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SLO police officers test out electric motorcycle

San Luis Obispo police Officer George Berrios rides an electric motorcycle during a demonstration for the media Monday.
San Luis Obispo police Officer George Berrios rides an electric motorcycle during a demonstration for the media Monday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo Police Department is testing out an electric, zero-emissions patrol motorcycle this week to determine whether the environmentally friendly bikes could be a useful addition to the department’s fleet.

The motorcycle, which is significantly smaller than the department’s current patrol motorcycles, has the ability to navigate off-road areas that standard street motorcycles cannot, said Sgt. Fred Mickel, head of the department’s Traffic Safety Unit.

The model was developed by Santa Cruz-based Zero Motorcycles and is on loan to the department from a Clovis-based dealer. According to Mickel, a single charge is good for approximately 130 miles and costs the department about a dollar per charge. Each battery is designed to last approximately 250,000 miles.

The motorcycles cost roughly $20,000 each.

“It wouldn’t be tomorrow that we’d be buying one if the city chooses to go that route,” Mickel said. “We’re testing it out to see if it meets the needs of our department.”

That test includes an evaluation of the bike’s strengths and limitations, which the department will determine following the weeklong test run. Generally speaking, Mickel said, officers have already found that the motorcycles are hard to see on the road because of their size. However, they are also extremely quiet, which may serve officers’ purposes in certain situations.

“We’re not looking at these thinking they would replace our entire fleet, but they may be something we can use in specialized situations,” Mickel said, adding that a number of California cities have acquired similar motorcycles.

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