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Move over Harley, electric motorbike comes to Alaska

Alex DeMarban
Loren Holmes photo

Those who love macho motorcycle growls and liberating highway rides may look with derision at the latest two-wheeled creature in Alaska, one that comes with its own extension cord and isn't much louder than the wind.

That would be the Zero S motorcycle, a new (to Alaska) electric bike that costs about a penny a mile to operate, much cheaper than a standard motorcycle -- never mind an automobile. The drawback for long-distance riders? The Zero S will take you about 50 miles on a three-hour charge, meaning you won't be on the highway for long unless you're hauling your own generator.

The bike, made by Zero Motorcycles of California, seems perfect for summertime urban commutes, said Thomas Davidson, service director for The Motorcyle Shop in Anchorage.

The store claims it's the first Alaskan company to sell an electric motorcycle. Test rides were offered for licensed riders beginning last week, now that the city's recently ice-encrusted roads are largely muck-free.

The black-red-and-silver bike has plenty of kick. It's light and easy to maneuver. And it whines when it accelerates.

"It doesn't give motorcyclists a bad name because the person in the convertible next to you isn't bleeding from their ears," said Davidson.

The differences between the Zero S and a standard bike are subtle. There's no clutch, no shifter and no bulbous engine. Just a big power box in the middle.

How many buyers the Zero S will attract in the Far North, with its notable lack of summer days, is unclear. Another advantage: The ride is cheap, $9,000 when you include a $1,000 federal rebate for buying the Earth-friendly product. And with pump prices marching steadily toward $4.50 a gallon, the bike may attract a legion of fans.

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Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com