Law Enforcement Embraces Electric Motorcycles


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Zero Law Enforcement Patrol Fleet

Picture this.  A long time ago in a quiet New England town, a parade was had, celebrating the 250th birthday of the sleepy burg.  For this celebration, the crack precision Harley-Electraglide-in-Blue-riding Boston Police Department Motorcycle team was enlisted and showed off exactly what close to a half-ton of Milwaukee steel can do in the hands of a expert.  Every quarter-mile or so of the parade route, the team would go into formation and do their tricks.  And every quarter mile or so, they’d leave behind a blue haze of exhaust and burning oil hanging low over this quaint New England village.  This made an impression on the (then) young eyes of this writer.


Hong Kong PD adopts Brammo Enertia

As of last week, we saw three more reports of Law Enforcement adopting electric motorcycles for their arsenal of transportation. A Pennsylvania Police Department is evaluating the use of Zero electric motorcycles, the Clovis (CA) PD now owns the largest fleet of electric motorcycles in the nation, and in Hulu Langat (Malaysia) the local constabulary is planning on using 30 electric motorcycles along with several hybrid cars.

This isn’t particularly breaking news.  Since its very early days, electric scooter manufacturer (now defunct) Vectrix saw the potential in placing its scooters in the hands of the police, and the NYPD adopted several Vectrix products, leading to deployment of Vectrix in the UK.  Brammo was delighted to announce the Hong Kong police department was to adopt its Enertia models, and, not to blur the line between the military and law enforcement, Zero is offering the MMX as a personal stealth weapon of choice for military applications.

But what’s the common thread amongst the law enforcement adopters?

We have seen pretty much all the bases covered in supporting arguments – the stealth, the versatility, the light weight and ability to jump curbs and climb stairs.  One thing we don’t read about too much is the ability to just flip a switch and go, with no warm-up time and no elaborate gasoline-engine starting sequence.  However, the strongest common thread?  The emissions.  Or lack thereof.

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Zero PD bike in the wild.

That blue smoke hanging over the parade route is something that was painfully obvious in that pristine New England town.  It’s not so obvious in the bowels of the city.  The fact is, though, motorcycles, in spite of boasting significant MPG ratings over cars, suffer fairly dismal ratings for emissions.  As Mythbusters reported, “At best, it’s a wash. Motorcycles are just as bad for the environment as cars,” Savage said on the show. “At worst, they’re far worse.”

From the LA Times story “‘MythBusters’ asks: Are motorcycles greener than cars?“:

“The upshot? Motorcycles were indeed more fuel-efficient than cars and emitted less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but they emitted far more smog-forming hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, as well as the toxic air pollutant carbon monoxide. For the most recent model year vehicles tested — from the ’00s — the motorcycle used 28% less fuel than the comparable decade car and emitted 30% fewer carbon dioxide emissions, but it emitted 416% more hydrocarbons, 3,220% more oxides of nitrogen and 8,065% more carbon monoxide.”

From the Valley Public Radio post:

“They’re going to be used in areas where there’s a lot of traffic, areas where there’s maybe a lot of pedestrians and that’s a great area for a vehicle that’s not kicking nitrogen oxides out of the tailpipe,” says (air district spokeswoman Jamie) Holt.”

Motorcycles are probably second in line to non-emission controlled small gas motors in contributing to nasty smoke.  First place goes to lawn power tools – lawnmowers, weedwackers, chainsaws, any of the small ubiquitous gasoline-powered tools pumping out smoke (and loud noise) directly from the muffler.

So many attributes linked to an electric motorcycle, or electric-assist bicycle for that matter, make sense for law enforcement from a cost and use standpoint.  Probably the second most popular reason given is the reduced maintenance required – less time needed for changing oil, filling the gas tank, adjusting chains, tuning up and cleaning…  more time for donuts?  But who would have guessed that cops would lead the charge for cleaner urban air?

Stealth on the street: Zero Law Enforcement Fleet

Stealth on the street: Zero Law Enforcement Patrol Fleet

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7 Comments on "Law Enforcement Embraces Electric Motorcycles"

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The fact is that motorcycles in the US are probably in more need of increasing electric range than even cars. For many in the US, motorcycles are recreational vehicles, taken on a whim “just to go somewhere”, typically to twisty roads, which live away from populated city centers, and obviously contain hills, etc. As such, having 80 miles of range is more restrictive than it would be with an errand-running commuting Leaf, since your final destination is likely farther than 80 miles away.

That’s not to say that the majority of motorcycle rides are even less than 20 miles, just look at your local biker bar. However, the motorcyclists I know purchase them in order to buy “a getaway machine, to ride to X on an adventure”, even if they never go on that trip. An 80 mile electric bike doesn’t fulfill that dream, and as such won’t sell in significant numbers to the American buying public.

Not to mention that Police stations can get electric motorcycles with other people’s money… heck if I could spend your money, I’d buy an electric bike too!

Hopefully the initial fleets will prove successful, they seem to fit the city police role quite well.

I don’t think range is as much of an inhibitor as cost. There’s simply no objective, rational way to justify the $10k+ premium of an electric motorcycle over a similarly powered ICE. Brammo and Zero are selling budget bikes at exotic prices.

It is all relative. I was reading from the link about the Clovis PD using Zero motorcycles. I thought it was interesting that the BMW cycles they were using have a base price of more than $16,000. If the zero cycles they bought were around that price, then they will save money, especially on gas and maintenance. I don’t think the price is really a deal breaker for police departments when they already pay probably close to $20K for the bike anyway.

The R1200GS is what Clovis PD uses.

PDs base their purchases primarily on service costs. Whoever gives them the best deal gets the contract. And no, Zero does not make anything remotely equivalent to a BMW R1200, be it GS, RT, or R. Despite what so many hardcore EV lovers want to believe, production electric bikes are very low quality for their price point.

Another advantage is ease of operation. This makes it easier (cheaper) to train all officers and makes it easier for them to operate other controls (radio ?) while riding and/or to concentrate on navigating instead of switching gears.

Lighter weight? Any electric bike will be heavier, a lot heavier, than its ICE equivalent. Comparing a Zero to a Harley isn’t apt, at all. Completely different class of vehicle. Compare it to a DRZ-400 or something along those lines, and it looks much less spritely.

I’ve been a motorcyclist for over 40 years. I’m an MSF safety instructor. I would love to own an electric motorcycle. They cost too much. Have no storage space. No wind protection. I would need to add another $1000 worth of accessories to the purchase price of a bike. That would make it half the price of my C Max Energi. But, I would still love to own one.