The military has employed motorcycles for special purposes since they were invented, for their independent operation, transportability and tactical advantages. The concern about these machines was never about their performance or manoeuvrability but about safety, as the accident rate of motorcycles was always higher than four wheeled motorcars.
The special operations community has recognized these combat advantages, realizing that go-anywhere dirt bikes can move where no ATV can go. But these motorbikes are still too noisy for covert operations.
In fact, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wanted a stealthy motorcycle, one that could jump out of helicopters or MV-22s tilt-rotor plane, move fast and quiet, enabling assault teams to gain the element of surprise. They wanted a rugged machine that could be operated reliably in harsh field conditions, start instantly even at extreme temperatures.
“Although there are diesel motorbikes in service, they didn’t meet all the requirements and SOCOM decided to shop for a more advanced solution.” John Lloyd, [nonmember]Zero Motorcycles[/nonmember][ismember]Zero Motorcycles[/ismember] President and CEO told Defense-Update. They selected Zero Motorcycles to come up with an electrically powered motorcycle, tailored for their specifications” Lloyd added, “Electrically powered motorcycles like our Zero family offer unique advantages for the military user – with no gears and liquids, they have low wear, and are practically maintenance free, thus they are very reliable.” Lloyd explains. The simplicity is also reflected in low cost, he said.
Lloyd: “Todays’ electrical motorbike stands out to any petrol bike, adding stealth and improved field reliability”
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“Todays’ electrical motorbike stands out to perform at least equally to any petrol bike, adding stealth and improved field reliability” Lloyd claims, adding that the militarized variant of the family, Zero MMX was specially designed to address the special operations missions. Zero has already delivered the first MMXs to the US military as Well as to foreign countries.
“The special operations community has recognized these combat advantages, realizing that go-anywhere motorbikes can move where no ATV can go”
[ismember]One of the main concerns about electrical propulsion is the relative short mission endurance and operational range, especially with motorcycles, where limited payload space would allow carrying small batteries on board. “The Zero MMX carries the most powerful cell in the Zero line, mission range can extended by swapping the 19 kg batteries which takes only 60 seconds, extending the mission range to 220 km using internal cells.” Lloyd explained, “Range is not necessarily an issue for most missions.” For examples, on security patrols around forward operations bases, electric motorcycles would be able to sustain missions practically indefinitely, without maintenance. He added that when deployed in the field, the MMX can be charged from HMMWVs or field generators, or resupply with charged batteries at pre-arranged waypoints, just like other supplies are delivered.
“The military had an aggressive schedule and very demanding spec we have met” Lloyd said, “the MMX is equipped with mil-Spec switches and cabling, infrared compatible lighting to ensure blackout at night and has an override mode enabling the rider more aggressive performance. It has a top speed of 75-80 mph and a mission range of about 200 km, it is built to ford three foot of water, and designed to be operated in extreme cold and hot conditions. Unlike combustion engine bikes, it can easily start at high altitudes of up to 15,000 ft.”[/ismember]
Lloyd argues that hybrid propulsion would complicate the system, and increase maintenance workload. The military is also pursuing this technology, combining electrical and internal combustion engine, in parallel to the all electric bike. “We decided not to participate in the DARPA hybrid motorcycle program, as we are fully committed to full-electric propulsion for the advantages it has. By adding an internal combustion engine and associated mechanisms you complicate the system. Our all-electric technology can compete with that.”