Zero unveils the SR/S, the ‘Gulfstream’ of Electric Motorcycles

Zero Motorcycles has announced a new all-electric motorcycle with abundant range, spine-bending performance, and a riding experience the California company likened to riding in a Gulfstream jet.

The new motorcycle, called the SR/S, is an evolution of sorts of the flagship bike Zero unveiled last year, the SR/F. It uses the same electric motor and battery as the SR/F, and therefore offers basically the same specs. The SR/S can reach a top speed of 124 miles per hour, has a range of up to 200 miles (when using the optional range-extending battery “tank”), and has 110 horsepower at the flick of the wrist. It also can charge at up to 12kW with the optional rapid-charging package, allowing the battery to get from 0 to 95 percent in about an hour.

The SR/S also shares the SR/F’s digital DNA. There’s a big digital screen, a companion smartphone app, and a level of connectivity that allows for over-the-air updates and real-time riding statistics. Considering all the similarities, it should be no surprise that the SR/S will cost about the same when it goes on sale in March, as it starts at $19,995.

The big difference between the two motorcycles is in the SR/S’s styling. It’s Zero’s first motorcycle with a full fairing, meaning it has a more complete set of body panels than the more “naked” bikes the company has been known for.

This dramatically alters the look of the bike, but Zero says it also put a lot of effort into modeling that body work using computational fluid dynamics to make it a much more aerodynamic motorcycle. In return, riders who tuck into the SR/S’s “cockpit” should see up to a 13 percent gain in range — meaning you can theoretically squeeze an extra 26 miles out of the 200-mile version of the bike.

That said, Abe Askenazi, Zero’s chief technology officer, said the goal with the SR/S was “not to extract the most range,” because otherwise the company would have ended up “with a bubble bike” that’s “gonna look weird.” Instead, Zero CEO Sam Paschel said the company set out to create a motorcycle with a striking, sophisticated, and easily recognizable profile.

It seems fair to say that Zero succeeded at that goal. It’s definitely rocking a more cultivated vibe than the company’s other bikes, and to my eyes, it looks like no other electric motorcycle on the road.

To be clear, I mean that literally. While seemingly dozens of wild-looking electric motorcycles have been announced over the last few years, very few of them are actually available for purchase, and basically none of them come from a company with a reputation like Zero’s. (“A lot of that stuff is vaporware,” Paschel jabbed Wednesday.) Zero started making electric motorcycles in 2006, and has spent the last 14 years methodically improving the technology and winning over more and more deep-pocketed customers.

The SR/S is differentiated from the SR/F in its riding position and comfort level, too. Zero says slightly higher handlebars and lower foot pegs allow riders to relax into a more upright stance than on most of its other bikes. (The seat is also larger.) On top of all of this, Zero says the suspension has been tuned to provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.

Combined with the SR/S’s looks, this is all supposed to create an “elevated, more sophisticated, and much more serene” riding experience, Paschel said. Hence the Gulfstream metaphor.

“We use the aircraft and aerospace metaphors a lot,” Paschel said. “The existing motorcycles in our line would be a more raw and visceral riding experience that’s tuned for really high performance … we think about it like piloting a fighter plane. By contrast, what you’re going to see in the SR/S is something that’s much more like a private jet, a Gulfstream.”

That’s perhaps a stretch, and for a company that’s laser-focused on selling zero-emission vehicles, a private jet may not be the best parallel to draw. But the point is taken. You could easily argue that Zero owns the nascent electric motorcycle market, as the only recognizable competition is Harley-Davidson’s absurdly expensive $30,000 LiveWire.

With the SR/S (and the SR/F), Zero is clearly trying to take things further. The company wants to establish itself as a premium brand that transcends its electric powertrain technology. Considering the amount of attention the SR/S received before today’s unveiling, Zero seems to be accomplishing that, too. In the week leading up to the announcement, the SR/S all but fully leaked, which Paschel said is a “signal that the industry is taking [electric motorcycles] more seriously.”

“Each time we launch one of these bikes,” Paschel said, “we’re pushing not just our brand forward, but we’re pushing the category forward, and we’re pushing the entire industry on the motorcycle side forward into the future of electric.”