Following on from last week's fascinating Zero factory tour, this week it's time to ride the Zero electric motorcycle fleet, starting with the smallest, lightest, least powerful, cheapest and lowest range bike in the 2015 lineup – the FX. But don't let the specs fool you – this little fella packs quite a punch. In fact it's probably even more fun around town than the mighty Zero SR that blew our minds last year.
After a fascinating tour of Zero's factory floor and a very patient technology briefing from Zero's CTO Abe Askenazi, my head was spinning. My first-year physics class was the furthest I ever got with ohms, kilowatts and amps, and that was back when Michael Jordan was stacking up his second three-peat with the Bulls.
But nothing clears the head like a good ride, and for a quick blast across to the cliffs of Santa Cruz for a photoshoot, I jumped on the 2015 Zero FX.
The FX harks back to Zero's roots. The company started out exclusively making electric dirtbikes until the S streetbike appeared in 2009. For 2015, the FX is as "dirty" as Zero gets, barring the military MMX platform.
It's hard to say what the FX compares to in the internal combustion world, but you're looking at a maximum output of 44 horsepower (33 kW) and 70 lb-ft-lb (95 Nm) of torque in a bike that weighs 131 kg (289 lb) with its maximum two battery packs in it. That's about the same peak power as a KTM 525 EXC, but with twice the torque and about 10 kg (22 lb) of extra weight.
It doesn't quite go like the 525, though, because while the Kato has a six-speed transmission and clutch, the Zero is a single speed direct drive so it's effectively permanently locked somewhere around fourth gear. Which kind of makes it all the more impressive when you discover there's still more than enough torque to pop a wheelie, even without a clutch to assist you.
The FX is the only Zero that uses removable battery modules. You swing open a lockable battery gate, and can then use either one or two 2.8 kWh modules. This makes them handy fleet bikes, as you can keep a number of spares charging off the bike and swap them in as needed, with Zero's clever battery management systems able to deal with two batteries at different states of charge, or different temperatures.
Range is limited – this is not your long-range Zero bike. But it's still good for about 70 miles (112 km) around town, or 30 miles (48 km) of 70 mph (112 km/h) freeway riding, with two battery modules in it, making it an awesome short-range commuter. I gave it merry hell from Scotts Valley down to the beach at Santa Cruz, and one of the other lads rode it back after zipping back and forth up the clifftop twisties for photos, and battery range wasn't an issue.
Its light weight and wheel-lifting torque make the FX the naughtiest of all the Zero bikes. I kind of wished I could see what it could do with a lower gear or two, as it'd be an absolute weapon with a clutch and transmission. But adding those would add a stack of weight and cost, as well as the kind of mechanical complexity Zero is deliberately avoiding as part of its "sophisticated simplicity" philosophy. And it's still a zippy little beast.
With a single battery pack, you can get the FX for US$9,845, making it far and away the cheapest thing in the Zero range. Add an extra battery and you're up for US$12,340, and the modular nature of the FX batteries makes this an easy upgrade down the track.
It's a brilliantly fun little bike with an attitude, and a very different ride to its bigger brothers. Enjoy our review video of the entire 2015 Zero fleet below and don't forget to check out our Zero factory tour and battery technology piece, or read ride reports for the 2015 Zero S, 2015 Zero DS or 2015 Zero SR.
More information: Zero Motorcycles