Electric motorcycle maker Zero Motorcycles is planning an expansion into Santa Cruz, Calif., where it will erect facilities to research, develop and sell its next generation of products.
The Scotts Valley, Calif.-based OEM plans to use $800,000 in grants and loans from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to build powertrain research, manufacturing and retail facilities in Santa Cruz, according to John Borofka, manager of strategy at Zero.
However, funds from CEC are being distributed under a new program to foster environmentally friendly vehicles, and there is no guarantee Zero will be named a recipient. Applications for the program are due May 20, and Zero should know by July whether it would receive the money.
To bolster its application, Zero has lined up the equivalent of $800,000 in matching funds for the endeavor; the Santa Cruz city council has pledged the equivalent of $400,000 (in loans, staff and technical assistance), Zero will put up $350,000 of its own capital, and the remaining matching funds will be realized in rent incentives and in-kind support provided by the future facilities’ landowner.
If it moves to Santa Cruz, Zero would hire up to six new engineers initially and then 12 manufacturers, according to Jay Friedland, vice president of strategy and sustainability at Zero. The company chose Santa Cruz to be in proximity to Seagate, a hard drive manufacturer.
“Santa Cruz County has a lot of people who have worked with Seagate on developing their motor development technology that goes into hard drives,” Borofka says. Zero plans to capitalize on the knowledge these former employees have regarding advanced motors and controllers it plans to use in its next-gen electric motorcycles. “Santa Cruz County is a great place to tap into that knowledge,” Borofka says.
Zero currently has 53 workers and offers four models for street, motocross and dual sport riding. The company operates consumer-direct through its Web site and independent representatives worldwide. Its street and dual sport models are available for $7,495 to California residents after state and federal rebates; elsewhere, the units typically sell for $8,895 after the federal rebate. The units typically run for 40 miles before needing a re-charge, and they utilize a permanent magnet brushed motor.