Written by Mark Turner of BlackTopMedia.
Old Empire Motorcycles (www.oldempiremotorcycles.com) is one of the UK’s coolest and most respected custom motorcycle builders, founded in 2010 through an absolute and enduring passion for everything two-wheeled. They create a handful of one-off custom bikes annually, some of the most beautiful and innovative custom motorcycles in the UK. So beautiful in fact, they have been exhibited at Harrods London and at the Saatchi Gallery, and won numerous awards from titles such as Silodrome, Pipeburn, MCN and Cafe Racer TV plus they won the coveted Malle Mile Best of show. They have even won a Salon Privé award.
Alec, the owner of Old Empire, was quoted as saying:
“Every bike we do is another leap forward in terms of bettering ourselves, and we’ve been extremely lucky to find customers who believe in what we do, and allow us to follow our vision.”
A couple of years ago, Alec’s vision led him to his newest venture, English Electric Motor Co or EEMC. EEMC are now one of Europe’s premier electric motorcycle retailers. Electric motorcycle sales are going through the roof. For example, by the end of the 1st quarter 2019, registrations of electric mopeds, motorcycles and quadricycles were up by 71% in Europe. Ok, so the number is still pretty small but growing very fast. EEMC have jumped in feet first and are taking the bull by the horns.
I received an invite to try some of their bikes recently so I thought I’d go and see what all the fuss was about. They laid on a range of their electric motorcycles to try. I could go on all day about them all so, long story short, I’ll tell you about the Zero SRF.
It’s a naked bike, I guess like an Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 factory or Yamaha MT-10 SP. As you can see, there’s no fairing, flat bars and you sit fairly upright. It’s all pretty typical. It looks slightly unconventional, with a battery pack and motor where the engine would usually sit, but other than that, it’s pretty familiar stuff.
A Yamaha MT-10 SP makes 160 bhp and 111 nm torque for example. An Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 factory, the benchmark naked bike, has 174 bhp and 120 nm torque. Zero’s SRF makes 110 bhp, which isn’t bad, however it makes nearly 200 nm torque (140 ft-lbs)!
Wet weight of the Yamaha MT-10 is 210 kg and the Aprilia V4 is 209 kg. The Zero SRF is 220 kg so hardly any difference.
Suspension is superb and is by Showa: 43 mm big piston forks up front, with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping. At the rear there’s a Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping. It’s quality stuff and does an excellent job.
Brakes are equally impressive. Very strong, fade free and great feel. Bosch Advanced motorcycle stability control (MSC) is standard with dual J-Juan radial 4-piston calipers, a radial master cylinder and 320mm discs up front, and J-Juan single piston floating caliper on 240mm disc at the rear. Who are J-Juan? They’re a Spanish manufacturer of braking components, calipers, brake lines and so on. Very big, very good.
Tyres are Pirelli Diablo Rosso III. 120/70-17 on the front, 180/55-17 at the rear. They did a good job, plenty of feedback and good grip.
It’s also the world’s first fully “smart” motorcycle. It has a customizable dash and Zero’s next-generation app does all sorts of clever stuff.
There’s a full suite of electronics as you’d expect from a modern sports bike. Advanced traction control, cornering abs, anti wheelie, power delivery settings, regenerative braking and all adjustable from the app.
That’s all great but what’s it like to ride?
Honestly, it’s amazing. To start with, the hardware is all excellent. Brakes, suspension and steering are all superb. This bike corners hard and stops very well. When you first pull off it’s pretty odd. More or less silent apart from some electric motor whine. There are no gears and no clutch so you just twist and go…and man it goes! Acceleration is jaw dropping and absolutely instant.
On a conventional motorcycle, revs drop as you slow, then as you accelerate and you rise through the rev range, power and torque builds and so does acceleration. On the Zero SRF, the moment you twist the throttle, you have maximum torque. It’s the way electric motors deliver their power.
It means that every time you accelerate, you have relentless and breathtaking acceleration. It just doesn’t stop.
Overtaking a car for example, just wait for a gap, snap the throttle open and hold on while your mate on his conventional bike changes down a gear or two and tries to follow. In no time you’re just a dot on the horizon. It’s like you’re always in the right gear, at the right revs. It accelerates as hard at 80 mph as it does at 40 mph too. It’s like nothing you’ve ever ridden.
It is absolutely brilliant and completely addictive. Accelerating out of corners, away from lights, in fact anywhere, it’s outrageous. I doubt many conventional bikes could live with it. I’m sat here bathed in a satisfied glow, wondering when I’ll get my next hit.
The two main criticisms of electric motorcycles are the lack of noise, and range/charging Infrastructure.
Noise is a double-edged sword. Anti-noise pollution legislation is increasing, but it’s not an issue on an electric motorcycle. Riding through a village, I was completely unheard and didn’t interrupt anyone’s day. Same goes for track days, no issues with noise pollution if you’re on an electric bike. However, on a quiet country road, I passed some dog walkers and cyclists. Neither heard me coming until I was basically on them.
As for charging, you can specify the SRF with standard or rapid charging systems. The charging Infrastructure can be confusing but basically, it’s ranked in kW. There are various sizes available at the moment over here. Generally, from 3 kW, 7 kW, 22 kW and then the big stuff from 43 kW and above, charging is available at standard Type 2 charge stations. Free ones are inevitability lower kW so take longer to charge and some go higher still.
The SRF rapid charge system will charge the battery at 40 miles per hour on 3 kW, 75 miles on 7 kW, and 150 miles on 12 kW which can recharge the battery pack to 95% capacity in 1 hour of charging. On a full charge it will do anything from 90 miles to 160+ miles, depending on how and where you ride. In my book, that makes it practical.
What about the cost?
Yamaha’s MT-10 SP comes out at £14,299. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory is £16,999.
Zero’s SRF starts at £16,490 rising to £18,490 with the fast charge technology and a few extras.
Remember, with an electric motorcycle there is very little maintenance so service costs are very low, plus it costs pennies to charge so no more fuel to pay for. The lifetime savings really mount up.
If this is the future then I can’t wait. It’s brilliant.
I would recommend anyone goes to their local dealer for a chat and a ride. If you’re in the UK, give English Electric Motor Co a call. They’re awesome and really friendly. Go on, give it a try, you won’t regret it.