Zero motorcycles announces improved 2016 models

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2016 Zero Motorcycles lineup: The FXS supermotard, with the SR and S streetbikes, the DSR dual-sport and the FX dirtbike.(Credit: Zero Motorcycles)

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California-based Zero Motorcycles has unveiled its 2016 model lineup in preparation for the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, Florida. If you were hoping to see a long-range Zero electric motorcycle with an aerodynamic fairing, 2016 is not your year. Instead, there’s an all-new motor and increased battery efficiency to improve range and battery capacities across the board, triple-speed charging with the new Charge Tank accessory, and a couple of new models to add to the family.

New Z-force motor for 2016

For 2016, most of the Zero range gets an upgraded motor that operates at slightly increased efficiency and handles heat better than the old units. If you rode the 2015 models hard for a long time on a hot day, you could overheat them and trip a thermal management mode that would cut your power back to save the engine and battery from thermal damage. The new motor promises to give you full performance for longer.

The new motor appears on the S, DS and SR as well as the new DSR and FXS bikes. It won’t be fitted to 2016 FX models.

Improved batteries

Zero invests a lot of time and expertise into its high-density battery system. Across the range, Zero’s 2016 batteries pack in a bit more power, both for the big "monolith" boxes used on the S-series bikes and the modular removable batteries of the FX line.

Improved battery chemistry has boosted the monolith batteries’ capacity by around 4 percent, taking the largest pack from 12.5 to 13 kWh and boosting the S bikes’ city range from 185 to 197 miles (298 to 314 km) if you have a Power Tank installed.

Improvements are more dramatic on the FX series bikes, which get a 14 percent boost in capacity. A fully loaded FX with two battery modules now gets some 82 city miles (132 km), where the old bike got 70 (113 km).

Triple-speed charging with the Charge Tank accessor

If quicker charging is your priority, you can install the US$1,988 Charge Tank accessory, which works with all 2016 S, DS, SR and DSR bikes, as well as their 2015 counterparts.

The Charge Tank enables you to hook into a public J1772 spec charger to power your bike up some three times faster than on a regular outlet. It’s still not gasoline levels of touring convenience, with a full Level 2 charge on the large 13 kWh monolith battery still taking three hours. But an hour on the charger will now get you up to 53 miles (85 km) of riding, and the vast majority of charging will still be done at home, for next to nothing.

There are thousands of J1772-spec chargers in the United States, and committed electro-tourers can continue to beef up their onboard charging systems with third-party gear from companies like Hollywood Electrics to bring charge times down even further.

The new 2016 Zero DSR

New for 2016 is the DSR, effectively the DS dual-sport bike with the beefed-up 70-hp (52-kW), 106 ft-lb (144-Nm) powertrain from the awesome Zero SR. That’s some 25 percent more horsepower and a whopping 50 percent increase in torque from the DS. Range and battery capacities are the same for the DS and DSR bikes, although it stands to reason that in real-world conditions where you tap into that extra torque, you’re probably going to drain the battery quicker on the R model.

As a big boofer of a rider, I preferred the roomier DS to the S bike – even if the wider handlebar did make me a bit more of a wind sock – so it’s nice to see the DS body get Zero’s best powertrain. I’m sure it’ll be great fun, although that SR powertrain packs a lot of punch. You’ll want to know what you’re doing before yanking that throttle on a loose surface.

The new 2016 Zero FXS

When I rode the FX dirtbike at last year’s model line launch, it was clearly the liveliest and most fun bike in the Zero stable. The 44 horsepower (33 kW), 70 ft-lb (95 Nm) of torque and a curb weight of just 289 lb (131 kg) makes it a wheelie-happy trail monster for off-road kicks and the odd commute.

In 2016, it’ll be joined by the FXS, effectively the same bike but in supermoto form. Pirelli Diablo Rosso tires, 17-inch wheels and firmer, shorter-travel suspension are the main changes, but in anticipation of the FXS being ridden flat-out more of the time, it also gets the new Z-force motor with its improved heat management capabilities.

Even if there’s no power or torque improvements for 2016, one of these things on a go-kart or supermoto track would be a hoot!

2016 model pricing

Zero cut the prices of its 2015 range back in May to reflect the falling cost of batteries, which are by far the most expensive component on an electric vehicle at the moment. In a nice move, the company also looked after customers who’d bought a 2015 bike before the price drop by giving them nearly $1,000 worth of accessories.

Those prices more or less hold for 2016, despite the latest models packing in more power – and if you’re interested in an S or DS bike with the smaller 9.8 kWh battery pack, you can actually pick it up a thousand dollars cheaper than the 2015 9.4 kWh bikes.

2016 Zero S or DS, with the 9.8kWh battery pack: $10,995

2016 Zero S or DS, with the 13kWh battery pack: $13,995

2016 Zero SR or DSR, with the 13kWh battery pack: $15,995

2016 Zero FX or FXS, with the 3.3 kWh battery module: $8,495

2016 Zero FX or FXS, with the 6.5 kWh battery module: $10,990

Charge tanks for the S-series bikes cost $1,988, and power tank additional batteries cost $2,674.

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