With gas prices reaching nearly four dollars a gallon across Utah in recent weeks, many people are looking for alternative forms of transportation to meet their needs. It may be perfect timing for a new electric powered motorcycle that is now available in the state. Zero Motorcycles are designed and manufactured in Santa Cruz, California and have been on the market since 2010. Zero is currently the only full line brand of electric motorcycle being mass produced in the United States and the only brand being sold through a traditional dealer network in the nation.
Rob Morgan is the owner of the new Monarch Recreational Sales and Service Inc., which is now selling the Zero in Orem. He is very optimistic about sales success.
“I think this is the future of transportation, whether it’s two wheels or a car. You know, the Volt’s, the Leafs, all of these Prius-type vehicles, there’s none of them that are 100% electric for motorcycles. This is it. And if this would’ve been last year, I would’ve stayed away from it for the simple fact that the range wasn’t where it needed to be. Now, I can plug and I can go a hundred miles,” Morgan says.
The Zero motorcycle is easier to operate than a traditional motorcycle. It’s basically just a matter of getting on it with your safety gear, turning the key, twisting the throttle and going. There’s no engine to warm-up, no transmission to shift and no oil to change. A brief ride on the “S” model blasted me from zero to 60 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. The loudest sound you hear is the Kevlar drive belt system connecting the motor to the rear wheel…. and the wind. The typical Zero model has a mileage rating equal to 480 miles per gallon. The “S” model has a range of up to 114 miles on a single charge and a top speed rating of 88 miles per hour.
It’s the latest lithium-ion battery and electric motor technology that makes this possible. Dr. Faisal Khan is an Assistant Professor in the University of Utah’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He has been studying the evolution of power storage systems for years. He’s an expert in hybrid electric and power supply efficiency issues. He says lithium-ion technology is unique in the world of portable power.
“The two major criteria of lithium-ion batteries is energy density and power density because if it needs to be light weight but if you need more power and more energy, then there is no alternative to lithium-ion batteries,” Kahn says.
He says efficiency of all electric systems over fossil fuel energy is a 5 to 1 in favor of electric because internal combustion engines are only 20 percent efficient.
Dr. Khan says, “The overall efficiency could be 80/85 percent easy.” The real driving force behind the success of the all-electric vehicles may be the overall low operating cost. Dr. Kahn says even if you get 30 miles per gallon of gasoline costing you 4 dollars, the typical electric vehicle would cover the same commute for just 80 cents.
Monarch’s Rob Morgan has loaned one of the motorcycles to the Orem City Police Department as well as other law enforcement officers in hopes of generating more appreciation for the Zero. He believes they are a perfect fit for police work.
Cpt. Steven Clark is the commander of the patrol division for Orem City. After using the bike for about a week he could see that silence is one the strengths of this electric motorcycle.
“It made me think, wow, I wouldn’t mind having one of these on each of my patrol crews, so that a guy on graveyards could, you know, rather than just driving in and out of businesses or responding to calls and being visible, could physically creep in and out of business areas and industrial areas and places where we have a burglaries and our thefts and do it relatively unnoticed,” says Cpt. Clark.
Zero makes a model specifically for law enforcement but Clark says, like many cities, the current economic state of Orem City makes purchasing a few of these motorcycles difficult...
“…but down the road I can see this would be very, very valuable. Yes, they’re pricey with the initial cost but there really isn’t any cost after that. Sure there’s a cost to recharge but I mean it’s staggering how much money goes out of just the Orem Police Department daily for fuel,” Cpt. Clark says.
Suggested retail prices range from about 77 hundred dollars for the base “XU” model to 14 thousand for the top of the line “S” model. Comparable gasoline-powered motorcycles range in cost from 48 hundred to 8 thousand dollars. All of this silent power and zero emission technology does come at a relatively high price, but there are federal and possible state tax incentives available to help subsidize the cost. The list of competitors of the Zero brand is short but growing rapidly. It includes Brammo and Lightning. Those brands are even faster, much more expensive and are being sold through pre-orders only.