1 // New motors. Zero has continued to develop its motor technology, and this year debuts something called an IPM, for internal permanent magnet. In this and the previous Zero motors, the spinning part of the motor carries a series of permanent magnets. Attached to the case of the motor, which is finned for passive air cooling, is a series of coils that induce a magnetic field when power is applied. Before, the Zero motor had a series of magnets bonded to the circumference of the rotor, spinning with a minuscule air gap between them and the windings. Now the magnets are embedded into the rotor, which helps wick away heat and allow the motor to run cooler under all conditions. (A clever design of the rotor’s facing surface helps move a small amount of air around inside the housing.) Last year’s Zero S could be run into heat-management mode after several miles of high-speed running, which first results in a warning light and then a reduction in power to keep the motor from overheating. Supposedly, the 2016 Zeros all have much greater thermal headroom.
2 // Updated batteries. Zero has worked with its battery supplier to subtly alter the chemistry of the 28 flat cells that make up one power “brick.” (Except for the FX series, which has independently removable batteries, Zero bikes have “monoliths” made up of three or four of these bricks.) Each cell produces 3.6 volts for a combined 102 volts in each brick. All Zeros operate on 102 volts, so the bricks are run in parallel to build capacity. This new cell chemistry results in 10-20 percent more range (because of their increased energy density) without sacrificing performance (because their discharge capability has also increased).
3 // Faster charging. All Zeros come with on-board chargers that plug into standard 120-volt household power. You could also piggyback as many as four external chargers to reduce recover time but this year Zero has released an on-board charging package that uses the SAE J1772 standard charging plug—the kind you see at most electric-car charging stations. With the Charge Tank accessory, which fits where the storage box is normally (or where the Power Tank fifth battery would go) “effectively triples on-board charging speed,” says the company. The largest standard battery configuration, the ZF13.0, will recharge to 95 percent in three hours, while the ZF9.8 gets there in about two hours. The Charge Tank costs $1,988.
4 // Lower prices. Improvements in battery technology plus greater volume has allowed Zero to reduce costs, and MSRP, on certain models compared to 2015 models. For example, a 2015 Zero SR with the four-brick battery configuration sold for $17,345 with a total capacity of 12.5-kWh. This year, that bike costs $15,995 with 13.0 kWh of capacity.
5 // Ride modes. All Zeros have three ride modes, two hard-coded as Eco and Sport. Eco limits power and top speed, softens throttle response, and increases regenerative braking. Sport maxes out performance but reduces regen. The third is called Custom, and can be user-configured through the Zero app. (Your phone talks to the bike via Bluetooth.) In Custom, you can choose any combination of top speed, max torque, and regen setups (both throttle-closed regen and additional regen when you apply the brakes).
6 // Almost made to order. Zero’s sales model is unusual in that it requests its 80-some US dealers have three models on hand for demo purposes but doesn’t load them down with inventory. Instead, when you order a Zero model, the request goes into the system and your bike is, essentially, built to order. Depending on how far you live from the Scotts Valley, California, factory, you could have you new Zero in less than a week.
7 // Change colors at will. Zero sells “color kits” that allow you to change your bike’s hue at will. Made up of the “tank” cover, rear fender cover, and front fender, the kits let you embrace your capricious side. Prices have not yet been set.