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Zero Motorcycles

Written by John Bellah

The electric powered Zero Motorcycle may be a solid solution to many police department “green” initiatives. The Zero Motorcycle is not intended to replace an officer in a patrol unit or the traffic officer on a motorcycle. However, the Zero Motorcycle fills a niche between the foot, car or motor unit. The Zero can cover far more area than the foot or bicycle officer, and can go places where a car cannot go, such as crowded mallways, parks, school campuses, parking lots, apartment complexes, and sports arenas. Since the Zero does not emit any exhaust, it can be operated in indoor areas.

Being electrically powered, the Zero produces maximum torque off the line, only requires a 1-speed transmission, yet produces incredible acceleration up to top-speed. Zero to 30 mph is accomplished in less than 2 seconds and 45 mph is hit in just 3 seconds. With a 1-speed transmission, there is no clutch and no shifting!

An additional advantage of the Zero Motorcycle is its silent mode of operation, thus an officer can quietly approach situations utilizing the element of surprise. The quietness of operation is useful for not only uniformed patrol, but can also be used for undercover and covert operations.

The Scotts Valley, Calif. Police became the first government entity to field an electric motorcycle, taking delivery of a DS model in November 2010. According to Lieutenant John Hohmann, their department has quickly learned new and innovative ways of patrolling areas previously inaccessible to conventional patrol methods, and plans to acquire an additional DS model in the near future.

SVPD has received numerous complaints of marijuana-growing operations within their jurisdiction and until now, spotting these have been impossible using conventional methods as many of these operations are tucked away, accessible only by deer trails. Utilizing their Zero DS, officers can quickly and quietly access these remote areas that are unavailable by patrol car or SUV.

Scotts Valley officers assigned to this detail must obtain a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license and attend a state-mandated two-week police motorcycle course, or a two-day off-road course as mandated by POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training). As of now, six officers, including Lieutenant Hohmann have completed the required courses.

Recently awarded the prestigious “e-bike of the year” award during Europe’s Clean Week 2020 event, the Zero is manufactured and designed in the United States. Zero Motorcycles are powered by proprietary High-Efficiency, Air-Cooled, Radial-Flux, Permanent-Magnet electric motors, which are powered by replaceable Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery packs. Lightweight aircraft-grade frames help in keeping the power-to-weight ratio low for maximum performance.

Recharging the proprietary Z-Force Patented Li-Ion Intelligent Power Pack takes about four hours, or with the charger built in to the bike. With the optional Quick-Recharge, charging time is cut almost in half. The battery packs can be recharged by standard house-current—either 110 or 220-volts. The typical cost to recharge runs about $0.48. Estimated life of a battery pack is about 1,800 charge/discharge cycles, or the equivalent to 70,000 miles on a gasoline bike. Depending on usage, a charge will last up to 70 miles.

The bikes come in different models for street, dirt, or combination street/off-road applications. Currently the Zero S™ (street version) or DS™ (off-road, dirt-bike) are recommended for law enforcement applications with a police-specific version in the works. Both bikes offer an isolated 12-V, DC electrical system to run lights, gauges, and other accessories. Zero also offers optional emergency lighting, sirens, and saddle-bags and can customize the bikes towards a specific department’s needs. Depending on model, these bikes offer performance equal to motorcycles with 250cc to 400cc gas engines. The top speed on the Zero S™ or DS™ is 67 mph.

John Bellah is the technical editor of Police Fleet Manager and a retired corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police. He may be reached via e-mail at pfmteched@yahoo.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2012

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