Electric bikes - The future? We find out
Mention electric bikes on social media and you're in for a kicking. But are they actually any good? Shaun Pope tries out Zero's FXS to find out
Words: Shaun Pope Images: Oversteer Photography
Like it or not, electric vehicles are already here and they're here to stay.
The real issue with electric machines is winning the affections of hardcore petrol heads.
I borrowed Zero Motorcycles' FXS all-electric supermoto for a couple of weeks to see if battery power could win me over.
Image: Oversteer Photography
Switching the bike on was the strangest experience. No whine of a fuel pump or exhaust valve, just a few lights on the dash to let you know the Zero was ready to go. With the dash showing 100% charge I decided to stick it in sport mode and hop on for a spin without messing with any settings.
The first twist of the throttle - Ohm my god! (sorry)
This thing accelerates like nothing I've ever experienced! - from 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds, almost silently apart from a shrill whine. Honestly, overtaking traffic at town speeds can't be done quicker on any other bike. It really is that nippy.
Yep, it does burnouts too...
The FXS comes complete with a mobile phone app that's linked to the bike via bluetooth. It's clever stuff and you can basically tune the bike from your phone.
More torque? Just slide the icon on your phone screen up. If you want to get a few more miles from a charge, dial up the regenerative setting so the battery will recharge itself under braking and deceleration. It'll also let you know how much money you've saved over the equivalent fuel cost on a particular journey, and a full charge from the regular wall plug socket costs about £1.50
It's seriously clever stuff, but naturally I turned everything up to the max to see just what it would do...
Top speed (on a closed road...) was around 110mph, however a sustained run at this speed for more than thirty seconds will overheat the battery and you'll automatically be slowed down by the onboard computer. The FXS isn't designed to be ridden flat out for long periods of time, they have the DSR model for that. The FXS is for off-road and city slicking.
Zero says at town speeds you'll see a 100 mile range from the battery. Ridden like an idiot, I saw 32 miles before I had to end up pushing the thing home (don't forget, you can't just pull in at a fuel station)
There's no denying the FXS is LOADS of fun, quick and has real novelty value. It's very easy to ride with its twist-and-go setup, and the light weight of 120kg means it's manageable for riders of all experience levels.
I wanted to love the Zero, I really did. However my style of riding on country roads isn't suited to the FXS, their DSR is the one for that job, which I'll try sometime in 2019.
Sadly battery technology just isn't there quite yet. The FXS takes ten hours to fully charge (although a quick charger is available for an additional £700 that reduces that time to four hours)
Performance also drops off as the battery level decreases, which dulls that mad acceleration that's available at full charge. Even around town there is also a bit of battery anxiety, as you are always wondering whether you'll make it home, or search for a charging station somewhere.
Then there's the price... It's ten grand.
Within the next decade or so, battery tech will reach a point where we'll all be riding silent 200mph monsters that'll do 300 miles to a charge and take 30 minutes to "fill up" again.
At the moment, the Zero FXS can only really make sense as a London commuter bike for the well-off, eco-conscious biker.
As we've seen in the car world with the Nurburgring lap record being blasted by an electric car, if you want to go really, really fast - electric power really is the future.