Duke Energy gives Largo, Florida Police a grant for two new electric motorcycles.
The Sunshine State boasts hundreds of miles of sandy coastline and offers attractions that draw over a hundred million tourists a year. The alluring warm climate and proximity to the ocean also make Florida particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, high temperatures and increasingly common storm surges.
Florida leaders are looking for ways to make meaningful change. Responding to the call of a sustainable future, Largo is the first city in Tampa Bay to utilize electric motorcycles for its police force. This development is the latest implementation of a broader strategy by the Largo municipality to be solely powered with renewable energy by 2035.
Largo has developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy called the Largo Environmental Action Plan (LEAP). The plan is a living document, complete with measurable indicators and a scoring system to track progress against goals. A core component of the program is a transition to 100% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2035, with the entire community following suit by 2050.
The Largo police force currently utilizes 16 Ford hybrid SUVs and added 23 hybrid SUVs in 2021, with about 11 percent of the municipal fleet running on alternative energy. The hybrids cost $5,000 more than fuel vehicles but save $3,000 annually on fuel and maintenance costs. Most recently, Largo PD purchased two electric motorcycles for $41,000, representing the latest implementation of Largo’s greater sustainability initiative.
Largo Police Department acquired the new bikes from Santa Cruz-based Zero Motorcycles, a company that began offering models specifically for police applications in 2012. The motorcycles “provide a new tactical advantage in law enforcement…improve situational awareness…and create new patrolling scenarios.” Virtually silent with no exhaust, the stealthy bikes can operate indoors yet are rugged enough for off-road use. They are relatively light at 302 lbs, reach a max speed of 102mph with a range of 176 miles. At $20,500 per motorcycle, Zeros offer significant cost savings compared to the Harley-Davidsons previously employed. Lt. Chris Perry states, “[they] cost us about a dollar a day versus $15-20 to run a gas-powered motorcycle.” The only maintenance required is for the carbon fiber belt.
Largo PD secured a $7,000 grant from Duke Energy for the motorcycles, establishing a partnership for a more sustainable future in the Sunshine State. Duke Energy owns a diverse energy mix of natural gas, coal, and renewables in the US States from the Midwest to the Southeast. The company has similar ambitions as the city of Largo and “is executing an aggressive clean energy strategy to create a smarter energy future for its customers and communities – with goals of at least 50 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.” They launched a Park & Plug program in 2018 and have installed 600 electric vehicle charging stations throughout Florida at sites including local businesses, apartment complexes, and workplaces, with 10% in low-income communities. Thirty of these charging ports were installed in Largo with 13 at city-owned locations, a substantial investment for a city of less than a hundred thousand people. Laura Thomas, Largo’s sustainability program administrator, says the 13 charging stations have had more than 4,000 individual uses, validating the investment.
In Florida, passenger vehicles are responsible for 50 percent of air pollutant emissions. The opportunity for electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce carbon emissions is significant and the market is growing. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports that 1.6 million passenger EVs had been sold in Florida by March 2020. An unexpected and welcome benefit of electric motorcycles is the attention garnered from the public. Sharon Arroyo, Duke Energy Florida’s vice president of government and community relations, shares, “What I love about this project is that the motorcycles have become a magnet for the community. The public is truly interested in greener, renewable resources.” With this initiative, Largo is LEAPing into a sustainable future and offers a shining example for cities and police departments across the country.