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Electric Motorcycle Road Trip: What I Learned, What You Need To Know


Last summer I took a cross-country road trip with a group of people driving different types of electric vehicles.

It was an amazing experience, and our trip, our adventures, and our misadventures were portrayed in the documentary Kick Gas.

That experience gave me the idea to take my own road trip to experience the freedom of traveling alone on an electric motorcycle.

DON'T MISS: 'Kick Gas' Movie: Driving Across U.S. In Electric Car & Motorcycles

My goals were simple: ride the great motorcycle roads of America, meet other electric motorcycle riders, and visit friends.

The cross-country trip last summer taught me that charging stations are plentiful near cities, but sparse near the good roads. By "good roads" I mean the mountainous, twisty, curvy, windy, fun roads you dream about when buying a motorcycle! 

To take road trips in an electric vehicle as easily as in a gas-powered vehicle, two things are necessary: a car with a highway range of 150-plus miles, plus DC fast charging available every 50 miles. That would be a good beginning as we await an affordable 1,000-mile battery.

Currently drivers must rely on the availability of public and private charging stations to venture further than half the range of their electric vehicle. This creates a bit of an adventure if you want to take a journey of, say, 4,000 miles.

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Enlarge Photo

Adventures in charging

Public charging stations are easiest to access. On the East Coast, you can show up at a charging station and pretty much expect that nobody else will be plugged in.

That's not the case in California, which has a much higher density of electric vehicles--at least some of them already using the charging station you've just arrived at.

My favorite public charging stations are at restaurants, so I have a place to eat and relax while my vehicle is charging. On this trip, I stopped at several Cracker Barrel restaurants in Tennessee and a Makuto's Japanese restaurant in Boone, North Carolina.

ALSO SEE: How Do You Beat A Tesla Model S? The Answer Is Always Miata (Video)

Car dealerships will let motorcycles charge, although not always electric cars of another make.  Nissan in particular has outfitted their dealerships with 240-Volt Lvel 2 chargers, and more recently, some of them now have high-powered CHAdeMO DC fast chargers.

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Enlarge Photo

Even dealerships that normally only allow charging by cars sold by that dealer will allow me to plug in my electric motorcycle, since it's unique. Some dealers happily let me charge, others let me charge after a little conversation.

Still, recharging my electric bike at a car dealer proved less than ideal, since they're often far from food or anywhere interesting to hang out. 

Personal homes are fun if you plan ahead. I've met some interesting folks who make their home Level 2 charging stations available to travelers by listing them on the PlugShare app. They are lovely people, and meeting them is a fun part of being an early adopter.

Clearly, though, using someone's home charging station is not a sustainable way to propel electric vehicles forward.

My electric motorcycle

  • Motorcycle: 2012 Zero S ZF9
  • Charging System: 2 Elcon 2.5kW chargers for a total of 5kW
  • Accessory cord: Nema 14-50 to J1772  (i.e. - RV park 50 Amp connection to electric car plug.)
  • Charging:  (1) Overnight in 110V outlet  (2) Level 2 charging stations  (3) RV Park 50 Amp outlets

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Snapshot from road trip through N Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia on 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle

Enlarge Photo

Great roads

The fun riding part of my journey began in Front Royal, Virginia, on Skyline Drive going through the Shenandoah Mountains. The road winds its way around the mountaintops and was designed as a sightseeing project by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

After a great day on Skyline Drive, I got to ride through the back woods around Blacksburg, Virginia, until I reached the glorious Blue Ridge Parkway. The road is absolutely incredible, flowing through farmland and mountains on either side for miles and miles.

I made a brief stop in Asheville to swing -dance to bluegrass music with friends from Italy; I rode to the top of Mt. Mitchell, and then I headed to the best motorcycle road in America, known as the Dragon.


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© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC.