Probe the Internet for alternative energy and electric vehicles and expect a week’s worth of results to sift through. Artistic renditions of futuristic transports, everything from scooters to space shuttles, seem to fly off the screen. Unfortunately it’s less often that any of these drawings and models pass the conceptual stage and make it into mainstream production. Luckily, companies like ZERO Motorcycles, Inc. of Santa Cruz, California have modified existing technology into efficient, fun and practical applications for recreation and travel. Allow Alaska Rider to introduce the ZERO X, an electric dirt bike with more than enough performance to put a smile (or fear) on your face and efficiency to keep money in your wallet, all with ZERO emissions.

If ever you’re standing in the silent forest when without warning a blaze of silver and white blows past and onward out of sight, you may have had a close encounter with J.C. Chapple aboard his ZERO X. Not only a ZERO fan, Chapple has become Alaska’s only ZERO Motorcycles rep, providing information, test rides and purchase options to interested parties.

The X he promotes is a primarily off road use, trail and motocross dirt bike powered by a lithium battery and motor. The manufacturer claims their first production model reaches 0-30 miles per hour in an impressive 2 seconds and boasts performance capability of that of a 250cc off road motorcycle with 50 foot-pounds of torque at the wheel. At only 151 total pounds, the X is said to have an unsurpassed power-to-weight ratio, all this while running virtually silent.

“The fact that the Zero makes almost no noise is what surprises people the most I think,” says Chapple.

In fact, during recent showcasing a group of somewhat confused yet impressed spectators approached Chapple questioning the quietness of his ride. The ZERO X almost appears to be some sort of illusion, throwing rooster tails, pulling wheelies, jumping and accelerating with no effort and without any hint of a rumbling engine. This is a go-anywhere ride that won’t scare the local fauna or bother the neighbors.

I’ve ridden the ZERO on a motocross track, steep hills, and a variety of trails. I’ve ridden in snow and ice, soft dirt, gravel, and a little mud,” says Chapple who has owned his X for just a few months. “I rode it in late February after I first received and set up the bike. It was surprisingly easy to keep upright in the snow and ice because it is so light.”

As demonstrated, the ZERO X can be a blast in the sand or on hill climbs. If stuck, a simple lift is all it takes. However, the light weight does seem to have an effect on traction. This may be big bonus for trick riders who love to do spins and through huge rooster tails. At the flip of a switch, the X goes from a beginner, 0-30 mode with moderate acceleration to 0-60 with torque to spare. The ZERO should also be appreciated greatly by environmentalists who enjoy riding or just need cheap transportation into the backcountry but don’t want to impact the environment.

It is hard to gauge what type of person the ZERO is best for. Anyone that rides motorcycles or downhill and cross-country mountain bike trails has the potential to have a lot of fun on the ZERO X. The ZERO uses no gas or oil and makes no emissions, which should interest any motorcyclist who is environmentally aware and wants to make a difference.

Initial cost is around $7500. As for upkeep, the X requires very little maintenance aside from charging the battery or lubricating the chain. According to the manufacturer, the bike can be submerged in water with no ill effects and the non-toxic, landfill approved batter has a lifespan of 6 years.

“The most significant advantage the Zero X has over a gasoline powered motorcycle is the maintenace and operating cost. A late model dirt bike with a four stroke engine has engine oil and an oil filter that need to be changed often, a spark plug, an air filter that has to be cleaned and re-oiled regularly, intake and exhaust valve clearance that require periodic inspection and adjustment, piston and piston rings that require periodic replacement, and don’t forget to add gasoline every time you ride. The Zero has none of that and the cost to operate with electricity used to recharge the battery is about 1 cent per mile,” says Chapple.

For more on the ZERO X, visit www.zeromotorcycles.com, www.myspace.com/ridincleancustoms or call Chapple at (907) 399-1025. You can also visit Chapple at Go Pro located at 230 East Potter in Anchorage.

(Published in Alaska Rider Magazine – June, 2009)