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The future is a Zero


-  Yamaha Sports Plaza introduces a new electric motorcycle

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Top, the Zero electric motorcycle can travel nearly 100 miles on a single charge and reach a top speed of close to 88 miles per hour.

When it comes to the day-to-day costs of personal transportation, “zero” is a really good price.

Which is precisely why a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based motorcycle company aptly named their new electric bike the Zero.

“What could you drive these days for 100 miles and use no fuel?” said Ed Meusec, general manager for Yamaha Sports Plaza in Fairview. “There is no oil to change on these bikes, no gas and the only things you’ll buy are tires and brake pads. This is a mid-price range bike that’s really unique.”

Yamaha Sports Plaza unveiled the newest motorcycle technology a month ago, after being named exclusive statewide dealer for Zero Motorcycles’ 2012 product line.

The bike is a highly efficient, environmentally-friendly alternative to gas-powered models, with virtually no maintenance costs. It utilizes a revolutionary powertrain that allows the Zero to exceed 100 miles on a single charge and reach top speeds of nearly 88 miles per hour. And because there is no motor, the bike is nearly silent while running.

Motorcycle purists may question the Zero’s get-up-and-go without a motor, but Meusec said there’s no denying its abilities and power.

“I’ve been into motorcycles all my life,” Meusec said. “When these came out, I thought, ‘Well, maybe.’ But then I drove it and it turned and maneuvered just like a motorcycle. It’s great.”

Unlike four-wheeled electric vehicles, which require installation of a dedicated power source for charging, the Zero plugs into a standard 110-volt outlet. The battery takes six to eight hours to fully charge, or a separately purchased “supercharger” can do the job in roughly sixty minutes.

But where the Zero shines is in the pennies it takes to keep it on the road. With a 100-mile range on a fully charged battery, at approximately 70 cents per charge, the impact to a typical home electric bill could be little more than $5 a month, depending on how the bike is ridden.

And when comparing the Zero to four-wheeled transportation or a similar sized gas-powered motorcycle in terms of fuel mileage, Meusec said it’s advantage: Zero.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK -  Ed Muesec, general manager for Yamaha Sports Plaza, found the power and maneuverability of the Zero to be equal to similar sized gas powered motorcycles.

“With the Zero, you could probably run to downtown Portland, out to Beaverton, back downtown, out to southeast Portland and back out here to home on one charge or less,” he explained. “And you’ve used no fuel. A similar sized 600 CC sport bike is going to get 45 to 50 miles per gallon. The Zero, after the cost of charging, is about 480 miles. You’re going to go a lot further for a lot less.”

Those who don helmets and head for the open road on two-wheels are out there for a full riding experience, Meusec said. Part of the ride is simply soaking in your surroundings and often times, being able to travel into places where four-wheels aren’t welcome. But riders also like the sound of the bike, which may cause some enthusiasts to question how satisfying the ride would be without engine noise. The Zero, according to Meusec, actually enhances the ride.

“You’re more alert when you’re riding the Zero because you don’t worry about the sound of the shifting gears or the engine,” he said. “You can actually take in your scenery. You’re just riding.”

Zero Motorcycles, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., have long been a recognized leader in electric motorcycle technology. The company was founded in 2005 and currently offers electric models for dual sport riders, as well as street and dirt bikes. There are approximately 50 dealers in United States and Europe who offer the product line.

The Zero retails for $13,900, about mid-range for a motorcycle and does require a driver’s license endorsement. It’s an affordable and economical option, Meusec said, for those who would rather spend their time and money enjoying the riding experience.

“What do you get these days to drive on the street for $13,000?” Meusec said. “There are so many more things to do in Oregon besides sitting on the couch watching TV. It’s always motorcycle season and the Zero is the future.”