The Zero Race will see contestants dash around the globe in 80 days in zero emission, electric powered vehicles... and one of the most distinctive entries is the Zerotracer. Designed by a group of engineers from Winterthur, Switzerland, the Zerotracer is an electric motorcycle that encloses its two occupants in a Kevlar shell and is capable of a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) and a range of 350 km (217 miles) on a single charge.

The vehicle is based on a MonoTracer body but replaces that vehicle’s 4-cylinder in-line BMW K-engine with a battery-powered electric motor that provides 135 kW/183Hp to propel the Zerotracer from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Without passengers the body of the vehicle weighs less than 80kg (176-lbs) and the 18 kWh, 400V battery pack can be fully charged in two hours, while a quick charge can charge the battery pack to 80 percent capacity in less than 30 minutes.

Since the driver and passenger are enclosed in the vehicle’s Kevlar composite outer shell and can’t use their legs to stay upright when the Zerotracer isn’t moving the vehicle uses a pair of retractable wheels to stabilize itself when stationary. When retracted these wheels protrude from the side of the cabin to act as a “knee” to skim the road when cornering at high speeds.

Inside the cabin the occupants are treated to an almost noiseless ride thanks to the silent electric motor, unless of course they are listening to the Zerotracer’s stereo system. The vehicle also boasts a heating system and two bucket seats from which to enjoy the panoramic 250 degree-plus views provided by the plexiglass windshield.

The rules of the Zero Race state that the race teams must produce their own electricity using renewable sources such as solar, wind, wave and/or geothermal. This electricity must be then fed into the grid system in the home country of each team to offset the electricity used by the vehicles during the race. Taking care of this aspect is the team’s main sponsor, Oerlikon Solar, which will generate electricity from thin-silicon solar panels at the company’s headquarters in Trubbach, Switzerland.

With its aerodynamic design and impressive performance statistics the Zerotracer stands to be a real contender to take out the honors when the Zero Race kicks off in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 15. 2010. We’ll take a look at some of its competitors in the coming weeks.