Zero-Carbon Emission Motorcycles

By: Brett Leverett, January 13, 2011

When you think of a motorcycle, you probably imagine a heart-stopping growl growing louder and louder until chrome straight pipes roar past you at 70 miles per hour.  Don’t let your ears fool you when you experience a new style of motorcycles being perfected in our own backyard.

Electric motorcycles are hitting the streets without making any noise.  As the sale of hybrid and electric cars skyrocket, it’s amazing that this new style of motorcycle has gone seemingly unnoticed.  Providing a nearly silent ride, and with countless more capabilities than a scooter, three American companies are leading us into the future with electric street motorcycles priced for popular consumption.

All starting at under $10,000, The Zero S, Brammo Enertia and Native S were created to completely restructure the way we think about environmentally friendly transportation.  With the computing power of a laptop (yet six times the battery life) and an engine that lacks many of the complex moving parts found in an Internal Combustion Engine motorcycle, mechanical repairs are expected to be reduced.  Battery capabilities will only get better, and this serves to rapidly improve these already impressive bikes.

Your search for an eco-friendly means of local transportation is over, the real question now is, which one do you want?

Zero motorcycles began with electric dirt bikes, and now has come to produce the Zero S which is as much fun as it is green.  The founder of Zero (and former NASA engineer I might add) Neal Saiki developed a 4.0 kWh, landfill-approved lithium-ion battery for his Zero S.  The 20.8 horsepower Zero zooms past the flyweight division with a top speed of 67 mph.  Unfortunately, environmental innovation comes with a price, literally.  Costing $9,995 and only rated to 1,800 charges, you may be sacrificing more cash than you intended to.

After consumer feedback, Zero has added a bracelet which automatically shuts off their bikes when the rider dismounts.  Why you ask?  Because the engine is so quiet that countless people have forgotten that their bike was still running.  An unintended throttle twist then sent their bikes ghost riding away.

The Native S provides the longest riding capacity combined with the most reasonable price.  Starting at only $7,500, the 12.3 horsepower Native is rated at 3,000 charges.  The bike’s 60 mph top speed leaves something to be desired, but when nursed at moderate speeds this electric wonder has been known to go for 50 miles on one charge.  Oddly enough, the Native is the only one of these bikes that offers a passenger seat and foot pegs.  Although, if you intend on carrying a passenger, make sure they qualify for the featherweight class otherwise you’re in for a short ride.

And the winner of motorcycle.com’s first electric motor shootout, Brammo brings you the Enertia.  As the heaviest of the electric bikes, weighing in at 324 pounds, the Enertia has the ability to carry even the largest of riders (up to 276 pounds).  Reasonably priced at $7,995, the measly 13.4 horsepower magically gives the bike a top speed of 63 mph.  You may think that its 20-40 mile range leaves room to question, but when you can go 15,000 miles on only $85 worth of electricity, you might just change your mind.  Rated at 2,000 charges, you may only spend $340 on electricity for the lifespan of the lithium-ion battery.

All three of these vehicles give you the ability to get where you need to go fast, efficiently, and with zero carbon emitted.  With some of these bikes lasting for upwards of 100,000 miles, they can literally pay for themselves in the money you save based on current gas prices.  Electric motorcycles have already set a new standard when it comes to eco-friendly vehicles, and there is only room for improvement.

Photo Credit: Jeff McNeill

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