Motorcycle companies are charging ahead and charging up when it comes to changing their focus from internal combustion engines to electric versions of their two-wheeled machines. One motorcycle company, California-based Zero Motorcycles, is leading the charge by providing the U.S. military with a military-only version of their electric all-terrain bike, called the MMX, which is currently undergoing field tests by the U.S. Special Operations Command forces.
This type of machine has an advantage in the field over regular motorcycles. It is quiet, with a low heat signature, providing a stealth advantage for quick strike missions. Features not found on civilian models have been adapted to fit the MMX military profile, including an enhanced dash with centralized control switches, a key-less ignition, and a toggle switch for the headlight to be used for stealth missions in total darkness. There is speculation about its ability to operate while submerged, possibly three feet under water.
The modular batteries are lockable, with a quick change unit, and a fast charge system that reduces charging times to around one hour. The MMX has a safety override system with reserve power capabilities for those unexpected extended rides.
The MMX military version of Zero’s Z-Force motor puts out a reported 54 horsepower with 68 lb-ft of torque. A regenerative braking system assists in the regulation of speed and increases the capacity of ride time. Zero Motorcycles includes an application with Bluetooth compatible with smart phones, giving it the ability to adjust performance capabilities on the fly.
In the near future, motorcycles will seem more like any other electronic device we now take for granted. Just charge your motorcycle for an hour and you are ready to rev-up and go. One of the great advantages of an electric motorcycle is the efficient and clean ride. However, hardly anyone purchases a motorcycle with those reasons in mind. Bikes are more fun to ride than any four-wheeled vehicle anywhere on the planet. They are also low maintenance, not likely to break down or blow a gasket in the middle of nowhere.
Even legendary motorcycle makers like Harley-Davidson are getting into the act, with a 30 city cross-country tour with its hand-built Project Live Wire experimental electric motorcycle, which kicks off today in New York City, showing off a new bike that looks more like a sleek racing bike than one of the large highway cruisers everyone associates with the Harley-Davidson brand.
Harley-Davidson has been in the motorcycle market for more than a century. It enjoys more brand-loyal owners than any company in the United States. Harley is preparing for the future, its central core of riders, adults in the 35 and older age bracket, will not live forever, and a cross-country tour is a measure of rider interest in an electric version of their brand. If younger riders fancy this machine, a new era may be in the offing.
The concept of electric motorcycles is not new. Machines of this type have been around since 1895 but manufacturers are testing and producing these bikes in a more serious vein than before. The market is there, as can be seen in the lower end scooters in metro areas, and from the upscale modular, plug-in models being produced by Zero Motorcycles and other entry-level companies.
The military model produced by Zero Motorcycles has been purchased by the Los Angeles Police Department for use in its off-road patrol units. Other military features available to law enforcement include, the stealth mode, and the chain drive, making it a heavy duty workhorse for patrolling the streets, hills and back roads of L.A. Perhaps the police will install locked charging boxes around the city, and charge up their motorcycles on the go. Motorcycle companies are definitely charging ahead and up when it comes to changing their focus from internal combustion engines to electric versions of their two-wheeled machines.
By Andy Towle