Santa Cruz law enforcement agencies will follow Scotts Valley’s lead in introducing the latest technology in their line of duty — electrically-powered motorcycles.

California Assembly Bill 2766 (AB2766), signed into law in 1990, permits the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (APCD) to charge a $4 per vehicle registration fee that will go toward funding projects reducing motor vehicle emissions. These projects include a focus on zero emission vehicles, bike lanes and trip reduction programs.

So far this year, the grant award budget has totaled over $1.8 million dollars. These funds are available to public agencies in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

On Sept. 18, the Monterey Bay APCD allocated the funds collected from AB2766 to subsidize projects related to improving air quality. The district provided grants to promote replacements or reductions of motor vehicle emissions.

These grants have been shared among the police departments in Santa Cruz County to help them buy electric, zero emission motorcycles or “zero motorcycles.” The Scotts Valley Police Department was among the first of these recipients to have already bought and used these electric motorcycles.

“We were very pleased that there was an opportunity to acquire the ‘zero motorcycle’ without any impact on our budget,” said Scotts Valley police Chief John Weiss. “This grant gave us an opportunity to get some of these ‘green’ motorcycles and now we’re trying to go for more.”

The Scotts Valley based “zero motorcycle” company is the provider of these zero-emission vehicles for the Santa Cruz County police departments. The Scotts Valley Police Department currently has two “zero motorcycles” and has given very positive feedback.

“They don’t go as fast as gas motorcycles, but they are silent,” Chief Weiss said. “What’s nice about that is when we are working [in] a residential area we can move around quietly. Best of all, it’s green — it doesn’t have an impact on the environment. It’s quiet and very easy to ride.”

Scotts Valley lieutenant John Hohmann was the main practitioner to test these vehicles. Having already carried out a number of duties on the “zero motorcycle,” Hohmann said that he would recommend them to every other police department.

“It’s very versatile,” Hohmann said. “I highly recommend it for law enforcement agencies, especially for UC campuses. It’s quiet and smooth so it’s ideal for campus type enforcement. It’s best for special events and campus settings, since in certain campus or city events, you really don’t want to have a gas engine running.”

For Hohmann, the best part of the motorcycle, besides zero emission, is its practicality on multiple terrains and its sensibility for many different events.

“You can use it both on the street and off-road,” Hohmann said. “Basically you can take it anywhere. Also, you can charge it from any outlet. I think it’s overall a great product.”

The Santa Cruz Police Department recently received a “zero motorcycle,” and UC Santa Cruz is in the process of obtaining one or two from the Monterey Bay APCD grant.

So far the Scotts Valley Police Department has been very pleased with the awarded grants, the motorcycles and the overall implications from all of these environment-related events.

“I think it [represents] that the district is interested in seeing law agencies go for more environmentally friendly ways to carry out our duties,” Chief Weiss said. “It’s clear to me that this is the direction they’re hoping the police would look at. Also, since technologies are improving we’re seeing many other police departments utilize alternative vehicles.”

Chief Weiss predicts Santa Cruz County is looking at a better and more sustainable future with these matters.

“We don’t know what the future holds … with these vehicles,” Chief Weiss said. “Of course, currently gasoline vehicles are still the main necessity. But as technology improves, who knows? We may find more and more options that are more future friendly.”