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Home / Gadgets / How Zero Built the SR / F, Its All-New Electric Motorcycle

How Zero Built the SR / F, Its All-New Electric Motorcycle



"Kickstand is now up," one of the 20 engineers and designers calls out in the design studio. "OK," a few respond in near unison. Half of them are holding their phones in the air, pointing at the half-finished motorcycle that looks like an equestrian statue on a pedestal. Another engineer flips the red switch on the handlebars, then moves his hand on the throttle and twists. Just a touch at first, then properly. With a whine, the rear wheel, suspended in the air, transforms into a blur of black rubber. The room whoops and claps. It's September 2017, and the men and women of Zero Motorcycles have spent a year and a half getting to this point, to finally see their all-new, fully electric bike working on their motor and battery.

After another year and a half of work, the SR / F, Zero's first significant new offering in years, is making its debut and just in time. Zero has become the nascent electric motorcycle market over the past decade, but now bigger players are moving into its territory. Harley-Davidson is taking preorders for its battery-powered LiveWire. Ducati's CEO says "the future is electric."

Zero is the Tesla of the motorcycle world: It's smaller and younger than the established manufacturers, but with more relevant experience. "We're a very old electric vehicle company," says CEO Sam Paschel. "This [new] generation allows us to create a gap again."

Rather than trying to disguise the SR / F as a conventional motorcycle, Zero's design team left the 1

4.4-kWh battery exposed, emphasizing the bike's electric nature. [19659005] Zero Motorcycles

Based on the specs that looks like a chasm. Harley's LiveWire wants to produce 74 horse power and 54 pound-feet of torque, hits 95 mph, and offers a maximum range of 109 miles. Zero's SR / F wallops that, with 110 horse power, 140 pound-feet of torque, a 120 mph top speed, and 161 miles of range. And this bike starts at $ 18,995-about $ 10,000 cheaper than the Harley.

Zero, whose 200 employees are all based in the woodsy Scotts Valley, just inland of Santa Cruz, California, started official work on the SR / F three years ago. According to engineer Matt Bentley, though, the team has been thinking about it for more than five years.

From the start, staffers in the design studio, with a floor speckled with bits of modeling clay, wanted to emphasize the electric setup that makes the streetfighter-style SR / F whir. Sure, they could have come up with the battery to resemble an engine for a more conventional look. But Bentley says, in a not entirely joking dramatic tone, "We would not commit this crime." it makes up the bulk of the bike's visible mass. It's the same size, 14.4 kilowatt-hours, as those on Zero's other bikes, but with a new and more efficient design.

The SR / F is the product of three years of work, and more than a few design tweaks.

Zero Motorcycles

If you want more power, you can pay extra for an additional "power tank" that bumps range by 25 percent. Paschel expects more buyers to go for the optional extra-fast charging solution. That, combined with the 6-kilowatt system that comes with the premium version of the bike, lets you charge the battery from 0 to 95 percent in an hour.

The air-cooled, copper-colored engine, which is bigger and generates more torque than its predecessor, sits under the battery. It and everything else on the bike are controlled by the latest iteration of Zero's software, which calls Cypher III. Like most electric bikes and modern cars, it offers different ride modes that adjust the rate of acceleration and traction control. Here, you get Sports (pretty much full power), Street (75 percent of that), Rain (which cuts the torque in half), and Custom (whatever you like).

And because it's 2019, that software will allow for over-the-air updates, as Zero continues to improve. Because electric vehicles do not need transmissions, zero riders do not have to worry about grabbing a clutch or flicking their left foot up and down to change gears. That makes for an easier experience, says Brian Wismann, Zero's head of product. While old-school riders may pooh-pooh the lack of skill, Wisman says more riders can get more out of this bike. "They just have to know how to do this," he says, miming the twist of a throttle.

With the design set.

With the design set Zero's test team took prototypes to Death Valley for some hot weather testing-this rider's backpack is jammed with sensors tracking the bike's performance.

Zero Motorcycles

The 485-pound SR / F gets headlights and brake lights, along with a center screen. Since riders wear gloves anyway, the team skipped a touch screen and focused on making the thing visible in direct sunlight and hardy enough to withstand the elements. Thinking ahead to production, the team designed a wiring harness that's easier to install. In the factory-adjoining Zero's design and office space-the production team is tracked down to take them to build each part of the bike. They subject every battery to produce a brutal hosing, making sure they do not suffer when the rain starts falling. Death Valley, where the air was so hot the team had to go to them.

Zero back ahead of the electric motorcycle market, but Paschel does not expect to stop anytime soon. The core of the SR / F wants to be the next generation ground-up redesign.

Of course, not everything on the SR / F is new; the bike shares some key components with Zero's existing products. Those would be the pegs, turn signals, and mirrors. Some classics are better left alone. Everything else, though, is up for grabs.


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