Why do electric motorcycles have to look like gas motorcycles? For EV motorcycle mainstay Zero, the answer has always been market acceptance. This is the company that has sold more electric motorcycles than any other, so who am I to argue with them? With the FXE, however, Zero is dipping a toe into the electric aesthetic pool, and among other mixed metaphors, it’s a fucking home run.
(Full Disclosure: Zero invited me to its home stomping grounds in Santa Cruz, Calif. to ride its new FXE electric supermoto. I paid for my own travel, driving to the event in my new-to-me Ambulance. Zero put me up in a nice hotel and fed me nice food.)
Introduced a few years ago as a concept for The One Moto Show in Portland, Zero worked with Huge Design SF to create the Zero SM. It was an instant smash success. It got everyone talking about design and how electric bikes can look like pretty much whatever we want them to look like. As CEO Sam Paschel said in a presentation before unveiling the new SM-aping FXE production bike, “This was supposed to be the future. Where is my jetpack?” The FXE isn’t a jetpack, but it’s definitely the future.
A lot of the FXE is pulled directly from the company’s existing FXS model, and that’s not by accident. The brand’s current supermoto, the 7.2 FXS, will be discontinued in favor of the FXE for public consumption. The modular 3.6 kWh model will still be available, but only for fleet and municipal sales. The offroad FX will continue with the new TFT screen from the FXE. Got it? Good.
The Z-Force 75-5 motor and 7.2 kWh battery stack combine to make the FXE the most efficient motorcycle Zero has ever built. It’ll still have the same specs as the outgoing FXS, which means 100 miles of city range, 46 horsepower/78 lb-ft, and a top speed of 85 miles per hour. The motor is still a passively air-cooled permanent magnet brushless unit, and continues on with the company’s relatively new Cypher II operating system. According to Zero, the typical cost to charge this bike from flat on 110v home plug is 81 cents.
So yeah, it’s basically the running gear and chassis of an FXS but with a much nicer dash, more upright ergonomics, and futuristic good looks. The price has increased slightly from the $11,295 it would cost to buy a 7.2 kWh FXS to $11,795 for the FXE. I’d say it’s worth that.
Charging is typically complicated Zero fare, as the standard bike only comes with a 110v onboard charger, and you have to purchase an optional rapid charger to make it fill up faster. Charging on 110v from 0-100 percent takes almost ten hours, but the accessory rapid charger will get it there in 4.1 hours. You can plug in multiple accessory chargers to get that speed down to 1.8 hours, but considering those chargers are $600, I’m not sure it’s worth it.
This bike makes a lot of sense for a suburban or urban rider who has a secure place to plug in and charge overnight. You’re never really going to run this bike down to zero in a single day, and if you plug in overnight, you’ll always come out in the morning to a full battery, even without the upgraded charger. Would this bike be better with a level 2 J1772 onboard charger port? Absolutely. Charging on the road is pretty much a non-starter.
You don’t necessarily need to be a seasoned rider to get on one of these and go for a rip. With tall and soft suspension, there is a lot of forgiveness in this bike, and it’s reasonably comfortable to ride around town all day. It soaks up bumps pretty well, and being so light it is so easy to muscle around. There is enough power to get into trouble, but only if you’re really being a hooligan.
Despite them being totally different experiences, I could see someone cross-shopping this with that new electric BMW scooter, because they are both aesthetic as heck, they cost the same money, and they serve similar purposes as around-town bops, rather than long-haulers. Given the choice between the two, I’d have the FXE without a doubt.
It was a beautiful and slightly chilly day in Santa Cruz. We’d waited until after lunch to get on the bikes, because the fog and cold were hanging around a little longer than expected, but once it cleared out the roads were dry and the sky was blue and beautiful. To keep things under wraps, we rode over to the campus of UC Santa Cruz on current production Zero SR/S and SR/F motorcycles, far from the prying eyes of the public. When the handlers took the wraps off of the FXE, I nearly shouted with joy. It’s just so pretty! I loved the SM when I saw it in Portland two years ago, and I love the production-spec FXE based on that design now.
It always takes a few minutes to get used to riding a supermoto, what with its tall suspension and sticky tires. At just 298 pounds, the rider is a good percentage of the overall weight of the moving mass, especially a rider as big as this Shrek-shaped lumbering oaf. That means a lot of dive under braking, a lot of rock back on acceleration, and a lot of lean in the corners. It’s a very involved ride, despite the lack of clutch and shift action. You really have to be up on the handlebars, and you have to move your weight around to get the most out of the bike. If you do, it pays you back dividends.
This is a plucky and tossable machine that begs you to work with it for maximum speed. It builds power and torque so quickly that it’s unfair to call this a momentum bike, but you internalize the need to carry speed through the corners for the sake of efficiency. Of course the power delivery is addictive, and you find yourself gripping and ripping the accelerator (it’s not a throttle) to get that shove. Every stop sign or light is another opportunity to get a launch just right and zing away from a stop with the real quickness.
This isn’t a super sport bike, in spite of the electric torque’s acceleration away from a stop. With that in mind, pretty much all of the specs for the FXE are adequate. The braking and cornering are totally acceptable levels for the money, but there’s not much new here to write home about. For banging potholes and jumping curbs and general city-based hooliganry, the FXE is pretty perfect for the task it is built to manage.
Man, this bike looks good.
Over the course of a few hours in the saddle I found myself staying pretty comfortable. The concept bike’s seat was basically a flat line, but obviously Zero had to add a little dish to it for actual human butts to sit on, and they did a good job of that.
I was hard on the throttle a lot during the ride, so we definitely didn’t get anything close to real-world range from the battery. I’d really love an opportunity to range test one of these around the city, and maybe that will be possible soon. In the meantime we’ll just have to trust Zero’s quoted ranges. Nobody really does 100 city miles in a day anyway, so there’s plenty of range for what this bike needs to accomplish.
Did I mention how great it looks?
The new TFT screen is gorgeous. It’s so simple to read and easy to understand at a glance that I barely noticed it was even there. That’s a good thing on two wheels.
IT LOOKS SO GOOD!
This seems like a lot of bike for the money, and I’m seriously considering picking one up as part of a two or three bike stable. It’s probably not going to be your only bike, especially if you like to go long distances, like some of you claim, but it’s worth looking at.
A-plus grade for simplicity and fun.
One huge gripe for this bike is the low-slung kickstand. In left hand corners the kickstand is the first thing to hit the ground when you lean over. Not only is it startling, it’s hard-mounted part and actually takes some weight off of the rear tire when it slams down. If you’re really wrenched over digging into the corner, it could cause an issue. I don’t know what other options there are for placement or length, but this one is a big L. See below.
For as futuristic looking as the FXE is, it probably should have gone keyless. One of the great things about electric is how fuss-free the startup process is. If you can just hop on with the key in your jacket pocket, flip a switch, and ride away, that’s a huge bonus. Harley does this with the LiveWire, and it’s honestly great. This isn’t a major gripe, I know, but is the future still going to be fiddling with a key when you’ve already put your gloves on?
As with everything on the market these days, the rear wheel fender looks bad, but is necessary to meet road regulations. Similarly the turn signals are a bit wonk. Thankfully Zero offers aftermarket solutions to both of those problems, so for just a bit more money, it’ll look even better with factory fitment. Flush-mount LED signals and a tail tidy kit will give this bike the Tomorrowland pop it really deserves.
I was hoping for a little more than a dressed-up FXS, but given that the FXS is already a great bike and the new TFT screen is well worth the $500 upgrade, I’m confident the FXE will be a hit from the get go. Zero is really making some good moves here right now.