Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Green Motorcycles Are Here

In my never ending task of looking for a job in California’s Bay Area, I came across a company that caught my attention. It is a company called Zero Motorcycles located in Scott’s Valley, near Santa Cruz. Since I don’t have the qualifications for the job opening they had, I checked out their website and found that they really have a cool idea here.

The Zero Motorcycle is an electric bike. It is powered by a Lithium Ion battery pack made by Emoli, which is developed for regular landfill disposal. This solves the problem of a lot of ‘green’ vehicles who still have the problem of battery disposal. The Zero’s battery charges in 2 hours, and will take you about 40 miles. The weight of the battery pack is about 45 lbs. making the total bike (Zero X) weigh only 140 lbs.
The company’s first offering is the Zero X, marketed as a dirt bike. It is completely silent, which would be really cool if you were off-road in the woods. It would also be a great commuter around town. The bike cost around $7500 now, with the option of a more powerful German motor giving 10% more power for $8350. The next release will be a street bike called the Zero S, and in 2009 the Zero Way is slated to be released.

The bikes have been selling online since Jan. ’08, and already have backorders. They are seeking to expand their manufacturing facility to try to keep up with orders which are increasing exponentially. You can have a Zero motorcycle shipped to your home for a very reasonable price.
A surprising fact is that in CA and 17 other states, you don’t even need a motorcycle endorsement to ride the Zero on the street. Since it doesn’t have a gas powered engine, there is an intentional loophole in the law. The motor has about 20 horsepower, which is on par with a 250cc bike. As long as you ride over to the right of the lane, as a bicycle would, you are legal.

I was excited when I found out about the Zero motorcycle and the future development of this company. I think they have the right idea and the possibilities are limitless. Using developing technology we could someday be riding electric Harleys. (Well, maybe not)
You will probably be hearing more about this company in the future.


The Secret Prilgrim said...

I hate to call you down on this Becky, but you are way off base regarding the on road status of the Zero motorcycle. There is no such loophole in the law available because it is electrically powered. You may be confusing this issue with low speed electric bicycles, which are regulated by federal law outside of National Highway Safety Act requirements as long as the speed is limited to 20 mph and they comply with Consumer Product Safety Act standards. Any motor vehicle powered by any means, gasoline combustion engine or electric motor, that exceeds the speed of 20 mph on dry level ground is classed as a motor vehicle. As such, unless they are in the low speed moped class, they require that operator have a license, in many case a motorcycle operator's license, that the vehicle be registered and insured. Mopeds may be treated differently from state to state, however the standard definition of a moped in terms of speed and horsepower is no more than a 50cc engine with 2 brake horsepower, with a top speed of 30 mph. Zero may be on the right track, as long as they stay on the track. When they are on the roads, it is a whole different set of rules.

Anonymous said...

I have been to the Zero Motorcycles' website several times, and like you I find there product very interesting. However, California does have requirements clearly stating that the Zero does not meet the standards of a motorized bicycle. The engine must be no more than 1,000 Watts whereas the Zero's engine is 15,000 Watts. The limiter they put on to keep the bike under 30 mph meets one requirement, but the engine itself is too powerful to meet the standards of the law.
It is exciting to see companies entering this field and I hope they are all successful.

Becky said...

Anonymous,Secret Prilgrim:
Forgive me, but I got my facts from the Zero Motorcycles website under the News tab. An article written for Venture Beat by Chris Morrison in Sept.'07 speaks about the CA law loophole. I don't know, but I'm sure the Zero people know what they are dealing with and will comply with the law to compete in this hot new market.

Thanks for the comments.


"Joker" said...

Electric Harley? Oh God, please let me be long dead before a bastardization like that ever hits the road! There are certain things that I feel are just plain wrong. Breast implants, toupees, non-alcoholic beer, and trying to pick up women at your family reunion immediately come to mind - but electric Harleys are now at the TOP of my list!

This little unit would be great for bicycle couriers in the city who don't care to get any exercise while they work. Its chances of ever replacing the gas powered cruiser - "Zero" :))

thesecretpilgrim said...

It is easy to become confused, Becky, because state laws vary all over the country and are often contradictory. Many have not been updated since the 1970's or even before. Even the law passed by Congress in 2002 revamping the regulation of electric bicycles has been largely ignored by most of the states. Notably different are the West Coast states, CA, OR, and WA, which completely comply with the intent and spirit of the Federal law, PL107-319. The purpose of the law was to make it easier for people to purchase low power electric vehicles for use as an alternative mode of transportation locally. For the Zero vehicles to be road legal, they must comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Act (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). These regulate the equipment and standards of equipment which must be used in the production of the vehicles in order to render them roadworthy. Anyone engaged in the manufacture or importation of on road vehicles should be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of these regulations.

iburyem said...

Interesting. The only problem I would see, is that it just gives people one more option to buy something that they "think" they should know how to ride. Man, OKC is getting overrun by motorcycles. Which would be fine, if everyone got an endorsement and considered taking a class. It seems that all the hayseeds that had dirtbikes when they were kids automatically know how to ride a 1200 motorcycle. Not a good idea....

Becky said...

Joker: I love your perspective on this, and you crack me up.

Secretpilgrim: You may have missed the point of my article. Thanks for all the legal jargon.

Iburyem: I have to agree with you on that. Especially this time of year people ride without training or endorsements or on slow scooters that don't keep up with traffic.....scary! And with the gas prices more and more new riders are out on the roads.