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dave norona photo/for metro vancouver
It’s cool to watch as different manufacturers create vehicles that run off of something other than gas. Hybrid cars are making their way into the mainstream and this will only lead to other cool innovations.
At a recent clean air expo in Vancouver I was introduced to Neal and Lisa Saiki of Zero Motorcycles who have created the first off-road electric dirt bike. They have spent the last three years developing one incredible looking bike and I could not wait to try it out. They were equally eager to let me escape off to the dirt bike trails to give it a rip.
First some details. The bike frame weights in at 6.7 kilograms and most of the parts come from the mountain bike industry. In total, the bike weighs 52 kilograms, has 19 horsepower, will go 65 km/h on a single charge and takes three hours to recharge using a simple wall plug. Neal also claimed it can reach 70 km/h.
The ingenious part of the bike, which Neal has patented, is the ZPower lithium ion battery. The difficulty with these powerful batteries is that they create a lot of heat and that heat ends up shortening the lifespan of the battery unless you can get rid of it. Electric cars use liquid, like a radiator, to keep them cool but that adds a lot of weight. Neal developed a way to link the cells and position the battery so it stays cool without any help. It is a huge advancement and something car manufacturers will no doubt want to use.
There is no way to describe riding this bike other than saying it is one of the coolest things I have ever done. With a roll of the throttle, I was flying along the trail in total silence. The 20 centimetres of front and rear suspension suck up any bump or drop off and the torque on this bike is unbelievable. The speed and power was awesome and it felt much faster than the 70 km/h Neal claimed.
Off into the woods I was flying up the single track and getting airtime and feeling super comfortable and stable. Electric motors are known for their torque and this thing will wheelie with ease. Even though the power delivery is smooth, it will put you on your backside if you’re not paying attention. The feel was that of a trials bike — light and very well balanced.
Electric bikes are no doubt the future and I was so impressed with this simple but amazing machine — zero emissions and no noise, well except for the giggles and yahoos coming from underneath your helmet! For more information visit www.zeromotorcycles.com.