply, Street mode is roughly like riding a Yamaha MT-07, while Sport is more like an MT-10 in terms of immediate punch. There’s also an Eco, Rain and a user-definable riding mode. Eco’s so sluggish as to be pointless for most of us (though it claims to put more energy back into the battery under deceleration), and as the throttle response is so linear and easy to get along with, I didn’t bother with Rain.

Sport’s where the most fun is, and this thing really does pull away very quickly and smoothly, getting up beyond 100mph very easily. Overtakes are brilliant, the bike blasting past cars (watch the video to see what I mean) and while the punch isn’t maintained if you keep it pinned from nothing all the way to the top, for ‘normal’ fast riding it’s every bit the rapid sports bike delivery.

To say there’s nothing quite like it really isn’t an exaggeration – the acceleration from any throttle position and any speed is phenomenal. To dismiss electric bikes without trying one is a very ignorant way of thinking.

Still, whether or not it’s the three-mode traction control interfering, it doesn’t want to lift under hard acceleration. I’ve seen pictures of people wheelying the Zero, but I can only guess that it needs a deft balance of throttle and rear brake, and bigger balls than I have. Compared to my Yamaha MT-10, the Zero isn’t a brutal monster, but it’s still a very thrilling bike to ride hard.

If you only have to go 61 miles.

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

With no clutch and no gears, the motor directly drives a belt to the rear wheel. As simple as that.

There’s no exhaust of course, and no airbox, so there’s no induction howl or exhaust bark. It’s almost silent. While I adore the sound of a Kawasaki airbox, or the MotoGP-like howl of my MT-10, there’ something wonderfully serene about stopping in silence. The tube-train whine isn’t something to get excited about, but I do appreciate being able to ride flat-out and nobody hear me coming. I went hard towards a village on the way to Stevenage, but when passing a guy tending to his garden I felt good about not disturbing him. If there’d been a police biker there, he’d have had a very good idea what speed I was doing on a petrol-powered bike by the exhaust note and shift sounds.

The silence does mean you really need to look out for pedestrians, especially in car parks and when filtering as they just won’t hear you. Cars aren’t quite so quiet as they make more mechanical noises, not to mention the additional tyre sound.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Weighing 226kg, the Zero is 32kg heavier than a fully-fuelled MT-09. You notice it when pushing it around, but on the go it’s very different. About 14kg is carried up high in the fuel tank on the Yamaha, but on the Zero, all the weight is very low, thanks to the battery and motor. That makes for a bike that’s incredibly easy to handle in city traffic; combined with the ease of U-turns (you can’t stall it), almost any gap is considered fair game.

On the open road it turns in very easily, but the adjustable Showa suspension is a bit of a disappointment, despite the Pirelli Rosso III tyres. The soft set-up squats readily at the back in corners and dives under braking. Conversely, it’s also a little crashy over harsh bumps. On one fast, tight, bumpy back road I had a real ‘oh shit’ moment when the Zero got knotted up. It was only a split second, but I backed off after that.

Given time you could probably dial it in to suit yourself more, but I’ve not yet felt the need to adjust the suspension on my £11,799 MT-10.

Remember though that this is not a machine that’s really designed for back-road blasts, and through towns and cities the only notable point of the suspension is the slightly exaggerated dive under hard braking.

 

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric bike brakes

J-Juan has long made brake parts for leading motorcycle manufacturers but has only recently started using its own branding. The Zero gets a pair of radially-mounted four-piston monobloc calipers biting 320mm floating discs up front. They’re driven by a radial master cylinder, and without being overly aggressive, they give great feel and bags of power. You can stop the Zero very quickly, and with Bosch ABS, it’s done safely.

The rear is a single-piston sliding caliper on a 240mm disc.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

Comfort over distance and touring

The Zero’s saddle is more than comfortable enough for the time you’ll be in it, but only a very well-planned trip will see you ‘touring’. And even assuming you can line up fast chargers, you’ll at best be stopping for two and a half hours every 100 miles.

 

Beside the cubby box in place of the fuel tank, there’s a very small space under the pillion seat

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

Traction control and ABS are standard, and neither can be switched off. You also get cruise control, but it’s very poorly implemented – hold the button that’s in place of the starter switch to turn it on, then tap it to set the speed based on throttle position. It’s very awkward to do with your right hand, so you’re best reaching over with your left; clumsy, and once set, you can’t adjust it up or down. It’s on or off.

The switchgear has a bit of a cheap feel that, combined with a clunky operating system (with multiple single button holds to operate), means the Zero isn’t the slick joy to use that I expect from the bike of the future. At this price, wouldn’t a touch-screen have possible?

 

 

Changing riding modes on the go is a simple hold of the mode button, then nudge it to the side to swap. But if you want to do it when you’re standing next to the bike, the side-stand has to be up and the kill switch activated; not the end of the world, but when twisting the throttle will see the bike silently launch itself away, it feels a bit poorly considered.

The Premium model’s heated grips are a nice addition – during my test period is was too warm to find out how effective they are, but setting them is very hard in bright sunlight – while the TFT dash is good and clear in the most part, for some reason the heated grip settings pop up in a very dim, grey panel.

 

The dash is easy to read in daylight, and switches display when charging

 

You can connect your phone via Bluetooth to see the battery life, riding mode and other features, but only when you’re next to the bike and it’s turned on. Fortunately, there’s also a cellular connection option that I wasn’t able to test, but it promises to allow you to see useful information like the state of charge when you’re away from the machine.

Another thing that bugged me with the Zero was the ten second boot-up time from turning the key to the throttle working – we’re seeing slow starts more and more in hi-tech ICE bikes too, but if you miss the days of key on, thumb to start and go, this will frustrate you as well.

Many of the things that make the Zero’s operating system less pleasurable to use could be ironed out with firmware updates, but as it is the overall feel – combined with a strange panel gap on the tank cubby lid, and other areas that don’t look the most premium – leads to a bike that struggles to justify its very premium price tag.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

The gap around the tank cubby lid seems a bit awkward

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle verdict

There are many caveats surrounding the Zero and other electric motorcycles.

Limited demand and relatively specialist production will mean they are going to be expensive; these are early-adopter prices, and to those who wouldn’t benefit from an electric motorcycle (the majority of current UK bikers), it can seem eye-watering for something so lacking in versatility.

But if you’re in the right circumstances (a city rider for instance) and want a useful, cheap-to-run form of transport that’s got the potential to perform at far greater levels than a 125cc petrol bike (albeit for relatively short durations), it can make a lot more sense. If you skipped down here and missed the maths that compares the Zero to a season rail ticket, you won’t believe me. While this is a novelty machine for me in my rural circumstances, were I earning a lot of money and commuting into a city it’d be a very different matter.

 

2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle review

 

Of course, the infrastructure is nowhere near good enough for electric bikes to become mainstream; while you can squeeze a bike around an ICE car selfishly parked in a charging bay, if something’s already plugged in, you’ve had it. Riding an electric bike is – for now – a stressful experience as you hunt for charging points, hoping they’ll be available. And that’s made all the harder by not having one standard of connector, along with various companies all jostling to be number one, unwilling to make their tech more accessible.

Electric bikes are still very much a niche product, but if in less than four years the Zero could completely pay for itself (and less costly models are available), that’s a compelling reason for many city commuters to get on board right now.

Remember – the more people who ride any form of motorcycle, the more car drivers will become used to seeing bikes so the safer we’ll all be. And if these electric bikes can help prove the congestion-busting potential of motorcycling, perhaps some of those in power will get their heads out of their asses and do a little more to support life on two wheels…

 

Three things I loved about the Zero SR/F electric bike…

• Awesome twist-and-go performance

• Very cheap to run

• The silence

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• The purchase price

• Iffy handling when pushed hard

• The silence

 

A day with the Zero SR/F

John finds out how an electric bike performs if you ride it like a petrol-powered machine…

 

2020 Zero SR/F specification

New price

£16,490 (Standard with gov grant), £18,490 as tested (Premium with gov grant)

Motor

Z-Force 75-10 enhanced thermal efficiency, passively air-cooled, interior permanent magnet AC motor

Peak power

110bhp (82kW) @ 5,000rpm (54bhp/40kW sustained)

Torque

140 lb-ft (190Nm) @ all revs

Top speed (sustained)

110mph (claimed to get to around 120mph)

Transmission

Direct drive through belt

Range

98 miles (EU 134/2014 Annex VII)

Battery size

14.4kWh

Tested range

61 miles (hard back-roads and villages), around 80 miles (city and motorway)

Rider aids

ABS and traction control

Frame

Steel trellis

Front suspension

43mm Showa Big Piston Separate Function forks

Front suspension adjustment

Preload, compression and rebound

Rear suspension

Showa single shock with remote reservoir

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload, compression and rebound

Front brake

2x 320mm floating discs, J-Juan radially-mounted four-piston monobloc calipers and radial master-cylinder

Rear brake

240mm disc, J-Juan sliding single-piston caliper

Front tyre

120/70-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III

Rear tyre

180/55/17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso III

Rake/Trail

24.5°/94mm

Dimensions

n/a

Wheelbase

1,450mm

Ground clearance

n/a

Seat height

787mm

Kerb weight

220kg (Standard), 226kg (Premium, as tested)

Warranty

Unlimited miles / 2 years on bike, 5 years on battery

Website

www.zeromotorcycles.com

To insure this bike, click here

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