THE RACE IS ON, THE ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING. April 2009 was a milestone month for electric motorcycles, and the two biggest news items are from the same company: Zero Motorcycles in Santa Cruz, California.
To begin wtih, Zero Motorcycles staged the first 24-hour endurance event for electric, off-road motorcycles. The “24 Hours of Electricross” competition started on Saturday, April 4, at 10:00AM, and, true to the name, ran all day, through the night, and ended 24 hours later, on Sunday, April 5. The event was held at the 408MX Motocross Track in San Jose, California. The competition featured ten teams of riders each riding the Zero X electric motocross bike. Team Hotchalk took first place after completing 1015 laps.
Center stage at event was the Zero X, a high-performance, electric motorcycle. Check out the videos and you can see this is a real, off-road motorcycle with the entertainment value of a traditional gasoline motorcycle, without using gas. The bike is oddly quiet and exceptionally light with a total weight of 151 pounds. The Zero X can run up to 2 hours or 40 miles before needing to be recharged. Charging takes less than 2 hours at a claimed cost of less than $.01 per mile.
The bike costs $7450.00 for the standard model and they also have an “Extreme” version for $9300.00, which includes a more powerful motor and a stronger/smoother front fork.
The folks at Zero Motorcycles must have given up sleeping, because if that was not enough to keep them busy, they shortly thereafter introduced a new electric motorcycle.
ZERO S: STREET-LEGAL SUPERMOTARD
Two days after the race, Zero Motorcycles announced they were taking orders for their street-legal electric motorcycle, the Zero S (pictured above).
Like their established dirt bike, the new Zero S is a clutchless, one-speed motorbike. As an electric motorcycle, the torque is available like a light switch: turn it on, and the power is all there. In this case, just dial the throttle to the speed you want. (Sort of like a dimmer switch on a lamp).
This bike weighs in at 225 pounds and can hit a top speed of 60mph. It can travel up to 60 miles in between charges and recharging takes less than 4 hours. The company claims the charging cost to be less than $.01 per mile.
At $9950.00, this is not the least expensive motorcycle to purchase for the performance, but it certainly is the least expensive to operate and the cleanest, most quiet and most eco-friendly bike.
The bikes are purchased online from Zero Motorcycles and delivered for $500.00 to your door.
Although electric vehicles in general, and electric motorcycles in particular, are generating more and more interest in recent years, they’re not a new idea.
The earliest references to electric motorcycles can be found in patents going back to the 19th century. And about a century ago, in 1911, an article in Popular Mechanics made reference to an electric motorcycle. But as technology has continued to open more opportunities in so many other ways, it also seems as if there has been a real lag in the advancement of battery technology which has limited the operating range and top speeds of any vehicle attempting to power transportation along this line. Motorcycle batteries, heck “all batteries,” have also had the distinction of being filled with very unfriendly and highly corrosive chemicals that are not conducive to a green-friendly package.
Zero claims that their lithium-ion battery technology is the “only non-toxic power pack,” and that it does not use toxic metals such as cobalt, nickel, lead or mercury, further complementing their bikes as eco-friendly. Their batters are also completely recyclable so this is a substantial step forward in making a truly useful vehicle, on a larger scale, for the world at large.
THE INDUSTRY RACE TO LEAD THE REVOLUTION
With Zero Motorcycles making such a strong statement in the electric vehicle markets with their Zero X featured in their “24 Hours of Electricross,” as well as the launch of their street-legal Zero S, the big race is on to be the worldwide industry leader for electric motorcycles.
Although there are a number of electric scooters available (Vectrix is a big player), the competition to produce electric motorcycles with the greatest speed, longest running time, the fastest recharging time and lowest cost, is only going to become more charged.
Quantya is a Swiss company that has also been making an electric motocross bike.
In Ashland Oregon, Brammo is the company behind the Enertia, an electric motorcycle that was selected as 1 of Wired Magazine’s “Top 10” Product launches of 2008. A unique marketing angle about this street-legal bike is that it will be sold through Best Buy stores starting in May of 2009.
San Francisco company, Mission Motor, is working on the high-end of the electric motorcycle market with their Mission One motorcycle (pictured) that promises to be the world’s fastest production motorcycle at 150mph for $68,995.
Not to be outdone, Honda, Yamaha and KTM have made announcements that they, too, will be coming out with their own electric motorcycles in two years. (Hold on as the speed of change is starting to get traction).
Make no mistake about it, the motorcycle world is changing, and rechargeable motorbikes may be the biggest revolution to occur in our industry in the past 100 years.