The Burbank Police Department has become the latest law enforcement agency to try electric motorcycles, made by Santa Cruz-based Zero Motorcycles.
The agency purchased two 2014 Zero DSPs this month through Los Angeles' Hollywood Electrics, the local Zero distributor and the world's top retailer of electric motorcycles.
Zero makes high-end, high-performance motorcycles that use a powerful electric motor, driven by batteries that plug in for recharging.
The Zero DS, the civilian version of the DSP, retails for $12,995, has a range of up to 95 miles with the entry-level battery and up to 158 with a "Power Tank," and recharges at the rate of about $.01 per mile.
The DSP features police-related options like emergency lights, a siren and a headlight/taillight "cut switch" that extinguishes the lights, enabling a sneakier approach. Most police agencies also add, Zero said, side and rear storage cases, crash bars and a windshield.
The DSP, of the kind Burbank bought, starts at $16,345, but Zero said most police agencies buy bikes that, with accessories, cost several thousand more.
Why electric? They're green, have zero tailpipe emissions, can be ridden indoors or in crowds, and are silent.
"The number one thing is the silence -- the stealth factor," said Zero's fleet sales director Kevin Hartman. "Not only for approaching unannounced, or sneaking up, but for not disturbing people who are using a park properly or are out on trails."
Harlan Flagg of Hollywood Electrics said the department will also enjoy lower costs.
"While leading the community by example regarding emissions, the environment and transportation choices, Burbank will find the operating costs of these motorcycles to be about a third of their gas-powered counterparts," he said.
Zero has sold more electric motorcycles than any of its competitors, and has aggressively pursued the law-enforcement fleet business.
Already, electric Zero motorcycles are being used in 40 police agencies, 29 of them in California, including campus police departments at UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, Fresno State, San Jose State and Foothill College.
Electric motorcycles are also being used by the Los Angeles Police Department, which has deployed a Zero MMX military model for off-road use and two 2014 Empulse LE electric bikes from Zero's competitor, Brammo.
With a top speed of over 105 mph and a range of 120 miles, the starter Empulse has an MSRP of $16,995, with the LE (law enforcement) models running somewhat higher.
Officer Steve Carbajal of the department's off-road unit said the silent electric motorcycles gave officers "an added tactical advantage while on patrol."
Internationally, Zeros have been purchased by police departments in Hong Kong, Colombia, and elsewhere.
"It's the fastest-growing segment of our business," said Hartman. "When I started here just over a year ago, we had five police departments using our motorcycles. Yesterday we shipped to our 40th department."