The Burbank Police Department rolled out their newest tool in public safety and law enforcement on Thursday, a pair of California-built Zero Motorcycle company electric motorcycles.
Following a proof of concept test in 2014, Lt. Jay Hawver from the Burbank Police Traffic Division explained “we have taken delivery of 2 new Zero (DS-P Series) motorcycles.” Not meant as a replacement for BPD’s existing BMW traffic enforcement motorcycles, the new Zeros will serve a duel role of providing additional traffic enforcement, as well as off-road operations in the foothills, trails, and fire roads in the Verdugos above Burbank.
“The new motorcycles will allow us to perform random patrols within the mountain areas, letting the people know we are there, as well as providing a lot of visibility for both citizens and potential (violators). The more we are seen, the more confidence citizens will have, and the less (incentive) others will have to participate in illegal activities” continued Lt. Hawver.
The electric motorcycles were first brought to BPD’s attention by Ms. Jeanette Myer, from Burbank Water & Power who sent a product brochure to Chief LaChasse as an interest item. The Chief sent the idea along to Lt. Hawver, and BPD was able to get a demonstration model for traffic officers to kick around. The demos met and exceeded officer expectations, and a project to acquire equipment for an operational pilot moved ahead. Ms. Myer put together a recommendation, and the city council approved purchase with a total investment of $50,000.
“The project is really a team effort” said Lt. Hawver. “All motorcycle traffic officers participated in the electric motorcycle evaluation, and took (embraced) a high level of ownership in the outcome.”
While gas-powered motorcycles can perform all the functions of the electric motorcycles, Lt. Hawver also noted the new bikes have the benefit of providing a “green” operational platform for the city. “Green is important to the city” stressed Lt. Hawver, “We all need to consider the mpact we have on the environment, and provide a positive image and role model for the city.”
The electric motorcycles are charged using a standard 120 volt outlet, and batteries are ready to go within 6~8 hours, normally during the evening when motorcycles are not commonly used for traffic enforcement. With an average range of around 150 miles per charge, Lt. Hawver believes the motorcycles will have more than enough range and capacity to handle any shift. For exceptional situations there are also “quick charge” units which reduce the charge time to just a couple of hours.
During the first year the Zeros are in operation detailed statistics will be compiled, and if all goes as planned, consideration for the future of electric motorcycles. “We’ve informed both city public works and the city council electric motorcycles may at some point replace all the gas-powered equipment” noted Lt. Hawver. “While we are not currently planning to replace any of the existing BMWs, the electric motorcycles will probably eventually replace the gas-powered bikes, but not now, maybe in 5-10 years.”
Officer safety is always the highest priority, and the Zero, while different than a traditional gas powered motorcycle, has impressed Lt. Hawver and BPD’s motorcycle officers. “We were really surprised at the agility of the motorcycle. And at a weight of around 375 pounds, it is less than half the weight of the current BMWs.”
All motorcycle officers operating the electric bike need to not only pass the California POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) certification, but also a local skills and operations proficiency for normal traffic and off-road operations.
The characteristics of operating electric vehicles are different than gas-powered vehicles, for example, the electric platform has no clutch, and power is 100% available to the throttle at all times. This takes a bit of adjustment, and the Zero also has programming to give the officer a choice of operating in higher performance “Sport Mode,” “ECO Mode,” and custom modes.
Acceleration, torque (power), and stability are equal to that of the gas-powered motorcycles, making the Zeros quite suitable for all planned traffic and off-road activities. The motorcycles are entering a 1 year evaluation phase to determine operating characteristics, performance, and reliability, and further decisions on the future of electric motorcycles will be made upon completion of the evaluation period.
Lt. Hawver concluded “I am excited about the program, and the (motorcycle traffic) officers are as well.”
Look for BPD’s new electric motorcycles on the street soon, but don’t expect to hear them!