The Sebastopol (Calif.) Police Department found itself ahead of the curve, when Zero Motorcycles introduced a police version of its electric DS motorcycle. An enterprising sergeant with the agency had already done just that.
Sgt. Mike Nielsen had converted one of Zero's retail models into an emergency response motorcycle. He patrols trails, parks, and schools with all the required equipment to respond to emergency situations in this small, rural town of 7,000 located about 52 miles north of San Francisco. Sgt. Nielsen set up the electric motorcycle in response to the city's increased problem with drug usage on bike trails and in parks.
"As a small department, we can't afford to have one officer on foot, especially when they can be spotted and outrun," Nielsen said. "Our Harley Davidson motorcycles are loud and can be heard from a mile away. The best solution was the electric motorcycle."
Before Nielsen introduced the electric motorcycle in 2011, the department's fleet consisted of nine marked units including two H-D traffic-enforcement motorcycles.
Nielsen purchased the Zero DS and assembled the lighting solutions, handle positions, and siren so it would be response-ready.
"If it wasn't set up as a Code 3 vehicle, it would be limited in usage," he explained. "Without the lights and sirens required for a Code 3 vehicle, I'd have to wait at lights or get stuck in traffic when responding to a service call around town."
The electric motorcycle can reach speeds of up to 67 mph. Nielsen prefers using it for patrolling trails, parks, and schools, but he said he can also use it for traffic enforcement on regular roads.
"If run at higher speeds, the battery would drain quicker, and it may not last a full shift," Nielsen said. "The newer generation of electric motorcycles have increased their top speed and battery range to prevent this from happening."
The electric motorcycle runs silently and can navigate throughout trails and roads. It uses a standard motorcycle throttle, front brake, and rear brake.
"Responding on the Zero motorcycle does not alert suspects to flee or plan attacks as easy as if coming in by a patrol car or Harley Davidson due to its quiet nature," he said.
Nielsen described it as a police mountain bike that "does not tire the officer out if riding across town rapidly for emergency calls."
"An electric motorcycle is great for agencies looking for different options to patrol without affecting the community, as they don't even hear it," Nielsen said. "It's ideal for a small town and it fits our needs—everyone in Sebastopol loves it."
Another northern California law enforcement agency, the Scotts Valley Police Department, has also put a Zero DS into service.