Staff and customers of Zero Motorcycles were celebrating yesterday when the company was awarded a $900,000 grant by the California Energy Commission to further its power-train development.

Founded in Santa Cruz, by former NASA engineer Neal Saiki, Zero motorcycles became world leaders in electric off-road motorcycle racing in 2009 when it held the 24 Hours Of Electricross - an event which took advantage of its Zero X off-road electric motorbike with hot-swappable battery packs.

Zero has also proven itself on the race-track, competing successfully in the TTXGP series of electric motorcycle races.

The grant made to Zero Motorcycles is part of California's incentives to encourage the development of electric vehicles within the state.

Combined with existing funds Zero have secured, the total project funds for a new advanced drivetrain project is over $1.8 million.

As part of the development project, Zero aims to work closely with its existing partner companies and drivetrain component suppliers to develop both off-road and street-legal next-generation motorbikes.

2009 Zero X Motorbikes

2009 Zero X Motorbikes

Zero currently sells its Zero X and MX off-road bikes, Zero S road bike and Zero DS cross-over bike worldwide. With a starting price of $9,995 for the Zero S, riding electric is hardly cheap - but like many electric cars it is eligible for a 10% federal tax credit, bringing the price down to around $8,995.

Zero's direct competitor in the marketplace is Brammo, who recently pulled ahead in the electric motorcycle stakes with a 100 mph, 100 mile-per-charge Enertia; the first road-legal production motorbike capable of traveling up to 100 miles per charge.

In the electric motorbike wars, expect Zero's new generation developed as a consequence of the development grant to include a higher top speed and faster acceleration.

The race to become the ultimate street legal electric motorcycle is well under way, and we can't wait to see who wins.