Text & pictures: Andrew Thijssen – BMS E-Motorrijder | The Zero FX is one of the brand’s longest-running models and will enter its ninth year of production in 2022. The FX Dual Sport machine is a motorcycle intended for road and forest trails. How will this electric all-road still perform in 2022? A reason for us to give this electric Dual sport for a week to “petrolhead” Paul Sesink, an experienced enduro rider.
The Zero FX is not a top model from the Zero range, but despite its simplicity, the FX has a lot of possibilities. The FX barely weighs 131 kg, in this case the dry weight is immediately the curb weight. Yes you know, there are no oil and coolants in the engine and no petrol in the tank. All you have to do after driving is to plug in. That “plugging in” is a habit that you have to learn: do with your motorcycle what you do with your mobile phone. If you’re not using it, charge it. There are also habits that you have to unlearn yourself. Put a finger on the clutch, for example, or shift, push the start button, change the oil, lubricate your chain and think about which aftermarket muffler you want.
Paul: “When I got this motorbike at my disposal, I immediately noticed how elegant the engine is built. Everything is in place as it should be, is neatly finished and everything fits nicely.”
The Zero self-designed Z-Force 75-5 motor with passive air cooling powers the Zero FX. The brushless motor with Internal Permanent Magnets (IPM) generates an instantly available torque of 106 Nm. The continuous power, which determines the driver’s license for an electric motorcycle, is 15 kW (21 hp) at 4300 rpm. That makes the FX suitable for the A2 motorcycle license. However, peak power is 33 kW (44 hp) at 4,500 rpm. The electrical power is transferred to the rear wheel via a silent and maintenance-free carbon fiber belt. The energy required for this is stored in a 7.2 kWh battery that, like the motor, also is developed by Zero. The combination of low weight and instant torque provides – for a fuel driver – unprecedented throttle response and grip on unpaved surfaces.
“This thing pulls harder than my KTM 450 EXC. The fact that the FX does that without shifting and silently, is something you have to get used to as a fuel driver. But that also has its advantages, if you go for a bit of off-road driving, for example, hikers kindly raise their hand. That’s something we don’t often see as off-road riders,” said Paul.
For a conventional motorcyclist, riding the FX requires a different mindset. A direct comparison usually starts with the well-known comments about a range that is shorter and charging times that take much longer than a refueling. With a full battery, the FX can go around 100 km if you’re touring calmly on forest trails. The more sportier rider should rather take into account 80-90 km. The Zero FX is therefore not intended for driving long distances. During the commuter rides on public roads, Paul got to know the FX as a fun bike.
“A bike with the agility of an enduro, the punch of a sporty naked and the playfulness of a supermoto,” says Paul.
The combination of these features shows you why the Zero FX is sometimes called a ‘hooligan bike’. Fifteen minutes on the FX will unleash the ‘bad boy or girl’ in you: slalom between the cars in the city, a sprint at the traffic light or jumping off the curb. Everything off-road suddenly takes on a playful twist on the FX. But the dirt roads are the domain for the FX. It may not be an enduro, but the FX can handle some unpaved roads. In short, you can literally go in all directions with it. Of course with the limitations that are still inherent in electric driving, but with the already mentioned advantages that are characteristic of the FX.
Unplug, ‘gas’ on
Paul continues: “The ergonomics are perfect, everything is neatly in the place where you expect it. Except for the clutch and gear lever … which are missing. The combination of the Showa fork and the geometry creates a front end that gives a lot of confidence. The wide off-road handlebars give good control over the FX. Thanks to the placement of the battery, the center of gravity is not too high, which ensures excellent manoeuvrability. The seating position is not ideal for my height of 1m96, while driving I had no further problems.
This is a plug and play motorcycle. Unplug and put on the ‘gas’. The first time you drive preferably in the Eco mode to get used to the throttle response. What is immediately noticeable is the wonderfully smooth power delivery, it goes immediately unnoted too fast. So watch out for a fine. Now stop for a moment and switch on the Sport mode via a button on the right handlebar. This can also be done while driving, but it doesn’t hurt to stop for a while. When driving away you suddenly drive on an unexpectedly fast accelerating motorcycle, it just keeps going! Even on the dirt road, the FX still feels good and powerful. The steering characteristics in the sand and hard surface remain good. The suspension could have a little more damping at a higher speed. The tire pressure should be a little less, for more comfort and feedback. But those are adjustable parameters.”
“I only missed the clutch once, on a dirt track covered by a tree. Normally you jump with the motor over the tree with the help of the clutch! What now? Slowly driving, suddenly open the throttle? I didn’t dare, and drove around it … When braking harder, the ABS kicks in very quickly, which doesn’t feel good to me. Fortunately, the ABS can be switched off and you can apply the brakes a bit harder without intervention, but be careful if you switch it off! If you put a heavy load on the FX, for example in loose sand, the air-cooled motor jumps into protection if it threatens to get too hot. The electric motor then supplies 60% of the power and torque. As soon as the inside of the motor reaches a certain safe temperature value, full power is returned unannounced. This can take you by surprise. As far as I’m concerned, this is a point of attention for Zero Motorcycles”
This FX can be charged at any 230 Volt socket. The internal charger of the FX has a charging capacity of 650 W. Charging from empty to full then takes about 10 hours and requires some patience. An external 1 kW charger is optionally available. Together with the internal charger, this increases the charging speed to 1650 Watt. This charger shortens the charging time to about 4 hours. In the past, there was also an option for the FX with a replaceable battery. Then the battery is divided into 2 units of 3.6 kWh. These batteries are quick and easy to change. You use one battery to drive, the other charges in the meantime. This version with a divided removable battery is no longer available as new.
Paul says about this: “For my commuting trips, it was a pleasure every day. I enjoyed the public road and the sandy paths. It was great fun every day. The only thing I found getting used to is charging the battery, especially during a longer ride. You have to consider this and this is a new mindset. You could also charge during your work in agreement with your employer. With a full battery you have range again for that extra piece during your ride home. I was very charmed by the handling, the power in combination with the flexibility and the user-friendliness of the Zero FX.”
Charging is a recurring topic. And quite rightly if you want to use an electric motorbike for exploring the Trans Euro Trail route, for example. But what if that’s not the case? What if you mainly drive in the city or on secondary roads and rarely or never cover more than 50-100 km in one drive. Or if you are looking for a motorcycle to avoid traffic jams and your work is 30 km from your home? Or if you think it is important not to cause a nuisance to others? Then the Zero FX might come into the picture. Just ask Paul.
If you list the pros and cons of the FX, you come to the conclusion that Zero does not target the traditional motorcyclist with the FX, but rather targets people who are open to change. Or newcomers who attach great importance to mobility, ease of use and sustainability. Fun and performance are the common denominator of traditional and new motorcyclists. Priced at € 15.165, – (Zero FX ZF 7.2 MY23) the Zero FX is priced similarly to Paul’s KTM. Entrepreneurs can get some additional financial benefits through the tax authorities. Add to this the fact that you do not need fuel and the low maintenance costs, then the purchase price is put in a different light. Just like the FX itself, it has earned its own spot over the past 9 years.
Note from THE PACK
Guy Salens: “A few months ago, I had the chance to ride this Zero FX (thx to Electric Motorbikes Nederland). And also like Paul, I was very surprised by the power, the light weight of the motorbike and the dual possibilities (road – offroad). I can imagine that Paul had some fun on his home-work trips. I live and work in an area with a lot of small roads and offroad trails … big smile. I have explored my mountainbike trails with this FX and did some urban riding in Antwerp. OK, I admit, 10 hours for a full charge … but indeed, if you don’t ride, charge it and it is waiting in the garage for your next trip. This didn’t really come across as a limitation, it’s part of that new mindset …
FYI: this FX was a 2021 model. Zero Motorcycles launched their new Zero 2023 models and this FX model is now only available in black (the 2022 model had a sandy colour).
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