ZERO FXE (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Styled by California tech guru
  • Lightweight, flickable handling
  • 78lbft of torque on tap

At a glance

Power: 46 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.9 in / 836 mm)
Weight: Low (298 lbs / 135 kg)

Prices

New £12,300
Used £9,800

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Zero has replaced its popular FXS supermoto model with the completely restyled 2021 FXE. The new bike was designed as a collaboration between Zero’s in-house engineering team and Bill Webb of Huge Design—a San Francisco industrial design studio that usually works with Silicon Valley tech giants.

The FXE carries over the much-loved FXS chassis, battery, and motor, making it one of the lightest proper EV bikes at a claimed 135kg. Top speed is limited to 85mph in the interest of battery life, but with 46bhp and 78lbft of torque, there’s great fun on tap. Our test was limited to about an hour on the new bike—which is about all the time it takes to drain its battery if you’re riding aggressively.

Traveling at motorway speeds drains the smallish battery even faster than getting on and off the throttle, but motorways aren’t the FXE’s natural habitat anyway—it’s better suited to technical B-roads and city streets where it’s a fast, flickable Urban Assault Vehicle that, thanks to near-silent running, will almost certainly attract less unwanted attention.

The FXE begs comparison to small-but-sporty ICE bikes such as the KTM 390 Duke. The Zero’s seat is a bit taller at nearly 33 inches, but the bike’s incredibly narrow so it feels lower than it really is.

The FXE is longer but lighter; the KTM’s set up with significantly more trail. Both love corners; the twistier and tighter the better, but any similarities to small ICE motorcycle vanish the moment you feel the 78 lb-ft of torque available with the twist of your wrist.

For most riders, it will prove to be the fastest way around a typical supermoto or go kart track.

Riding the 2021 Zero FXE on a twisty road

Unlike ICE motorcycles, EVs get better mileage in stop-and-go traffic. Zero claims that ridden conservatively in urban settings - presumably in the pre-set 'Eco' mode - the FXE should last 100 miles on a full charge. But riding it conservatively is hard, because the torque on tap in Sport mode is hard to resist!

So, who’s it for? Basically, the FXE makes a terrific urban or suburban commuter as long your commute doesn’t exceed 50 miles round-trip or require sustained high speeds. It’s also a fantastic play-bike for anyone who lives within a few miles of interesting B-roads, or who’ll transport it to a supermoto or go kart track. Last but not least, its twist-and-go ease of use belies the fact that in many settings, it’s the quickest motorcycle you can ride on an A2 licence.

Zero hopes that the new look created by Huge Design will attract new customers. Some Millennial and Gen-Z consumers do want an alternative to burning petrol, but the key to capturing casual riders may be giving them a chance to experience the FXE’s unique combination of power, fun, and approachability. Only its premium price will hold it back.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The most entertaining part of our short first ride was a technical and winding ten mile run up and down Empire Grade, a winding two-lane road that climbs from Santa Cruz up into the coastal mountains.

The FXE’s predecessor, the FXS, was a proven platform so it’s no surprise the FXE already has well developed road manners. The 41mm Showa fork and remote reservoir Showa shock are adjustable for spring preload, and compression & rebound damping. On stock settings, they offer plush high-speed bump absorption suggesting that the FXE would easily handle broken city asphalt. There was just enough pitch under braking to set up for turns.

The brakes are manufactured by J Juan in Barcelona. Up front, a twin-piston floating caliper grabs a single 320mm disc that’s mounted directly to the front wheel; there’s no carrier. At the back, there’s a single-piston floating caliper on a 240mm disc. On the spec sheet, this could seem almost quaint, but a sub-140kg, sub-85mph motorcycle doesn’t require any more. And, thanks to braided steel lines the feel and initial bite of the front brake is good. The ABS system is Bosch Gen 9.

Front brake set up on the Zero FXE

The tyres are Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIs, with a 140 rear section and a 110 front. That smallish rear tyre, light forged wheels, and light overall weight give the FXE near-psychic turn-in. The steering geometry (56" wheelbase, 24.4° rake, 71mm trail) is about typical for a small supermoto bike, but the amount of torque isn’t, so accelerating hard out of slow corners can occasionally inspire a waggle in the handlebar.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The FXE’s Z-Force 75-5 motor is proprietary to Zero. It’s an interior permanent magnet, brushless motor rated at 34 kW—just under the A2 limit and the equivalent of about 46 horsepower in old money. The motor is passively air cooled, so while the FXE is capable of reaching 85mph, heat build-up may eventually cause power output to fall off. Zero claims a peak sustained speed of 75mph.

The motor’s character is determined by one key figure: 78lbft of torque. As with all EVs, that torque’s available at any motor speed, so throttle response is a key to rideability. 

A close up of the 2021 Zero FXE motor and battery set-up

In the FXE’s case, that response is controlled by Zero’s Cypher II operating system, which meters out up to 550 amps of power. Zero’s tested and developed its tech stack for years, and it shows any time you accelerate while leaned over, with smooth and predictable power that emphasizes the composed chassis and maximizes the grip available from the 140-section rear tire.

The system has pre-set Eco and Sport ride modes, and a Custom mode that can be programmed via the Zero smartphone app. We didn’t get the chance to try Custom, but would have liked the opportunity to dial up maximum 'regen', both for additional engine braking on corner entry and because with a relatively small battery, using the motor as a generator when you slow down makes sense (and watts!)

Some earlier versions of the FXS were sold with smaller, swappable batteries. But the new FXE is only available with an integral 7.2 kWh Li-ion battery. Although it has a J1772 socket common to many EVs, the built-in charger can’t take advantage of typical fast-charging infrastructure. The FXE won’t charge any faster at a commercial EV charging station than it will when plugged into household power; a full charge takes nearly 10 hours either way. Zero offers an accessory Quick Charger that cuts charge times by about half.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Zero sources components from all over the world. The FXE’s frame, for example, is made in Taiwan. But the final assembly takes place in California. The overall impression is that of a premium product, with nice touches like rugged footpegs, an adjustable brake lever, and a generally high level of fit-and-finish although the welding visible around the headstock is not up to the aesthetic standard set by the rest of the machine.

As with many modern ICE bikes, a big part of the user experience has to do with the ease of selecting and customising ride modes and usefulness of the digital dash display. Zero does better than average in this regard; the dash was bright and useful without information overload. Since it’s closely based on the proven FXS platform, reliability should be excellent.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The FXE costs £12,300. That’s considerably more than most premium-brand small ICE nakeds or supermotos, and more than some small EV motorcycles intended for urban commuting.

Of course, EVs begin to claw back some of that cost differential when running costs are concerned. At current UK rates, recharging the FXE’s 7.2 kWh battery costs about £1.40—so you’ll cover from 50 to 100 miles (depending on how you ride) for little more than the cost of one litre of petrol. There’s almost no maintenance required on the FXE, since it’s got a belt drive it won’t even need the occasional chain adjustment. The FXE comes with a two-year warranty, with five-year coverage for the battery.

The closest ICE rival to the Zero FXE is the KTM 390 Duke

That noted, a KTM 390 Duke is certainly a lighter financial lift to begin with, and the price difference will cover ownership costs for a long time. So for buyers who can afford either, it comes down to how much value individuals place on the KTM’s longer range and quick-but-pricey refuelling vs. the FXE’s cheap, green, but time-consuming recharging. The KTM’s also considerably heavier and offers only rear preload adjustment, whereas the FXE is fully adjustable at both ends. And then there’s the FXE’s 78lbft of torque; have we mentioned the torque?

At this point there are far cheaper electric motorcycles if all you want is an urban runabout. Last year, we reviewed the Super Soco TC Max, but the FXE demolishes such machines in every category, including power, range, and component quality—to say nothing of sex appeal. The Kalk And is a stylish, high-quality, road-legal alternative but it is even pricier, and doesn’t offer the FXE’s range or top speed.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

At this point, FXE-specific accessories are limited to available LED turn signals. A rear rack is in production and a top box that is integrated into the overall design will be available later this year. That will improve the FXE’s functionality as an urban commuter.

However many FXS accessories will fit and are already available from Zero dealers. These include a smartphone holder manufactured by Ram, handguards by Cycra, rugged footpegs, and bar-end mirrors. There is also an available kit to convert the belt drive to a chain.

Zero’s Quick Charger roughly halves the time required to charge the battery using standard mains power. It retails for nearly £700.

Zero FXE tft dash

Specs

Engine size -
Engine type Z-Force 75-5 air-cooled, brushless, internal permanent magnet
Frame type Alloy perimeter
Fuel capacity -
Seat height 836mm
Bike weight 135kg
Front suspension 41mm Showa USD forks, fully-adjustable
Rear suspension Showa piggyback reservoir shock, fully-adjustable
Front brake Single 320mm disc, twin piston floating caliper
Rear brake 240mm disc, single piston floating caliper
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax -
Annual service cost -
New price £12,300
Used price £9,800
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 46 bhp
Max torque 78 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 100 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

Zero was founded in 2006 by Neal Saiki, an engineer with one foot in aerospace and the other in bicycle design. (The company’s based a few miles inland from Santa Cruz, California, which is often thought of as the birthplace of mountain bikes.)

Zero was not the first electric motorcycle manufacturer, but it has outlasted almost all of its early rivals to become the OG of moto EVs, with 200 dealers around the world (including about 20 in the UK) and a model range that extends from dual sports through a range-topping SR/S sport bike.

The 2022 model year will be the first for the FXE, but it’s functionally identical to its immediate predecessor, the 2021 FXS.

  • 2013: Zero introduces the FX dual sport model with removable modular battery pack.
  • 2016: The first FXS street-legal supermoto version comes with a 6.5 kWh battery and air-cooled motor good for a claimed 44 hp and 70 lb-ft of torque.
  • 2017: All Zeros get new Z-Force internal permanent magnet motors. FXS models are available with a choice of two swappable battery packs, or an integrated 6.5 kWh battery. Few people choose the swappable battery version.
  • 2018: An upgraded and integral 7.2 kWh battery edges city range close to 100 miles, but a cheaper and lighter 3.6 kWh version is still available.
  • 2019: The FXS gets an updated Z-Force 75-5 motor that, combined with the Cypher II operating system, produces a claimed 46bhp.
  • 2021: The FXS is replaced by the FXE, which is available with the larger 7.2 kWh battery only.

Other versions

No other models available.

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