Banning any consideration of race, gender or ethnicity in public university admissions and public contracting was a mistake with big consequences.
Proposition 13 in 1978 curbed property tax increases. Now voters may strip protection for commercial buildings, helping hard-hit local budgets.
The Silverado Fire and the Blue Ridge Fire nearly doubled in size overnight, and have forced more evacuations in Irvine and other parts of Orange County.
Tuesday: A quick refresher on statewide ballot propositions. Also: An update on fires in Orange County.
Immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy has confirmed a data breach involving the personal information of current and former Google employees.
The New York-based law firm provides companies with employment verification screening services to determine if employees are eligible and authorized to work in the United States.
Every company operating in the United States is required to maintain a Form I-9 file on every employee to ensure that they are legally allowed to work and not subject to more restrictive immigration rules. But Form I-9 files can contain a ton of sensitive information, including government documents like passports, ID cards and driver’s licenses, and other personally identifiable data, making them a target for hackers and identity thieves.
But the law firm said it discovered last month that an unauthorized third-party accessed a file containing personal information on a “limited number” of current and former Google employees.
In a notice with the California attorney general’s office, Fragomen did not say what kind of data was accessed or how many Google employees were affected. Companies with more than 500 California residents affected by a breach are required to submit a notice with the state’s attorney general’s office.
Michael McNamara, a spokesperson for Fragomen, declined to say how many Google employees were affected by the breach.
A spokesperson for Google did not respond to a request for comment.
About 60,000 people were affected by evacuation orders near Irvine, Calif., the authorities said, as the state prepared for strong winds that risked new fires.
The company, working alongside Fanatics and the Los Angeles Rams is launching a pop-up shop Monday for fans to buy gear directly through the delivery service.
The store is coordinated with the first Monday Night Football game being played at the Rams SoFi stadium.
Postmates will be delivering Rams merchandise through the collaboration with Fanatics starting at 10 in the morning Pacific and running through kickoff.
In September, the company announced that it was the first official on-demand food delivery partner for the NFL. A designation that means a multi-year sponsorship for some of the biggest sporting events in the U.S. including the Super Bowl.
“Fans will be watching NFL football this season from their couch more than ever before, so teaming up with Postmates as the first official on-demand food delivery partner of the NFL was a perfect combination,” Asamoah said at the time of the NFL partnership announcement. “We’re excited for Postmates to bring an NFL experience directly to our fans’ doorsteps throughout the season and around the year.”
The deal marks the first time that the company would deliver t-shirts, hats, caps, and other branded Rams clothing and accessories to an audience. The Rams pop-up is a natural extension of the relationship between the franchise and Postmates, which began earlier in October.
As part of the deal there will be 15 different products on sale for men, women, and children priced between $30 and $100, similar to the prices that fans would expect to see from Fanatics’ online shop.
Monday: The secretary of state talks about voting in person. Also: Fires and wind cause dangerous conditions in Northern California.
Facebook will soon be the latest tech giant to enter the world of cloud gaming. Their approach is different than what Microsoft or Google has built but Facebook highlights a shared central challenge: dealing with Apple.
Facebook is not building a console gaming competitor to compete with Stadia or xCloud, instead the focus is wholly on mobile games. Why cloud stream mobile games that your device is already capable of running locally? Facebook is aiming to get users into games more quickly and put less friction between a user seeing an advertisement for a game and actually playing it themselves. Users can quickly tap into the title without downloading anything and if they eventually opt to download the title from a mobile app store, they’ll be able to pick up where they left off.
Facebook’s service will launch on the desktop web and Android, but not iOS due to what Facebook frames as usability restrictions outlined in Apple’s App Store terms and conditions.
While Apple has suffered an onslaught of criticism in 2020 from developers of major apps like Spotify, Tinder and Fortnite for how much money they take as a cut from revenues of apps downloaded from the App Store, the plights of companies aiming to build cloud gaming platforms have been more nuanced and are tied to how those platforms are fundamentally allowed to operate on Apple devices.
Apple was initially slow to provide a path forward for cloud gaming apps from Google and Microsoft, which had previously been outlawed on the App Store. The iPhone maker recently updated its policies to allow these apps to exist, but in a more convoluted capacity than the platform makers had hoped, forcing them to first send users to the App Store before being able to cloud stream a gaming title on their platform.
For a user downloading a lengthy single-player console epic, the short pitstop is an inconvenience, but long-time Facebook gaming exec Jason Rubin says that the stipulations are a non-starter for what Facebook’s platform envisions, a way to start playing mobile games immediately without downloading anything.
“It’s a sequence of hurdles that altogether make a bad consumer experience,” Rubin tells TechCrunch.
Apple tells TechCrunch that they have continued to engage with Facebook on bringing its gaming efforts under its guidelines and that platforms can reach iOS by either submitting each individual game to the App Store for review or operating their service on Safari.
In terms of building the new platform onto the mobile web, Rubin says that without being able to point users of their iOS app to browser-based experiences, as current rules forbid, Facebook doesn’t see pushing its billions of users to accessing the service primarily from a browser as a reasonable alternative. In a Zoom call, Rubin demoes how this could operate on iOS, with users tapping an advertisement inside the app and being redirected to a game experience in mobile Safari.
“But if I click on that, I can’t go to the web. Apple says, ‘No, no, no, no, no, you can’t do that,’ Rubin tells us. “Apple may say that it’s a free and open web, but what you can actually build on that web is dictated by what they decide to put in their core functionality.”
Rubin, who co-founded the game development studio Naughty Dog in 1994 before it was acquired by Sony in 2001, has been at Facebook since he joined Oculus months after its 2014 acquisition was announced. Rubin had previously been tasked with managing the games ecosystem for its virtual reality headsets, this year he was put in charge of the company’s gaming initiatives across their core family of apps as the company’s VP of Play.
Rubin, well familiar with game developer/platform skirmishes, was quick to distinguish the bone Facebook had to pick with Apple and complaints from those like Epic Games which sued Apple this summer.
“I do want to put a pin in the fact that we’re giving Google 30% [on Android]. The Apple issue is not about money,” Rubin tells TechCrunch. “We can talk about whether or not it’s fair that Google takes that 30%. But we would be willing to give Apple the 30% right now, if they would just let consumers have the opportunity to do what we’re offering here.”
Facebook is notably also taking a 30% cut of transaction within these games, even as Facebook’s executive team has taken its own shots at Apple’s steep revenue fee in the past, most recently criticizing how Apple’s App Store model was hurting small businesses during the pandemic. This saga eventually led to Apple announcing that it would withhold its cut through the end of the year for ticket sales of small businesses hosting online events.
Apple’s reticence to allow major gaming platforms a path towards independently serving up games to consumers underscores the significant portion of App Store revenues that could be eliminated by a consumer shift towards these cloud platforms. Apple earned around $50 billion from the App Store last year, CNBC estimates, and gaming has long been their most profitable vertical.
Though Facebook is framing this as an uphill battle against a major platform for the good of the gamer, this is hardly a battle between two underdogs. Facebook pulled in nearly $70 billion in ad revenues last year and improving their offerings for mobile game studios could be a meaningful step towards increasing that number, something Apple’s App Store rules threaten.
For the time being, Facebook is keeping this launch pretty conservative. There are just 5-10 titles that are going to be available at launch, Rubin says. Facebook is rolling out access to the new service, which is free, this week across a handful of states in America, including California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. The hodge-podge nature of the geographic rollout is owed to the technical limitations of cloud-gaming– people have to be close to data centers where the service has rolled out in order to have a usable experience. Facebook is aiming to scale to the rest of the U.S. in the coming months, they say.
Friday: The next few months are critical. Here’s how to cope and stay vigilant. Also: an update on the latest case numbers.
A group that also includes Lyft and DoorDash has spent nearly $200 million to support a California proposition that could save them from a new labor law.
After a season of hellish wildfires throughout the West, there is new evidence that climate change and rampant growth are creating perfect breeding grounds for fire.
Thursday: Proposition 22 is just the latest part of a bitter fight between the state and ride-sharing companies. Also: A guide to meditation.
Wednesday: A deeper dive into the way the debates over ballot propositions reflect Californians’ views on race.
The fire aboard the Conception scuba dive boat killed 34 people last year.
Tuesday: “Let’s get rid of the notion of the sleeping giant.” Also: An update on California’s vaccine planning.
Monday: As we head toward the holiday season, the state has lifted its official ban on private parties. But there are still restrictions.
The nation’s biggest public pension fund is consistently short of the billions of dollars it needs to pay all retirees their pensions. It seeks higher returns.
Left vulnerable by dry conditions, more than 430,000 acres have burned so far in what has been one of the worst years ever for wildfires in the state.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, who performs as Nuke Bizzle, illegally obtained $1.2 million in jobless benefits intended for workers idled by the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities said.
Objects saved and accumulated can be a balm for uncertain times.
A new administration policy, if upheld, would largely shift political power and federal money from Democratic states to Republican ones.
Early mail-in ballot figures show a record number of returns. How did this happen and will it last?
The state had asked last month for federal aid to help recover from six of this year’s fires, including the Creek Fire, which is among the most destructive in state history.
Proterra, the battery system technology developer for heavy-duty electric vehicles, said it has raised $200 million in a new round of funding.
The new cash comes from Cowen Sustainable Investment Advisors, which led the round, along with money from Soros Fund Management, Generation Investment Management and Broadscale Group.
Cowen took the bulk of the round with $150 million while Soros, Generation and Broadscale forked over another $50 million.
This new capital infusion follows a year’s worth of speculation about a potential public offering for the big honkin battery systems developer. TechCrunch last reported in August 2019 that Proterra had hit a $1 billion valuation according to investors and would be seeking a potential IPO at the time.
The company said the new money would go to support the company’s ongoing research and development efforst into battery and electric drivetrain technologies and business development to increase the company’s footprint in additional commercial vehicle segments.
Proterra’s also looking at charging and energy management technology development to lower fleet management costs associated with operating electric fleets.
To date, Proterra has raised equity and debt totaling at least roughly $1 billion from investors including G2VP, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Constellation Ventures, Mitsui & Co. as well as BMW i Ventures, Edison Energy, the Federal Transportation Administration, General Motors’s venture arm and Tao Capital Partners .
Proterra, mainly makes buses for local, state and federal agencies that can travel 350 miles on a single charge. The Burlingame, Calif. company, which has a number of former Tesla employees in leadership positions, including the company’s former chief executive Ryan Popple, has also diversified its business to provide its power trains to other heavy- and medium-duty commercial electric vehicle manufacturers.
The company is now working with OEMs like Thomas Built Bus, Van Hool, FCCC, BusTech and Optimal-EV to bring 100% battery-electric vehicles powered by its technology to market, the company said in a statement.
“As demand grows for battery-electric vehicles and 100% zero-emission fleets, we are excited to collaborate with CSI as well as our other investors to accelerate the transition to clean, quiet transportation for all and deliver even more Proterra Powered vehicles around the world,” said Jack Allen, Proterra’s current chairman and chief executive.
BofA Securities acted as sole placement agent on this transaction.
Thursday: A lesser known ballot proposition illustrates the state’s famed system at work. Also: Dangerous weather; and powerful images of midwives.
The move comes two months after the California Supreme Court overturned a sentence of death for his 2004 convictions.
Pacific Gas and Electric said power would begin to be shut off Wednesday evening and might return Friday night.
Pacific Gas and Electric said power would begin to be shut off Wednesday evening and might return Friday night.
Harley-Davidson should continue to make electric motorcycles. That’s my big takeaway after taking home the company’s LiveWire for three weeks.
I’d ridden it on a closed course in 2019, but that wasn’t enough absorb the finer qualities of the 105 horsepower machine. After nearly a month and a thousand miles on the LiveWire, I’d venture to say it could be the most innovative motorcycle Harley-Davidson has ever produced.
That doesn’t mean perfect (particularly on the pricing). But with declining sales and the aging of the baby boomers — Harley’s primary market for chrome and steel gassers — the company needed to take a fresh turn.
HD’s first EV
Harley-Davidson did that with the LiveWire, which began as a concept and developed into the manufacturer’s first production EV, released in late 2019. The voltage powered two-wheeler is meant to complement, not replace, HD’s premium internal-combustion cruisers.
Founded in Milwaukee in 1903, Harley-Davidson opened a Silicon Valley office in 2018 with plans to add a future line-up of electric vehicles — from motorcycles to bicycles to scooters. The $29,799 LiveWire was first, though waning earnings and the Covid-19 induced recession have put HD’s electric plans in question.
On key specs, the Livewire will do 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, top 110 mph and charge to 80% in 40 minutes on a DC Fast Charger. The motorcycle’s 15.5 kWh battery and magnet motor produce 86 ft-lbs of torque.
The 548 pound LiveWire has an advertised city range of 146 miles (and 95 for combined city/highway riding).The electric Harley is also an IoT and app compatible vehicle, with preset riding modes — that offer different combos of power, torque and regen braking — and the ability to create custom modes.
Harley-Davidson added some premium features to the LiveWire, such as key fob operation, an anti-theft control system and a heartbeat-like vibration on the motorcycle.
That’s useful to remind the rider that the LiveWire — which goes silent at a stop — is still in run mode. In motion, the bike is basically quiet, though Harley-Davidson — famous for its internal combustion rumble — created a signature electric sound generated from the vehicle’s mechanical movements. It’s a barely audible buzz that gives the motorcycle a distinct voice as an electric Harley.
As an e-motorcycle, the LiveWire is remarkably balanced for a two-wheeler that has so much mass concentrated in one place: the battery.
At over 500 pounds, it isn’t exactly heavy by Harley cruiser standards, but the LiveWire is hefty for a naked sport bike. You definitely feel that weight pushing the EV around the garage, but fortunately — with some clever frame engineering — it fades away once the LiveWire gets rolling.
When I tested the LiveWire on a track in 2019, I noted that it brought everything that was becoming the e-motorcycle experience: huge torque and lightning-like acceleration with little noise beyond the wind moving around you.
More time and riding conditions with the LiveWire led to a stronger appreciation. I took it down the Hudson River Valley into Manhattan, up to three digits on I-95, and on the twisty backroads outside of Greenwich. The LiveWire looks and performs the part of a high-performance e-motorcycle, and in many ways, offers a more exciting ride than anything piston powered.
The biggest rush on a LiveWire, compared to ICE peers, is the torque and acceleration. With fewer mechanical moving parts than gas bikes — and no clutch or shifting — the power delivery is stronger and more constant than internal combustion machines. You simply twist and go.
Like other high performance e-motorcycles, the LiveWire’s regenerative braking — or the extent to which the motor recharges the battery and slows the rear wheel coming off throttle — also enhances performance. Regen braking can be adjusted manually or by riding mode on the electric HD.
It takes some skill, but the end result is the ability to fly through corners in a smoother manner than a gas motorcycle — with little to no mechanical braking — by simply rolling off and on the throttle. This is complemented by the motorcycle’s lateral handling. In turns, the LiveWire holds a line as precisely as a Tron light-cycle (at least that’s how it felt conceptually).
This all translates into a riding experience of uninterrupted forward movement, without any racket and rattling. That the motorcycle also looks great— with lines and styling that hit the marks for an EV and a Harley — adds even more.
With the LiveWire debut, Harley-Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S.
The move is something of a necessity for the company, which, like most of the motorcycle industry in the U.S., has been bleeding revenue and younger buyers for years.
While HD got the jump on traditional motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda and Kawasaki, it’s definitely not alone in the two-wheeled electric space.
Harley-Davidson entered the EV arena with competition from several e-moto startups that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.
One of the leaders is California startup Zero Motorcycles, with 200 dealers worldwide. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.
And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.
Of course, it’s not evident there’s enough demand out there to buy up all these new models, particularly given the COVID-19-induced global recession.
On the LiveWire’s market success (or failure), its tough to assess since HD’s reporting doesn’t include LiveWire-specific sales data. One thing I (and others) have been critical of is the motorcycle’s $29,000 price. At just several thousand dollars less than a Tesla Model 3, it’s just too high — even for a premium motorcycle. But price aside, and that’s a big aside, I’d still argue the company succeeded with the LiveWire in a couple major ways. Harley-Davidson created an exciting halo motorcycle that established it as a legitimate e-motorcycle maker — in a distinctly Harley-Davidson fashion — while capturing public interest for its EV program.
For a company to reap the benefits of a successful halo launch, it needs to create a more accessible sequel. In July, Harley-Davidson’s newly appointed CEO, Jochen Zeitz, announced a five year plan — dubbed The Rewire — to adjust to declining sales and lead the company into the future. The strategy includes a massive restructuring and holding on (or even cancelling) some previously announced programs, such Harley’s gas powered Bronx model.
After some intimate time getting to know HD’s debut electric motorcycle, and assessing the market, my vote is for the iconic American company to continue its EV program and give us more. Offer a follow on that makes the rush, excitement and on demand capabilities of the halo Livewire available to the mases.
I could envision the company’s next EV product release including a scooter offering — registering Harley in the urban mobility space — and a more affordable e-motorcycle with broad market appeal.
What could that look like? Something priced around $10,000, lighter and more accessible to beginner riders than the 549-pound LiveWire, cloud and app connected with at least 100 miles of range and a charge time of 30 to 40 minutes. A tracker-styled EV channeling Harley’s flat-track racers — with some off-road capability — could be a winner.
Getting it all right on specs, style and price-point will be even more critical for HD in a COVID-19 economic environment, where spending appetites for motorcycles will be more conservative for the foreseeable future.
But continuing the commitment to production EV’s is still Harley-Davidson’s bet to reach a younger market and remain relevant in the 21st century mobility world. HD’s Rewire should definitely include more LiveWire.
Wednesday: Election officials are looking into the use of unofficial ballot drop boxes installed by the state’s Republican Party. Here’s what you should know.
Democrats are pushing to expand their use, while Republicans insist, without evidence, that they make fraud easier — even as they deploy their own in California.
Genemod, a software for laboratory inventory management used by institutions like the University of Washington School of Medicine; the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Institutes of Health; has raised $1.7 million from a clutch of top venture investors.
The small seed round came from Defy.vc, with additional commitments from Omicron, Unpopular Ventures, Underdog Labs and Canaan Partners.
With the capital, the company said it would develop a product management software to compliment its existing inventory management service.
These are small stepping stones on the way to paving a new road to pharmaceutical development based on collaborative data sharing technology, the company said.
It’s a road that companies like Owkin and Within3 have raised big dollars to pave already. They’re just two companies in the market that are building collaborative software for the pharmaceutical industries.
Genemod’s pitch is that it can increase productivity by giving researchers a better window into the tools they have and the tools they need to accelerate the process of experimentation without downtimes while waiting for supplies.
“While the life sciences industry is known for developing inventive solutions to some of the world’s biggest health problems, many scientists are working with manual, siloed and inefficient processes,” said Jacob Lee, the company’s chief executive.
Alongside the funding, Defy.vc will serve as a growth partner for Genemod, supporting the company as it works to roll out its product roadmap for the latter half of the year. Neil Sequeira, co-founder and managing director of Defy.vc, will join Genemod’s Board of Directors.
Founded in 2018, Genemod was part of the first cohort of Venture Out Startups, a pre-seed investment program designed to encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.
Tuesday: Catch up on the Lakers’ 17th championship win. Also: An uproar over fake “official” ballot boxes distributed by Republicans.
Government officials say the receptacles are illegal and could lead to voter fraud, but the party says it will continue the practice.
Some low-income students have dropped out, and there are growing concerns about hunger and homelessness.
Monday: A conversation with the U.C. Berkeley professor who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Also: A call for first-time voters.
The California judge in the legal skirmish between Epic Games and Apple has denied Epic’s request that Apple be forced to reinstate Fortnite in the App Store, but did affirm that Apple can not take action against the Epic Games developer accounts used to bring Unreal Engine developers access to Apple devices.
The court’s decision re-affirmed their proclamation from late August in a court hearing where Epic Games’ lawyers sought to obtain a temporary restraining order after Apple informed the Fortnite developer that they would be kicking the company off the App Store and terminating all of their company accounts.
The judge noted that “[p]reliminary injunctive relief is an extraordinary measure rarely granted,” and detailed that they were granting in part and denying in part Epic’s request, noting that “Epic Games bears the burden in asking for such extraordinary relief.”
From the filing:
Epic Games has strong arguments regarding Apple’s exclusive distribution through the iOS App Store, and the in-app purchase (“IAP”) system through which Apple takes 30% of certain IAP payments. However, given the limited record, Epic Games has not sufficiently addressed Apple’s counter arguments. The equities, addressed in the temporary restraining order, remain the same.
This confirms that Fortnite will not return to the App Store before the trial begins, a court filing this week signaled that the two companies will go to trial on May 3, 2021.
In the past few weeks, a number of counties have moved forward with reopening and a few have reversed course.
Zero’s 2020 SR/S could be your EV sport bike or sport-tourer. Unveiled earlier this year, the all electric motorcycle brings performance attributes of both classes — with a unique list of pros and cons compared to gas-powered peers.
The SR/S also adds to the business mission of its manufacturer, Zero. The California based EV company has raised $137 million (according to Crunchbase) towards its aim take electric motorcycles mass-market.
SR/F to SR/S
TechCrunch took home Zero’s new SR/S for an extended test. That follows a good amount of saddle time last year in the motorcycle’s predecessor, the 2019 SR/F naked bike. At first glance, it appears Zero simply slapped a fairing on the SR/F to create the SR/S, but there’s more to it than that.
The two motorcycles are identical in many ways. They share the same trellis frame, wheels/tires, drive-train, battery, motor, charging and operating system. But in addition to the fairing, there are some small changes that yielded a distinctly better riding experience. I’ll get to that.
First, on the common specs, like the SR/F the SR/S has roughly the same top-speed of 124 mph, the same 140 ft-lbs of torque and a charge time of 60 minutes to 95%, with the six kilowatt premium charger option (a $2K upgrade).
Both the Zeros are IoT motorcycles. You can manage overall performance — including engine output and handling characteristics — through digital riding modes and from a mobile app. Each EV also has Bosch’s stability control system, which includes cornering ABS and traction control.
The major differences on the SR/S over the SR/F are the addition of the full-fairing, a more relaxed (upright) riding position (through a lower foot peg and higher bar positioning) and a 13% improvement in highway range, from improved aerodynamics (according to Zero). The Scotts Valley company also customized the suspension presets on the SR/S for the fairing and altered ride position, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. The fairing brings around 20 pounds more weight to to the SR/S over the 485-pound SR/F.
On price, the base version of the SR/S is $19,995 — a dash over the SR/F’s $19,495 — and a premium SR/S (with a higher charging capacity) comes in at $21,995.
Living with the SR/S
While I loved the overall look and performance of Zero’s SR/F, I found the SR/S to be an even better e-motorcycle — at least for my preferences. The SR/S’s upgraded riding position increases leverage and maneuverability on the motorcycle, which translated into more comfortable long rides and better handling on twisty roads.
Similar to the SR/F, and characteristic of high-performance e-motorcycles, Zero’s SR/S brings mongo torque and lightning acceleration, sans noise or fumes. With fewer mechanical moving parts than a gas bike — and no clutch or shifting — the e-moto’s power delivery is stronger and more constant than internal combustion machines. You simply twist and go.
It’s also possible to adjust and adapt to the motorcycle’s regenerative qualities to change the way you tackle curvy rides. Regen braking not only adds power back to the battery, but also lets you dial in how much the SR/S’ motor slows down when closing the throttle. It takes some finesse, but the net result is the ability to fly through corners in a smoother manner than a gas motorcycle — with little to no mechanical braking — by simply rolling off and on the throttle.
On range, it’s likely possible to get Zero’s advertised 161 max miles on the SR/S by keeping it in the Eco mode — with lowest power output and highest regen braking — and sticking to stop and go city riding. That’d be pretty boring, however and I didn’t test it. Over several months with the SR/S, I was able to average around a 100 miles of range by using a combo of riding modes — Eco for errands and Sport for speeding on country roads. Charge times using a 6 kW Level 2 charger came out to around an hour to an hour and twenty minutes, depending on how low the state of charge was.
On SR/S specific gripes and likes, there were a couple things on the negative side. Similar to the SR/F, I found the stopping power of the motorcycle’s four-piston, twin calipers up front to be strong, but the rear J-Juan brake soft. Zero could have also offered some different color schemes, beyond gray or dark blue, to better accentuate the motorcycle’s smooth lines. One of the company’s leading dealers, Hollywood Electrics, appears to agree on that one and started offering custom versions of the SR/S in bright white or red.
My biggest likes about the SR/S were the improved performance, versatility, and rider experience Zero was able to deliver with the fairing, peg/bar mods, and suspension setup. I did all kinds of riding on the motorcycle in and around New York and Connecticut: from commuting and backroad blasting to highway jaunts. The SR/S take the upsides of riding electric motorcycles to another level. The fairing eliminates a great deal of wind resistance. On the highway, the SR/S cruises effortlessly in the 80 – 90 mph range — with no engine noise — giving a sensation of surfing quietly on air, vs. forcing your way through it.
The bike has the power and performance to be a weekend sport bike and a comfortable enough riding position to add some rear bags and double as an EV sport-tourer. With the e-motorcycle benefits, however, you still have to accept some compromise and inconvenience, namely around range and charging. Most gas sport and sport-touring motorcycles will get over 200 miles on a tank and top up in minutes. With the SR/S, you’d need to accept about half that range, searching for charging stations and finding something to do for about an hour when you find one. So yes, electric motorcycles do have some superior performance attributes, but they still bring trade-offs to internal combustion two-wheelers.
A boost for Zero
Zero’s latest entries — the SR/F and the SR/S — come at a time when startups are pushing the motorcycle industry toward electric.
In 2020, Harley-Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S., the $29,000 LiveWire. Italy’s Energica has been expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S. And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.
It’s not evident there’s enough demand out there to buy up all these new models, particularly given the Covid-19 induced global recession. But however competition between e-motorcycle sellers plays out, Zero has given itself an advantage with the SR/S. By upgrading an existing platform, the California based company was able to enter two new classes with one model, to offer an electric sport-bike and an electric sport-tourer to the masses.