Pebble Beach 2017: Confederate Motorcycles announces plan to go electric with Santa Cruz company

Confederate Motorcycles President Matt Chambers says his company will build electric superbikes with Zero Motorcycles, a manufacturer based in Santa Cruz.
(Charles Fleming / Los Angeles Times)
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Confederate Motorcycles makes some of America’s meanest, leanest and loudest V-twin street machines.

But now they’re going electric, abandoning the internal combustion engine for a battery-electric powertrain, in partnership with California’s Zero Motorcycles.

The company in Birmingham, Ala., will sell the last of its massively expensive custom cruisers before plugging in a new machine, known as Hercules, that will run on battery power.


Confederate President Matt Chambers, showing bikes at the annual car show known as The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, said his company has gone as far as it can possibly go with gas-powered motorcycles.

That’s pretty far. The $155,000 Bomber unit parked on the Quail lawn makes 150 horsepower, and 165 pound-feet of torque, and accelerates as quickly as almost any motorcycle currently in production.

“We can’t go any further than this,” Chambers said of his decision to take the company in a new direction. “We’ve hit the ceiling. This is it.”

Instead, he said, his company is partnering with Zero Motorcycles, the Santa Cruz makers of high-end electric street bikes, to create a new cruiser. It will be driven by twin Zero electric motors and will produce the equivalent of 175 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque.

Sketches show a sleek, streamlined cruising motorcycle — very Confederate in style, but all electric in power train.

Zero could not be reached for comment, but Chambers said the motorcycles will likely be made on the West Coast, perhaps in Zero’s Scotts Valley facility.

And it will not be a Confederate. Going forward, Chambers said, his company is now called Curtiss Motorcycles — a nod to the builder and racer Glenn Curtiss, who set motorcycle speed records in the early 1900s before gaining fame as an aviator.


The change to Curtiss was guided in part, Chambers said, by the limitations of having a company called Confederate, with that word’s historical connection to the Civil War and current civil unrest.

“I think we lost a lot a business with that name,” Chambers said. “We’ve missed out on branding opportunities. So, it’s time to retire it.”

Chambers said the Birmingham factory has sold 1,300 motorcycles in its history. Confederate has nine complete motorcycles left in stock, and will make 13 more of the just-debuted Bomber model, before moving on the new electric machines.

For Friday only, Chambers said, he was offering discounts to anyone attending The Quail. The normal $155,000 MSRP was being slashed — to $150,000.

Twitter: @misterfleming