An electric chopper? What would Dennis Hopper think?

'Senior' from the reality TV show 'American Chopper' has invented a zero-emission hog. It's 'Easy Rider' minus the ear-splitting roar (and greenhouse gases).

By , Staff writer

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    Paul Teutul, Sr. of Orange County Choppers rides around New York City's Columbus Circle on the Siemens Smart Chopper at its unveiling on Wednesday.
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You know those powerful choppers – customized motorcycles, often with unusual designs – that can be heard in the next county when they zoom down the highway.

Well, Orange County Choppers (OCC), the custom bike shop in Newburgh, N.Y., that has its own TV reality show, has a new take on the genre: no noise.

No, it’s not a special muffler developed by NASA. It’s what OCC is calling the first custom electric motorcycle.

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Yes, it's a chopper that can keep up with a Harley-Davidson “hog” at 100 miles per hour without even waking up a baby. And, because the machine is electric, it has zero emissions compared with most cycles, which pollute the air at about the same level as a car built in the 1980s.

As Paul Teutul Sr., the driving force behind the bike shop, steered it around New York’s Columbus Circle on Wednesday, the only noise was the sound of truck drivers honking their horns in admiration of the sleek futuristic bike. Mr. Teutul, wearing his trademark red sleeveless T-shirt, says that driving the machine is “awesome.”

Known as “Senior” on the show, Teutul built the machine over the past month for Siemens, the German engineering company. It wanted an “ecobike” that looked “real cool,” in the words of a Siemens company official.

To satisfy the environmental request, OCC used recycled materials, water-based paint (the machine is white with powder-blue trim), Siemens's LED lights, and high-tech 12-volt batteries. The bike will go 60 miles before it needs to be plugged in for a charge, OCC estimates. Most choppers built by OCC get about 35 to 40 miles per gallon.

“When you need a charge, you can just pull in to a McDonald’s,” says Teutul. It's not clear, however, that McDonald's does battery-charging in addition to burgers.

In July, a company in Ashland, Ore., Brammo, announced it was selling an electric motorcycle that the company estimates gets 378 miles per gallon. The machines cost $11,995. But, Teutul says his company is the first to make an electric chopper.

Both Siemens and OCC were reluctant to reveal how much the bike cost. Jim Quinn, an engineer at OCC, says a “normal” chopper built by the company costs between $70,000 and $150,000, depending on the amount of work. But Siemens made special arrangements to have some of its products used on the bike, and it has naming rights. Also, it is paying special appearance fees.

Siemens, calling the bike the “Smart Chopper,” plans to show it at energy and industrial trade shows and conferences over the next year. In 2010, the motorcycle will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to a charitable cause that helps the environment.

This episode of the OCC show, called "American Chopper," will air on TLC on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 9 p.m., Eastern time. But don’t look for a lot of fireworks between Senior and his son, Paul Jr. Often sparks fly as the two spar over the construction of a machine. But, Senior says, “Junior was not involved.”

Oh, and whoever buys the bike at auction, might want to add some vroom to it. The Oregon bike company has added a microchip to generate sound so other drivers can hear the motorcycle coming.

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