Electric motorcycles make a strong statement at Sustainable Transportation Fair
By Monica Humphries
University of Florida Police Department is making a loud statement with quiet vehicles.
Last year, UFPD purchased two 2014 Zero DS electric motorcycles. This year, the motorcycles officially match the rest of the fleet thanks to orange and blue saddlebags and large POLICE decals added to the bikes. The motorcycles were recently featured at the annual Sustainable Transportation Fair.
UFPD purchased two motorcycles in response to Senior Vice President Charlie Lane’s challenge to change ten percent of UF’s fleet to electric vehicles over the next ten years.
“[The motorcycles] are unique and fit the needs of UF,” said Sgt. Seth Colson, a sergeant at UFPD. UFPD was the first university in Florida to get electric motorcycles and the second agency in the state.
One of the challenges UFPD came across was training. Because the motorcycles are so new to the market, there is no official training on how to properly use them. They are hoping to be the first department to create training for electric motorcycles.
Although the motorcycles have not been in official use, they have already contributed to the community. “They’re a huge magnet,” Colson said. “They open up dialogue and encourage people to start a conversation.”
Colson said there have been many instances where UFPD has taken them out for training and conversations have sparked.
“We might start talking about the motorcycle, but it’ll lead to a whole new conversation,” Colson said.
Some other advantages of the motorcycles are their ability to get in and among buildings and tight roads on campus. The bikes are also quiet, which Colson sees as a benefit.
“If someone calls out to you, you can hear them.” Colson said that’s difficult to do on a traditional motorcycle when the engine is roaring and the officer is wearing a helmet. But even wearing a helmet, officers can still hear their surroundings on an electric motorcycle.
Plus, they’re more affordable. The models purchased by UFPD cost between $20,000 and $21,000, compared to the Harley Davidson non-electric models that cost between $24,000 and $25,000, Colson said.
It costs UFPD $1.60 to charge the electric motorcycle, which allows it to run for about 120 miles. Currently the department is using special rapid chargers and cord chargers until UF has a larger infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations.
Colson said he was surprised at how quickly the motorcycles can go. Although electric doesn’t always communicate fast, the Zero DS models can get to 98 miles per hour and pretty fast, he said.
Although there isn’t a current model for a police electric car, Colson said this could be key to open up the market.
“I’m certain we’re going to add more,” Colson said. “This is just a start.”