The Sebastopol PD designed a Code 3 electric police motorcycle from a unit from Zero Motorcycles.

The Sebastopol PD designed a Code 3 electric police motorcycle from a unit from Zero Motorcycles.

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 the 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. “Also, 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 Harley traffic motorcycles.

Nielsen purchased the Zero DS and assembled everything from the lighting solutions, handle positions, and the siren to accommodate Code 3 vehicle features.

“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 up to 63-67 miles per hour. 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 electric motorcycles have increased their top speed and battery range to prevent this from happening.”

Because of its minimal luggage and gears, the electric motorcycle can navigate throughout trails and roads without making any noise. It contains a standard style 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.”

Zero Motorcycles has since launched a line of police motorcycles specifically for police and security agencies.

By Kirsti Correa