Established route, same public charger, different ride modes. How does Eco Mode do?

After spending the past two months with the 2022 Zero SR/F Premium, I feel like I’m starting to get a little better at it. Two months may sound like a long time. But like most people, I have work to think about, so unfortunately I can’t drive all the time (boo). There are also potential drawbacks that anyone considering this bike should probably be aware of. That meant, sadly, I couldn’t spend much time in the saddle any time soon.

Here it is: The freewheeling nature of the clutchless electric motor makes the bike incredibly easy to roll over when parked face-on, even on a slight incline. It’s like the gentle slope of your driveway after you pull your car out of the garage to get ready for a drive.

When you park and get off, you’ll probably hold the front brake with your right hand, and that’s okay. However, when you stop braking a) the free-running motor and b) gravity can cause the bike to fall off the sidestand with even the slightest impact. The calculations are clear, but I don’t know what I don’t know until I think about why my bike is lying around so casually right now.

If you (like me) are incredibly stupid and try to get your bike upright while yelling to keep it from falling over, you could do the same and seriously injure your ankle too. (Don’t be like me.) As I later found out, some Zero owners used Griplocks, Velcro straps, or rubber bands as a makeshift parking brake to avoid that situation. Some people use it as of course, if I had known then what I know now, I would have been one of them all along. Either way, I think I’ve learned my lesson and I hope that sharing this story helps someone avoid a similar situation.

Stop and Go Riding and Expressway Riding 

Once I was able to get some miles under my belt, I quickly discovered that the 2022 Zero SR/F Premium is extremely good at stop-and-go traffic situations. For a start, there’s no clutch—so your left hand runs absolutely no risk of getting tired from the monster workout that stop-and-go traffic usually provides riders.  

Another area where the 2022 SR/F shines is in how it carries its weight. Sure, 500-ish pounds doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of lightweight on paper, but the SR/F’s center of gravity is nice and low. So, if you’re in a rolling stop or a yield situation, this is an incredibly easy bike to roll on at extremely low speeds before you have to put a foot down and come to a complete stop. If you’ve timed the light well and it goes green, you may not even have to put a foot down at all. 

Both the front and the rear brakes work well and as expected. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires that the SR/F comes with from the factory are nice and grippy and give plenty of confidence through corners.  

So far, I’ve primarily been operating this 2022 SR/F in Eco mode, which offers generous regenerative braking in an effort to extend your usable range. It’s zippy enough for most everyday situations and will probably be your best friend if you do a lot of city riding. Be aware that this mode caps your top speed at about 74 miles per hour (possibly more on a downhill). If you need to go faster, you can of course choose Sport or Canyon modes instead.  

The 2022 Zero SR/F feels nicely planted at highway speeds. It’s a naked bike, so if you don’t like riding at highway speeds on other naked bikes, then you probably won’t find this very enjoyable, either. It’s definitely capable if that’s what you choose to do with it, though. 

What Does Premium Trim Get You? 

The 2022 Zero SR/F Premium that I’m riding comes with an assortment of bells and whistles. Heated grips come standard, for example. As you may have already noted, the 2023 SR/F gets the larger 17.3 kilowatt hour battery, while the 2022 has the 15.6 kWh battery. However, the 2022 SR/F Premium version comes with the Cypher Store’s Extended Range option unlocked, which allows that 15.6 kWh battery to charge up to 17.3 kWh. Zero refers to it as “110%” and says that you shouldn’t top it up that full every single time you charge, but it’s a nice option to have when you need it. 

The Premium model also comes with Parking Mode unlocked, which is an option on the regular SR/F and is not a standard feature. When activated, Parking Mode allows you to operate the bike very slowly in Reverse and also in a Forward mode so you can neatly maneuver the bike into whatever position you want to park in. In my opinion, a Parking Mode like this should be a standard feature on all hefty electric bikes—both for safety reasons, and because it would probably make a lot of skeptical riders (and short riders) more interested in giving a bike like this a shot. 

The Weekend Route Range Test 

Do you have a favorite weekend route that you like to ride? My partner and I have a few, and we greatly enjoy getting out early in the morning (less traffic) on weekends and just flowing through it. It’s a fun ride, calculated for as much time moving and as little time slowed or stopped as possible. We might stop for breakfast or lunch at one of our favorite places along the way, or we might just keep going—but either way, it’s usually an extremely nice way to spend a few hours.  

Depending on whether we leave certain sections in or take them out, the whole thing might be anywhere from 100 to 150 miles, give or take. Last weekend, I took the 2022 SR/F Premium on that ride—but to do so, I planned carefully in advance to avoid range anxiety. While I’ve mostly been plugging the SR/F in at home and charging it using a standard 110V household plug, there was no way I would even attempt to do that ride on a single charge, even when using the Extended Range 110 percent option.  

So, I charged the SR/F to 110 percent, but I also had a couple of public charging stops marked out along our route, using PlugShare to aid in identifying likely candidates. Thanks to the crowdsourced information on PlugShare, I was able to see that my first choice of charging stop hadn’t been checked into since December 2022—and was either shut off or not working at that time.  

Since that was the case, I made sure to have a backup charging option planned, just in case that first option was still inoperable when we stopped. I also figured that if it was still inoperable, I could at least document it in PlugShare for the next person, since it’s now July 2023 and an update would probably be helpful for other people looking to charge their J1772-equipped EVs in the area. 

Save Battery; Carry Momentum Through Corners

First, I should say that I’d never encourage anyone to ride in a way you’re not comfortable doing. That said, from experience I can now also say that slowing down a lot (some might even say too much) going into corners will noticeably reduce your range on the SR/F (and probably other electric bikes as well). The reason why is probably obvious—because when you roll back on the throttle after you’re through the corner, you’ll have to use a lot more battery to get back up to speed.  

This bike encourages carrying momentum for maximum battery efficiency. Once you’ve gotten up to speed, the further you can carry your momentum, the more fun (and range) you’ll have. The more you brake at high speeds, the quicker you’ll eat through your battery as you try to regain your previous speed. It’s as simple as that. 

Some Public Charging Observations

If you’ve done much research into electric motorbikes or other vehicles, then you’re probably already aware of certain issues with public charging infrastructure. Some issues vary by geographic region, as well as by charging network provider. Here in the US, one problem we frequently have is that many charging stations only have a single charger (or two, at most) present. Tesla is an obvious exception, but if your vehicle doesn’t use Tesla charging, the relative prevalence of those chargers won’t make a bit of difference to you. 

By contrast, if you pull up to a gas station and one pump isn’t working, there are usually others to choose from. Unless a fuel station is completely closed, it’s rare that you pull up to a gas station and find yourself completely unable to get fuel into your car in the US. You might grumble about having to move to the next island of fuel pumps, but at least you have that choice. 

However, if you have an EV and you’ve identified a specific public charger that you want to use, you’re out of luck if it’s broken, or turned off, or in use when you get there. That’s why having contingency plans (like backup public charging options at least somewhat nearby) is a key part of alleviating range anxiety.  

Public charging options are extremely dependent on your geography. Urban areas and college towns tend to have the highest concentration of public EV chargers. If you like to ride out in the country (either because you live there, or because you want to ride where there’s less traffic), charging stations tend to be fewer and further between. That poses a much greater problem if a charging station you were depending on is out of commission when you stop there, because it’s more difficult to have an adequate contingency plan in place. 

Weekend Ride Range Report: Eco Mode 

After charging the 2022 Zero SR/F Premium to 110 percent, I rode 88 miles on a single charge before stopping at my backup public charging station on our weekend ride. I had gotten down to 24 percent of a full charge when I stopped at my chosen charging station. I took screenshots when I parked, as well as when I plugged into the charger I had identified along our route

In the Chicagoland area, we have Volta chargers at many Jewel-Osco grocery stores. Jewel-Osco is a local chain (yes, it’s owned by Albertson’s now, but it’s only branded that way in our area), so finding associations like that can come in useful for trip planning. The Volta charging network offers Level 2 and DC fast charging, depending on location. Luckily for Zero riders, as of July 2023, Level 2 charging is offered completely free of charge. It’s supported by advertising revenue on the giant digital pillar you can see in this photo—and you don’t even have to register or have a smartphone app installed to use it. 

I plugged in the charger, it did its digital handshake with the SR/F, and together, they figured out the optimal charging rate and time to a full charge. The Volta charger provided a 57-amp charge and fluctuated between 5.8 and 5.9 kilowatts of power.  

Since I was down to 24 percent of a full charge when we stopped, filling up completely at the Volta station would have taken me one hour and 42 minutes. Considering that there was a grocery store and a few restaurants around, using that time for a long lunch break or an extended snack break wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world—if you have the time. 

However, as is the case with gas vehicles, you can also choose to do a partial charge on your EV. I knew that if I got the battery up to 50 percent of a full charge, I could safely get myself home. From there, I could then plug the SR/F into my usual home charger and do something else while it charged much more slowly than it would at that public charger. Our standard 110V outlet only outputs between 12 and 14 amps and about 1.2 kW of power, so a full charge takes several hours to complete. If we had an available 220V circuit, it would be faster—but we don’t. 

Next up, I plan to try doing our weekend route using the other riding modes, with a stop at the same public charger to try to keep a baseline reference point. Be sure to watch for those reports in the coming weeks.