If you’re not careful, the march of time can trample you pretty quickly. One day you’re stuck in gridlock and crying into your coffee, the next you’re navigating a pandemic-controlled commute where traffic is overloading computer servers more than physical roads. Though we now live in a world somewhat unrecognizable from a couple of years ago, daily driving is far from extinct. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for your tear-flavored coffee crawl. There now exists a handy two-wheeled tool that not only makes journeys fun, but can also help you become more eco-friendly and fashion-forward. Meet the 2022 Zero FXE electric motorcycle.
Even before I threw a leg over the bike, I was already excited about the FXE. Frankly, it was love at first sight. The FXE gets its Tron-like lines from the stunning 2019 Zero SM concept penned by San Francisco firm Huge Design. The engineering team did a stellar job of keeping the SM’s aesthetic appeal intact because, barring the requisite turn signals, mirrors and rear fender, the FXE still looks like a concept. The new motorcycle also appears inspired by my favorite-looking internal combustion–powered moto, the Husqvarna Vitpilen.
The lack of a fat fuel tank means there’s not much machine between your legs. That’s a good thing, because narrow bikes boost the sense of flying near the road surface rather than rolling along it. The 32.9-inch-high seat is also narrow, but it’s plush enough. The controls are simple to figure out, and they play nicely with your hands. And the new 5-inch, color TFT display is sharp, easy to decipher and adds to the bike’s futuristic styling.
Zero ships the model with two built-in ride modes, Eco and Sport, but you can connect your smartphone to the FXE via Bluetooth to adjust maximum speed, torque output, off-accelerator regen and brake regen. That’s pretty nifty for those who like to fine-tune and tinker.
If you’re in the “set it and forget it” camp, like me, the FXE feels well-accustomed to both fast and slow scenarios if you just leave it in Sport. That’s the mode I used during 98 percent of my time in the saddle. I would have stayed longer in Eco if I’d felt a difference, but I didn’t. Another rider, however, told me their example offered a drastic delta between modes, so perhaps my pre-production tester was an aberration.
The FXE sources its power from a 7.2 kWh battery, hence the bold “7.2” nomenclature adorning the flanks. The battery provides energy to a passively air-cooled, brushless motor good for 46 hp and 78 ft lbs of torque. Combine those figures with a curb weight of just 298 pounds, and you’ve got impressive longitudinal acceleration at your command. Instant electric torque is inherently addictive, so don’t feel guilty for cracking the accelerator wide open at every green light. An informal acceleration test swept me to 60 mph in 5 seconds, and a couple blinks later I was at 83 mph, 2 mph shy of the FXE’s top speed. That’s rapid enough for life in the fast lane and, at those speeds, the featherweight bike feels plenty stable.
That stability is due to the well-damped, adjustable Showa suspension working in concert with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires (110 mm front, 140 mm rear) wrapped around 17-inch wheels. Winding the FXE through the twisty back roads of Santa Cruz, Calif., however, I found the bike rated as only adequate when I thought it would be outstanding. My lofty expectation came from the fact that this Zero is the lightest road motorcycle I’ve ever tested. That said, the FXE feels like it wears its weight relatively high, so that could be why it seems to handle like motorcycles 150 pounds portlier. Shifting my weight closer to the handlebars helped agility in corners, but ultimately, I felt more comfortable cruising than canyon-carving.
At 135 pounds, I’m the weight of a jockey, which does little to compress the FXE’s suspension, but heavier riders sit noticeably lower. You’d think that would help with agility, but the lower ride height means larger riders end up scraping the kickstand at just moderate lean. A dragging kickstand means less weight on the rear tire mid-corner, and that could prove hazardous. Hopefully, Zero has rectified that issue with its production FXEs.
The situation is much sunnier when it comes to the brakes. The Zero FXE can scrub speed in a hurry thanks to 320 mm and 240 mm discs front and rear, respectively. Dual-piston J-Juan calipers provide clamping duty up front, while a single-piston J-Juan handles the back. The robust brakes are backstopped by Bosch ABS but, in another nod to those who like to tinker, the feature can be neutered.
The Zero FXE can go pretty far on a single charge: roughly 100 miles in the city and about 40 miles on the highway. On a standard 110-volt outlet, it takes 9.7 hours to recharge a depleted battery. Add the optional $600 accessory charger, and you can shorten your “fill-ups” to 4.1 hours. According to Zero, up to four of those accessory chargers can be used, thus shrinking charge time to as little as 1.3 hours. Compatibility with Level 3 DC Fast-Charging would be nice, but seems superfluous for the in-town rippers and those with short commutes—the demographic this motorcycle is primarily targeting, especially as the FXE’s typical recharge cost is only 81 cents.
With a starting price of $11,795, the 2022 Zero FXE is a fun bike that makes a reasonable case as an addition to an already healthy stable of vehicles. Yet while on the FXE, my mind kept going back to the time I spent with the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen. Sure, the Husky is a gas-powered ride, but it also costs half as much and offers a more enjoyable experience. This is not to say that the FXE should be overlooked. It has some issues in the handling department, but I would be happy with one for a zero-emissions daily commute. It sure beats gridlocked mornings paired with tear-infused coffee.