Electric Bike Adds Style and Speed to Virtue

Most motorcyclists are happy enough to go green, except when it comes to the bikes they ride.

Pollution-free electric scooters and bicycles have been available for a while but nothing on the market so far has come close to providing what bikers would regard as a ride with the style and performance they crave.

The Zero, an electric motorcycle from California with enough speed to embarrass other vehicles at the traffic lights, may be about to change that.

Neal Saiki, the founder and inventor of Zero motorcycles, has produced the Zero S, an electric street bike with sharp styling and even sharper acceleration.

"People have waited decades for these things to be practical," he told Reuters as he launched the new bike in Europe, where he hopes to make half his sales.

"We make every part of the bike. It's very light, half the weight of a normal motorcycle."

A quick spin round the streets of east London's Isle of Dogs confirmed what Saiki meant.

The bike is quick, nimble and easy to ride. With its frame constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum and other high quality components, it's also an attractive-looking machine.

"We've had people put their motorcycles in their living rooms," Saiki said.

If most electric vehicles are the motoring equivalent of muesli, this bike is more like a martini.

It runs almost silently, which can be a little alarming. I came up behind a small group of people on bicycles, who had no idea I was there until I sped past them.

One of the Zero's limitations is its range. It will do between 40 and 60 miles on a single electric charge.

This of course cuts out long trips, although most owners will probably stay in town, where it excels, and keep topping the battery up regularly so they are not embarrassed by having to push the bike to the nearest electrical outlet.

When the bike is plugged into the mains, charging it up equates to about one penny a mile in running costs, which is certainly cheaper than fuelling up a petrol-driven bike.

Sadly, what is not cheaper is the price. The Zero S costs 9,000 pounds ($13,500), or about twice what its petrol-powered equivalent might cost.