The beefy gents at Orange County Choppers have surprised us a few times before, going out of their normal raked-out design brief to customise a Ducati Monster 1100, for example - but they really turned heads this week when Paul Teutul, Snr, presented the company's - and perhaps the world's - first all-electric chopper. Commissioned by Siemens and built using recycled steel, LED lighting and environmentally-friendly water-based paints, the Siemens Smart Chopper features a 27hp brushless motor good for a top speed in excess of 100mph, and enough battery life for a 60-mile range. And it's going up for auction.
While all the bikes that come out of the formidable OCC garage are guaranteed head-turners, the Siemens Smart Chopper is perhaps the most unusual design the lads have ever turned out. It might stick to a reasonably familiar set of lines - raked-out front end, fat, exposed rear wheel, wide bars and swooping curves - but there's no gas-guzzling, roaring powerplant to act as the centerpiece.
And if Paul Teutul Snr. looked a little bemused as he rode this distinctively futuristic and uncharacteristically plastic bike up to its launch at the Time Warner Center in New York City, perhaps it was because he's used to spine-shaking v-twin thunder when he twists his chromed throttles - and the Smart Chopper is completely silent. But Teutul has a solution for anyone who misses the noise of a petrol bike: "You could always put cards in the wheel or something like that, make it a little louder."
Siemens commissioned the bike to demonstrate that electric motorcycles aren't some sort of out-there Star Wars technology - all the elements you need to build one are available and ready to go. Of course, there's the small issue of range - and while 60 miles might satisfy a commuter, it's not going to cut it for pleasure riders who think nothing of cutting a 1000-mile weekend.
Still, horses for courses. And while this plastic horse might lack the range of its petrol powered iron brethren, it does a helluva job snapping the necks of passers-by. And that's the primary purpose of any OCC creation.
Siemens plans to auction the bike off in 2010 to support environmentally focused charity groups.
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