Brought to you by:

2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Review | Electric Stealth Fighter

2016 Zero FXS Review | Supermoto/Superfun

2016 Zero FXS Review - StoppieIt’s impossible for me to curb my enthusiasm, so I’m going to blurt it out—I’m totally smitten by the new 2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 electric motorcycle! I have been riding and testing electric bikes for nearly a decade and, with advancements in battery and powertrain technologies, the selling point of the electric motorcycle has completely shifted from eco-enthusiast early adopters to certified fun-hogs who value performance first. Don’t get me wrong; I want to preserve the environment and our natural resources as much as the next guy, but I also want to have a thrilling time doing it.

Within two minutes of the Zero FXS being delivered, I was howling “woo-hoo” as I zipped through my suburban neighborhood, quickly realizing that in the absence of any engine noise, my voice was amplified! A quick glance in the rear view mirrors confirmed the obvious gawking and turning of heads from everyone I passed.

As Tesla launches its Model 3 to democratize the electric automobile experience, I can’t help but think that Zero Motorcycles has beaten them to the punch with regard to the electric motorcycling experience. So what has changed?

[Read 2017 Motorcycle Previews]

Most importantly, the new FXS is a supermoto bike designed for spirited riding and carving through turns. That is convenient, as that’s the perfect use-case for an electric motorcycle—the instantaneous torque pulls hard from corner to corner, and the heavy braking assists in power regeneration.

Also, the power-to-weight ratio is impressive. At a claimed curb weight of 293 pounds, the air-cooled ZF6.5 motor puts out 70 foot-pounds of torque, plus 44 horsepower at 3700 rpm. This combination makes for a stealthy streetfighter that is a blast to ride.

2016 Zero FXS Review - Electric BikeThe 2016 Zero FXS has a unique future-forward aesthetic, with its diminutive fly screen and bulbous robotic-looking headlamps suggesting that this motorcycle may have intergalactic origins. However, the small American flag emblazoned on the rear fender is a subtle reminder that its pedigree is forged from a group of tech-savvy motoheads toiling away in Northern California’s Scotts Valley.

The cockpit is very open. With high-bend tapered handlebars towering above a long flat seat, there is plenty of grip and room for negotiating weight transfer to the front wheel for tight cornering or other activities that we euphemistically refer to as the Hooligan Olympiad. The digital display is backlit in an ice cobalt blue that references the coloring of the FXS logo and the anodized blue bits on the front suspension. It can be configured to display various pieces of information, including torque and
power regeneration.

In this day and age, many of our relationships are complemented digitally through social media apps, and the 2016 Zero FXS is no exception. A quick Bluetooth pairing exercise allows smartphone connectivity to foster a digital link with
the motorcycle.

2016 Zero FXS Review - AppZero’s app developers have generated a tool that not only allows for creating a custom drive and power delivery setup, but also tracks historical statistics such as total kilowatt/hours used and cost per mile. For the socially conscious, it keeps track of money saved and total CO2 reduced versus riding a similar bike with an internal combustion engine. If you have a mounting system, your smartphone can be transformed into a customizable real-time dashboard—very cool, and a must-have for the Millennials.

All electric, oil-free, and belt-driven, the Zero FXS is completely plug-and-play. There’s no need to warm up an engine and annoy your neighbors before taking off for the office in the early morning. Throw a leg over the seat, turn the key, and immediately go from zero-to-60 in less than four seconds.

I admit it felt a little odd to be creating so much force and acceleration with the only audible reminder being the high-tech whoosh reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s X-34 landspeeder, though once acclimatized, it almost becomes necessary and truly addicting.

Beyond the lack of noise, the second impression is one of speed, because the 2016 Zero FXS accelerates like no other bike of its size. I even had the opportunity at a stoplight to compare it with a Yamaha R1, and it was no contest for the first 150 feet. Although the experience of my opponent was questionable, it felt really good!

The J-Juan braking components provide suitable stopping power and feel, but when initiating the Bosch-powered ABS, modulation is not as rapid as expected, and there is quite a delay before the system restores sovereignty to the rider.

2016 Zero FXS Review - DashFortunately, ABS is defeatable when traction is abundant, though it requires a routine that involves having the kickstand down, the electric motor switched off, and holding the Adjust and Mode buttons simultaneously. A lawyer is responsible for this sequence, doubtlessly. Once the ABS is switched off, the Zero’s electronics will retain the setting as long as the ignition key is not switched off—again, attorneys at work.

With the ABS switched off, stopping distance in the dry is reduced, though the other byproduct is that you can unleash your inner hooligan with a flurry of stoppies and pitching the rear wheel.

Lacking a clutch, wheelies require a deft throttle timing and front suspension loading; once the front wheel is aloft, you cannot cut the torque without cutting the throttle, which could slam the bike down on the front wheel. Suffice to say, there are better motorcycles for wheelstand aficionados.

This kind of stealth and performance means any open parking lot or neighborhood cul-de-sac can instantly be transformed into a supermoto playground. The massively reduced risk of annoying anyone translates into more ride and practice time to fast-track skill building.

There is a standard Eco mode that is plenty of fun and conserves battery life and improves range for commuting. The Sport mode is for spirited riding where maximum acceleration is required for maximum fun-factor.

Most importantly, there is a Custom setting that can be configured via the smartphone app and selectable via the handlebar switchgear. My favorite setting maxed out speed and torque, as well as regenerative braking. It’s perfect for the canyons, as you are either hard on the throttle or hard on the brakes.

As you would expect, the twisties are where the 2016 Zero FXS really shines. The powerful grip of the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires and a 17-inch front wheel means steering is precise; shifting your weight forward increases turn-in bite and helps to maintain consistent lean angle, preventing the super-agile bike from drifting wide.

2016 Zero FXS Review - For SaleBe careful, however, to keep the rear wheel on the ground. The Poly Chain GT Carbon drive belt is the weak link in the drive train. Should the rear wheel lift and touch back down with the power on, there is a good chance it will snap—keep a spare handy.

Beyond the parking lots and canyon carving antics, the Zero FXS is an excellent commuter, and always ready for quick fun on your lunch break. In fact, I can silently pull up on the sidewalk and talk to friends eating outside at a restaurant—it’s not a big deal. Plus, I can park and ride nearly everywhere. Try that on your Ducati Monster with sport-tuned Termignoni exhausts!

When riding in urban areas, it is always a necessity to assume that you are invisible. With the FXS, you have to add inaudible to the mix. Fortunately, without the distraction of the noise of your bike, it is easier to focus on your surroundings and ride safely.

We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss range, and the FXS is not a class leader in that regard. If you are going to ride hard, don’t count on getting more than 30 miles when blitzing the Santa Monica Mountains and hitting the top speed of 82 mph. Recharge time from empty to full capacity is just under nine hours in standard mode—an optional fast charger will juice it up to 95-percent of full (from full discharge) in just over an hour.

Zero claims a 90-mile range in the city for the FXS ZF6.5, though that is with a light hand in the Eco mode, something I couldn’t quite find the time to test. I was having too much fun exploiting the Custom mode and wringing the FXS out for all it’s worth. And, when it comes to creating smiles, the new Zero FXS ZF6.5 is priceless.

Photography by Don Williams

Riding Style

2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Specs

ENGINE

  • Motor: Z-Force 75-5 high efficiency, radial flux, internal permanent magnet, brushless motor
  • Controller: High efficiency, 420 amp, 3-phase brushless controller w/ regenerative deceleration
  • Cooling: Passive air-cooling
  • Max. power: 44 horsepower @ 3700 rpm
  • Max torque: 70 ft/lbs
  • Top speed peak/sustained: 82/75 mph
  • 0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
  • Range City/Highway 55 mph/70 mph: 90/54/37 miles
  • Transmission: Clutchless direct drive
  • Final drive: Ploy Chain GT Carbon belt

ELECTRONICS

  • Power pack: Z-Force LiIon intelligent modular
  • Max. capacity: 6.5 kWh
  • Nominal capacity: 5.7 kWh
  • Charger type: Integrated 650 watts
  • Input: 110 or 220 volts
  • Standard charge time: 0-100%, 8.9 hours
  • One accessory charger charge time: 0-100%, 3.8 hours
  • Max. accessory charger charge time: 0-100%, 1.7 hours
  • Typical recharge cost: 73¢

CHASSIS

  • Front suspension: Fully adjustable Showa 41mm inverted cartridge forks/7.0 inches of travel
  • Rear suspension: Fully adjustable Showa 40mm piston piggyback reservoir shock/8.9 inches of travel
  • Front tire: 110/70-17; Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
  • Rear tire: 140/70-17; Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
  • Front brake: 240mm disc w/ J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper
  • Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ J-Juan single piston floating caliper
  • ABS: Standard

DIMENSIONS

  • Wheelbase: 56.0 inches
  • Rake: 24.4 degrees
  • Trail 2.8 inches
  • Seat height: 32.9 inches

2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Color:

  • Black

2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Price:

  • $10,990 MSRP (tax incentives may be available)
  • Quick-charge price: $600

2016 Zero FXS Gallery

Save

Tags from the story
,
More from Jess McKinley

2012 Yamaha Super Tenere | Review

2012 Super TénéréUltimate MotorCycling has gotten a first-ride on the 2012 (yes,...
Read More
  • John Mey

    I’m 6’4″ 235lbs and I’ve never seen less than 34 miles on my FX. My wife gets closer to 60 miles a charge on her FXS and she’s routinely racing from one light to the next.

    • As we say, don’t count on getting more than 30 miles per charge. You may get more, but if you’re heavy, heavy-handed on the throttle, and/or ride in hilly areas, then range is going to seriously suffer.