Zero Motorcycles giveth with battery boost, taketh away with paid upgrades
Zero's SR/F and SR/S electric motorcycle lineup gets a sneaky boost in battery capacity for 2022, as well as a new, cheaper SR. But the news isn't all good – some of the bikes' features will be locked behind a new pay-to-upgrade system.
Where the SR/F and S launched with 14.4 kWh batteries, they are now available in two flavors, 14.4+ and 15.6+ kWh, thanks to what Zero describes as "a new Automotive OE driven cell chemistry and form factor, as well as a complete redesign of the battery enclosure, thermal management system, battery management system, and bussing."
This means the top models, with Power Tank accessories on board, now hold up to 21 kWh, enabling impressive range figures of 227 miles (365 km) around town, or 113 miles (182 km) at a steady 70 mph on the highway. You'll get more out of the latest top-shelf Energica bikes out of Italy, but you'll pay dearly for the privilege.
What do those plus signs on the energy storage mean? Well... The 14.4+ and 15.6+ batteries appear to actually be the same pack, which actually holds closer to 17.3 kWh. The difference is locked off by software, and lucky buyers can unlock it thanks to new paid performance upgrades which will go live in 2022.
You'll be able to buy upgrades either through your phone app or through the bike's connected Cypher III+ dash OS, and they're nothing to sniff at. If you're rolling with a 2022 Zero SR/S, standard edition, you'll be able to:
- Upgrade charging speed by 17% for US$295
- Double your charging speed for US$1,495
- Unlock 10% more battery capacity, with a further 10% available when you tell the bike to do an "extended range charge" for US$2,195
- Unlock on-dash navigation for US$195
- Unlock "parking mode" complete with reverse crawl for US$195
- Unlock heated grips for US$195
A new-for-2022 SR model takes the concept even further. Essentially at its core it's more or less a base-model SR/F with even harsher software restrictions on it. The same motor is held to 122 lb-ft of torque instead of 140, 74 horsepower instead of 110, 104 mph (167 km/h) top speed instead of 124 mph (200 km/h), and the Bosch Advanced Motorcycle Stability Control system loses its lean angle-sensitive smarts. You can go to a dealer and have these all restored for US$1,795.
This new, neutered SR is available for US$17,995, a grand less than the SR/F at launch in 2019, while the "Standard" SR/F bumps up a little to US$19.495 and the Premium is US$21,495. The faired SR/S adds another US$500 to these prices.
The benefits of this approach to Zero are fairly clear; production can be much more standardized across this lineup of bikes, which keeps things simpler in the factory. Cheaper bikes will roll around with the potential to bring in thousands of dollars in upgrade sales, and Zero can muck about with fun things like making your bike suddenly go further on the second Thursday of the month to give you a taste of what's behind that paywall.
From a customer point of view... Well, in one sense it's kinda cool the idea that you can suddenly and easily give your bike a 50% performance boost or a 20% range upgrade down the track if you're feeling flush. Turning on heated handgrips or sat nav through an app is a ton easier than breaking the spanners out and wiring things in by yourself.
In another sense, coming from a place beyond logic and rationality, there's something deeply offensive about the idea that you own a 110 horsepower bike with a lean angle-sensitive stability system in it, and you have to carry it around, but you get 74 horsepower and a dumbed-down ABS and traction control system until you pay more. The idea of doing this kind of thing with safety systems, in particular, beggars belief.
But you'll have your own opinions on this, so I needn't harp on – this is certainly not unprecedented in the auto world, and the market will decide what is and isn't acceptable.
The upgraded batteries, Zero tells us, are backwards-compatible with SR/F and SR/S bikes from 2020 onwards, and rated for somewhere between 100,000-250,000 miles before they drop below 80% of their original capacity.
Meet the 2022 SR in the short video below, complete with a narrator whose voice is so silky and comforting that I was sleeping peacefully by 15 seconds in – only to be brutally awoken by an aggressively loud ad for manscaping products. Such is modern life.
Source: Zero Motorcycles