ZERO SR S (2020 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 110 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.0 in / 787 mm)
Weight: Medium (505 lbs / 229 kg)

Prices

New £19,590
Used N/A

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Zero SR/S is the first faired roadster from Californian electric veterans Zero. But despite the bodywork, this isn’t a superbike. With its high bars, pillion grab handles and optional luggage, the SR/S straddles the line between commuter and sportstourer – think Kawasaki ER-6f or Honda VFR800, rather than ZX-6R or Fireblade.

Beneath the plastic it’s mostly an SR/F, Zero’s next-generation naked and MCN’s Best Electric Bike of 2019. Surprisingly, ergonomics and suspension are a whisker more relaxed for the faired bike.

A new handlebar brings grips higher and wider, meanwhile the pegs are lower. The springs and damping have also been softened. The pillion seat is longer and broader, too. All in all, the changes are intended to add practicality over performance – though with the most powerful motor Zero have ever used in a road bike and an incredible amount of torque, it’s certainly not a slow bike.

The production-ready Zero SR/S

As with all electric bikes, three numbers are key to widespread acceptance: range, recharge time and price. On the basis of our test ride the usable range is between 70 and 100 miles, depending on your riding style and speed.

This is despite Zero claiming the new fairing makes the S model 13% more aerodynamically efficient than the naked F, allowing it to cover a claimed 161 miles of city riding, although this drops to 82 miles on a highway and a combined use range of 109 miles. These ranges can be extended through the addition of Zero’s accessory Power Tank to a combined range of 136 miles, but at an extra cost.

A full recharge takes one-to-four hours, depending on which spec of onboard charger the bike has, as well as how powerful a socket you plug the other end of the charging cable into.

And price is still best described as hefty, with a starting point of £18,590 (2020 launch price). Clearly those figures don’t look great next to a Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX or BMW R1250GS, but within the world of electric motorcycles the Zero SR/S is probably the most complete, comprehensive and cohesive machine yet.

Ride quality & brakes

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

The SR/S uses fully-adjustable Showa suspension at both ends: the firm’s Big Piston Separate Function forks up front; and a linkage-free monoshock at the back. Both ends have been set up for a plusher, more forgiving ride than Zero’s naked SR/F, with the faired S having softer spring rates and modified shim stacks delivering less damping. The S’s shock also uses a single-rate spring, where the F has a dual-rate spring.

On the road the SR/S’s ride quality is good, soaking up rough roads and harsh speed bumps nicely. It’s not a faultless magic carpet ride, but the suspension action is miles ahead of where Zero’s electric bikes were even just a couple of years ago. Curiously, one side-effect of an electric motor’s minimal noise and vibration is that you become hyper-aware of the sound and feel of every lump and bump you run over.

The Zero SR/S uses Showa suspension

Suspension action definitely isn’t too soft. The chassis holds its composure nicely in fast direction changes and the forks hold up well during hard braking. Speaking of which, the calipers at both ends are by Spanish firm J.Juan, with the four-pots up front offering plenty of bite, power and feel through the span-adjustable lever.

Engine braking changes with riding modes, too. The electric motor’s regeneration (the amount of energy it puts back into the battery on a shut throttle) alters between different presets (most in Eco, least in Rain, somewhere in between in Sport and Street), which can help slow you down without having to touch the brakes.

And if it all goes wrong mid-turn, you can haul on the brakes with the confidence of knowing you’re supported by a Bosch cornering ABS system, too.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

This air-cooled AC electric motor is Zero’s highest-spec powertrain. Peak power is 110bhp at 5000rpm, but its main attraction is torque: a whopping 140ftlb of it available from virtually no revs through to around 4000rpm.

On paper that’s a phenomenal amount of grunt – way more than a Kawasaki ZZR1400 or H2 SX; even more grunt than a Honda Gold Wing; and more than double a Yamaha MT-09.

However, torque isn’t what pushes a bike forwards – that’s thrust, which is torque multiplied by gearing. And because the Zero uses a single-speed transmission, its huge torque translates into extremely impressive (rather than ludicrous) forward motion.

One positive of not having a gearbox is that there’s no clutch, making low-speed riding as simple as a scooter. Another is that you’re always in the right gear – whatever your speed, just turn the throttle to the stop and you’ll always have the same perfectly linear acceleration. It pulls to 100mph easily, with a top speed of around 120mph.

Cornering on the 2020 Zero SR/S

Full torque is reserved for Sport mode, giving instant, effortless acceleration that feels somewhere between a Yamaha MT-07 and Triumph Street Triple – albeit less playfully frisky and more persistently forceful. Performance is dialled down for the Zero’s standard Street setting, but there’s still more than plenty on tap for quick, clean overtakes. In Eco mode torque is cut right back to maximise range, with top speed restricted to 75mph.

Those who haven’t experienced an electric motor often accuse them of blandness, given the lack of sound, smell or vibration. But they’re not dull, just different. It’s not even truly silent – there’s a high-pitched hum from the motor that changes as it spins faster.

Sure, it’s not as viscerally dramatic as a booming or screaming engine, but it entertains in a far more cerebral way, tickling your brain’s sci-fi glands as it conjures up thoughts of Return of the Jedi’s Speeder Bikes. Don’t dismiss without giving one a go.

Reliability & build quality

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

All Zero machines are assembled at the firm’s base in Scotts Valley, California. Components, as with almost all bikes these days, come from around the world – from a frame made in Vietnam to tyres from Germany, headlight from Italy, and a TFT dash from Spain. The left-hand switchgear cluster will look familiar to owners of old Aprilias, too.

On the surface, build quality broadly looks up to the standards you’d expect in 2020. Zero’s designers went to great lengths to reduce the number of visible fasteners when you look at the bike side-on. However, they weren’t quite so successful at reducing the number you can see from the saddle – particularly where the mirrors cleverly mount into the cockpit. Perhaps we’re just being picky.

This positioning gives a perfectly clear view of the road behind (helped by the electric motor having no vibrations) as you look under your arms rather than past your elbows.

The Zero SR/S features under bar mounted mirrors

Zero back up their confidence in their own quality with a five-year, unlimited-mile warranty on the battery, and a two-year warranty on the rest of the bike. As for real-world reliability, it’s not really possible to accurately predict given the relatively tiny number of Zero SR/Fs on the road in Britain yet.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
2 out of 5 (2/5)

Until recently even getting an insurance quote on a niche brand such as Zero was problematic. However things have changed in the past couple of years, in large thanks to the graft of the small team at Zero UK, who’ve helped introduce the brand and the bikes to insurers.

As a result, you’re now more likely to get a range of competitive quotes – though you’re still unlikely to get as many as if you were trying to insure, say, a BMW R1200GS. Some firms, such as Lexham, seem a bit more clued-up with electric bikes. Having got some sample quotes, the premiums themselves don’t seem much different from typical petrol-bike prices.

A three-pin plug is an optional extra

Running costs alone are five-star worthy. A full charge at home costs around £2. If you can make that last 100 miles, that’s 2p a mile or the equivalent of 300mpg. Service costs are minimal, given there’s no oil, filters, coolant or spark plugs to change, and no valve clearances to check. The belt final drive will need adjusting after breaking in during its initial few hundred miles, but after that should be maintenance-free for its 24,000-mile life. Road tax is free, too.

But initial purchase price is, well, significant. For 2020, the base SR/S is listed at £19,590; the Premium version (with heated grips and a more powerful 6kW charger) is £21,590. And incredibly, that doesn’t include a three-pin household charging cable (that’s another £445, please) or first registration (£55). While a government grant pays the first £1500, that still leaves an outstanding balance of £18,590 (standard) or £20,590 (Premium).


'How many years will the battery last?' - Your questions answered

First published 1 July 2020 by Martin Fitz-Gibbons

Cornering on the Zero SR/S

Electric power remains one of the hottest and most contentious issues in motorcycling. Manufacturers seem keen but riders are more cautious, raised on a lifelong diet of huge tank ranges, instant fill-ups and plentiful power – let alone the evocative sounds and smells of controlled combustion.

But Californian firm Zero, perhaps the planet’s leading electric motorcycle experts, continue to push boundaries. After more than a decade of making electric road bikes, 2020 sees the arrival of their first fully faired machine, the SR/S. Having ridden it in the south of France earlier this year, we’ve turned the floor over to you, to answer your burning questions.

What is the expected life of the battery?

Zero claim the battery will retain at least 80% of its capacity for 217,000 miles, but the small print says that’s based on city riding. Get your calculator out and it equates to 1350 charge cycles.

Apply a more conservative 75 miles per charge and still that’s a lifespan of over 100,000 miles, by which time range would have dropped to 60 miles. Broadly, the battery is meant to last the life of the bike – it’s not designed to be replaced. Zero give a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, giving some short-term peace of mind.

Zero SR/S electric motor

Is it compatible with existing EV stations?

Some, but not all. Public charging points come in a perplexing range of shapes, power outputs and even different types of electricity, so it’s not as straightforward as stopping at a petrol station.

The Zero SR/S can be plugged into Level 2 AC 'fast' stations (between two and four hours for a full charge, depending on the spec) but not Level 3 DC 'rapid' chargers. There are exceptions though, and given the different networks involved, plenty of research is needed. You can’t just pull up and expect it to work.

Can I get aftermarket luggage solutions for it?

Yes. The SR/S was designed as Zero’s sports-touring model, hence its enlarged pillion seat, substantial grab handles and plentiful 228kg carrying capacity. A three-piece hard luggage set, made by Shad, can be found in Zero’s accessory catalogue.

With all the mounting racks fitted, you can clip on a SH39 topbox and a pair of SH36 panniers – each large enough to swallow a full-face helmet – for a total of 111 litres of storage.

Other practical options include a centrestand, high and low seats, and heated grips (fitted as standard on this Premium version). So that means the only limit on your touring enjoyment will be planning a route that takes into account the need to locate suitable charging facilities.

Zero SR/S static view

Why don’t Zero sort faster charging?

Given Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire and Energica’s Ego can use rapid DC charging, it does seem strange that the SR/S can’t. Zero’s line is that AC chargers are far more common.

Faster charging also raises other issues, like extra heat – which may be harder for the air-cooled SR/S to manage. Zero offer a second 6kW charger (for £2640) giving the ability to recharge to 95% in an hour. That’s the same as it takes a Livewire to get to 100% on a DC charge.

How far does it go when you’re ragging it?

If you’re relentlessly, remorselessly thrashing it, the Zero’s 12.6kWh battery will be out of juice by 60 miles – though you’ve got to be going really hard to flatten it that fast. Just as with petrol power, the greediness of your right hand makes a huge difference to range.

Ridden smoothly (though fairly briskly) on the mixed-road launch route, our test bike was on course to last 100 miles. Stick to city trundling and Zero say you’ll get 160 miles. At a constant 70mph, range is more like 80 miles.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

As standard the SR/S comes with cornering ABS and traction control, multiple rider modes, cruise control, a colour TFT dash, plus a lockable cubby-hole (incorporating two USB charging sockets) where a fuel tank would normally sit.

The 3kW onboard charger means a full recharge takes around four hours, whatever type of power socket you plug it into. On the Premium model, charging capacity is doubled to 6kW – it won’t make any difference to charge time if you plug it in at home (a household socket only puts out 3kW anyway) but it can halve charge times at a three-phase public charger. The Premium version also gets toasty heated grips.

In addition, both versions of the SR/S have the ability to connect to Zero’s smartphone app via Bluetooth. This lets you monitor battery health and adjust recharging times, track trip data and even create a custom riding mode.

Specs

Engine size -
Engine type Air-cooled AC electric motor
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity -
Seat height 787mm
Bike weight 229kg
Front suspension 43mm forks adjustable for preload, rebound and compression
Rear suspension Monoshock adjustable for preload, rebound and compression
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston calipers
Rear brake 240mm single disc with one-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 ZR17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £20
Annual service cost -
New price £19,590
Used price -
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 110 bhp
Max torque 140 ft-lb
Top speed 124 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 109 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2020 Zero SR/S available in Premium and Standard guises.

Other versions

2019 Zero SR/F – Next-generation electric naked roadster is a near-clean-sheet reboot for Zero after more than a decade of making battery-powered bikes. Introduces a new 110bhp / 140ftlb electric motor, tied to a 12.6kWh battery.

The most powerful onboard charger Zero have used gives the ability to recharge at home in four hours, or from a suitable public charging point in two. A new steel-trellis frame and fully adjustable Showa suspension make for a far more refined chassis than Zero’s previous S and SR roadsters. Bosch electronics add cornering ABS and traction control, displayed through a natty colour TFT dash. Wins MCN’s award for Best Electric Bike of 2019.

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