August 2, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
A motorcycle that's fast, silent and green
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The battery pack also gets cooled by being exposed to wind, another advantage battery motorcycles have over cars, he added.
While Zero sells the bikes directly, it is trying to line up distributors. The Zero X weighs only 120 pounds (with 40 pounds of that going to the battery). As a result, it costs just a few hundred dollars to ship and can fit into a cardboard box. The company hopes to sell through big-box retailers.
Racing associations, for one, are keenly interested in electric bikes. Several tracks have been shut down in California in the face of suburban sprawl.
"The big problem they have is the noise," Saiki said.
Fumes are an issue, too. In Canada, races take place indoors in the winter. Fumes have to be ventilated out of the building. Opening the doors would freeze the spectators, he said. Because electric bikes have better acceleration than gas bikes, but can't drive as far, the associations are contemplating creating a new category for electrics, called "electricross." Several pros have test-driven the bike already.
My own test-drive was a blast.
In an early part of the test-drive, I turned the throttle a bit and found myself heading toward Saiki, but I hit the brakes and avoided hitting a dumpster. It was definitely faster than I expected, and this was when I had the governor on, which slows acceleration and maxes the top speed at 30 miles per hour. (James Martin, CNET photographer, sort of sideswiped the rear wall of a restaurant in his initial foray.)
But after about 10 minutes, I felt fairly comfortable and switched off the governor. The bike zipped to 30 miles per hour and faster in a few seconds. At 120 pounds, it was also somewhat easy to maneuver and balance.
Even better, though, was the sound. Unlike regular motorcycles, the tinny, sharp whine is completely absent. The only sound comes from the chain. If you could put something like this in a snowmobile, the raging controversy over those might end.
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