Ever since I did a test ride of a Zero motorcycle, the first electric vehicle I ever drove, I’ve wanted one. At the time, they were a bit more expensive, but even today, they are still up there in price. As my financial situation continues to improve, despite rent getting stupid, I’ve started leaning more and more into wanting to upgrade my motorcycle, and putting a Zero SR on the list of possibilities.
But Zero Motorcycles made a decision for the new SR that I cannot support.
I first discovered their new technology in a youtube video that was basically a marketing submarine. That is, it was a “review” video that just basically read off all the marketing notes. Among the marketing nodes were information about the new battery architecture that allowed you to upgrade the capacity through the new CYPHER III+ platform. Along with this, you can enable various other features.
What was glossed over is all of these things come at a cost. You are unlocking features and capabilities through microtransactions.
But, hold on, how do you upgrade your motorcycle’s battery from 14.4 kWh to 17.3 kWh without adding more batteries? Well, that’s where one of the first problems comes in: the bike comes with a 17.3 kWh battery that is software limited. With the base model 14.4 kWh battery, you have 2 upgrade levels. You can get a SR with a 15 kWh battery as well, and it will have 1 upgrade level. All of these bikes come with the same physical battery, though.
Some of the upgrades require special hardware to support them. Like the charging rate upgrade and the performance upgrade (increase torque by almost 20 and hp by almost 40). Also the low speed reverse. Stuff like navigation is purely software, though.
And these upgrades aren’t cheap. Want to gain access to that extra nearly 3 kWh of capacity? That’ll cost you around $2200. Want to add 0.3 kW of charging power? That’s another $1500. Not worth it in my opinion. The more software specific features are a much lower cost, mostly around $200.
So, sure, there’s the really annoying problem that, much like Tesla has been maligned over this, you’re buying something that’s already on your vehicle. That nearly 3 kWh capacity is already there. You’re just kept locked out of it. You have the hardware. The hardware was built and put on the vehicle. But you can’t use it unless you pay thousands of dollars more. But that’s not the worst of this problem
In the case of the battery, especially, the weight of that 3 kWh capacity that you can’t use is also on the bike. Doing stuff like this on cars is quite different because the percent of the weight of the addon versus the total weight of the vehicle is much lower. The weight of a Tesla Model S is upwards to 5000 lbs. But a Zero SR? An order of magnitude less. That 3 kWh is, effectively, dead weight. You pay for it if you don’t upgrade with reduced agility associated with the weight, and reduced riding distance as the bike has to carry it. So you pay for it no matter what you do.
This seems to be the trend in new vehicle technology. Tesla started leaning heavily into this. High end car makers also started going down this path. Recently, Toyota has come under fire for their remote engine start feature requiring a subscription despite the fact it’s a communication directly between the key fob and the car, not a cloud activated feature. And the really shitty problem with this is these car makers are not making their cars cheaper with these implementations. They can’t, really. They’re still putting the hardware in place. So the car isn’t actually cheaper like one would be if the hardware just didn’t exist.
This is a troubling trend. One could argue that making everything the same with no hard customizations could streamline manufacturing and help bring down cost, but those savings are not being passed down to the buyers. In fact, there’s features that would have been standard in the past that are now becoming a subscription based feature, like the Toyota remote engine start feature.
I refuse to support a company that’s going to push this, and I urge others to avoid them as well. I really wanted a Zero SR. I can’t, in good conscience, give Zero my business with this new development.