First 'Iron Butt' Award For Electric Motorcycle: Terry Hershner

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'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

The Iron Butt Association now has its first electric member, Terry Hershner.

You may recognize Terry from his several cross-country attempts on his electric motorcycle. Now he has pushed the limits even farther, traveling 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours on his modified 2012 Zero S.

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The Iron Butt Association (IBA) is well known to motorcyclists as being a group of long-distance riders who cover remarkable distances in short amounts of time. 

They are not a racing group, but rather a community of touring bikers dedicated to safety and enjoyment of traveling on two wheels. And it's quite an accomplishment to gain certification as an IBA rider.

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

The vast majority of certified rides are done on Harley-Davidson, Honda, or BMW bikes--but now you can add Zero Motorcycles to that distinguished list.  

There are several ways to become a member. One is to ride a motorcycle 1,000 miles in 24 hours--and the distances only go up from there.  

The Iron Butt Association (IBA) recommends a 20-minute rest for every hour of riding.  This means gas-powered bikes typically finish the SS1000 (Saddle Sore competition for a 1,000-mile journey within one day) in 18 to 20 hours.

Terry finished his thousand miles in 22 hours and 57 minutes. 

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Toughest part: pre-ride nerves

I asked Terry about the toughest part of the journey.  He said it was preparing for something with a huge amount of uncertainty, which weighed on him immensely. 

What if there was traffic?  What if other people are charging?  What if chargers didn't work?  Knowing the attempt would be public, he had major concerns about failing. 

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

Was there any way to do better, make this foolproof?  In the past couple of years, something had always gone wrong--usually in Texas.  However, California treated him well. 

Terry said he even thought "Should I even commit to doing this?"  

The trip was designed to kick off National Drive Electric Week, which lasts through this Sunday.

Once Terry was riding, though, he was back in his comfort zone. Many people called throughout the trip including his sister.  He listened to music, talked to friends via Bluetooth helmet phone, and kept to a steady speed.

The riding part, he said, was easier than the anticipation.  

Scariest part?  

The scariest part of the journey happened on California Highway 154 in the mountains between Solvang and Santa Barbara.  Going downhill toward Santa Barbara, one part has the road next to a cliff; Terry was riding there from 4 to 5 pm, just a few hours into the trip.

With extremely strong winds of 40 mph, he was hit with a wind gust like never before and blown toward the edge of the cliff--within a foot of a guardrail, which would have tipped him over and tumbled him down the cliff. 

His heart skipped a beat and a shot of adrenaline kicked in, but Terry managed to keep the bike on the road. Any other motorcycle would have been blown around by the same winds.  

Odd moments

At 2 am en route back from Los Angeles, Terry found the highway closed. A detour was posted, which shouldn't have been a big deal.

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

But due to fatigue, he got lost in downtown LA and had to stop to check his GPS. Fortunately he got back on track pretty quickly.

His strangest moment came around 3 am when he saw a headlight barreling up behind him on the 101 freeway. He thought, "Who is this nut?!?". 

It wound up being a friend from LA who rode with Terry for a while, complete with a GoPro on his helmet.   

It takes a team

While Terry was the one on the motorcycle, several people played key roles in making this incredible electric motorcycle a reality.  

Harlan Flagg of Hollywood Electrics was there from the beginning. He sold Terry the bike and has been there every step of the way.  

Craig Vetter has worked with Terry on his motorcycle for years streamlining it, and tweaking the design to get the absolute best aerodynamics possible.

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

Just days before the 1,000-mile attempt, Craig and Terry were making final adjustments to make the bike slip through the air as effortlessly as possible.

Ryan Biffard helped with programming settings of bike to increase and smooth the regenerative braking.  He set it to 80-percent regen, more than twice as strong as the regular bikes. 

Terry didn't need to use the friction brakes at all, even when riding down a steep mountain road. This helped him squeeze out a  few more Watts so he could ride just a little farther.

Just a few short weeks ago, Terry won the Vetter Challenge, which pitted his electric motorcycle against gas & diesel motorcycles to see who could travel at highway speeds on the least amount of energy.  After that, Terry calculated his 1,000 mile ride on paper, and figured out that he would have only 22 minutes to spare if everything went perfectly.  

This realization created a lot of anxiety before the 1,000-mile attempt.  He then worked with Craig Vetter to make final adjustments to aerodynamics, going so far as to remove inches of wires to reduce weight.  Not only that, but Terry went on a diet going from 196 lbs to 179 lbs to reduce weight for the trip to increase efficiency of motorcycle.  

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The ride

Unfortunately, the night before the start of the 1,000 mile attempt, he couldn't sleep.  He spent the night packing, figuring out whether he needed rain gear, calculating mileage, thinking about tire pressure, and thinking about what if something went wrong with his bike, if he hit traffic or if someone else was charging when he needed the juice. 

Starting and ending at ChargePoint Headquarters in San Jose, Terry was surrounded by familiar friends at the beginning and end of his journey. 

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

This was particularly appropriate since he would use Chargepoint charging stations along the entire journey to keep track of his timing as evidence for the IBA. 

Normally bikers use gas-station receipts to prove their route, so Terry used data from ChargePoint. They're positioned right at the exit of most freeways, but charging stations are not as abundant, even in California, where they are seemingly everywhere. 

Charging stations are usually closer to shopping areas that are a little farther.  There were a few Terry had not been to in his 67,000 miles of riding. 

For the entire trip, the actual cost from ChargePoint was $21.43.  Imagine, spending only $21.43 for 1,047 miles!  

What it means

The president of the IBA was one of the first to congratulate Terry on his success.

He wrote, "Welcome to the twisted world of being an Iron Butt Association member! Congratulations on the electric Saddlesore 1000, we thought it would take a few more years to pull off!" 

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

Here's the full log of Terry's ride through California:

  • Ride from San Jose to Salinas - 61 miles
  • Charge in Salinas - 32 minutes
  • Ride from Salinas to Santa Maria - 160 miles
  • Charge in Santa Maria - 52 minutes
  • Ride from Santa Maria to Ventura - 96 miles 
  • Charge in Ventura - 36 minutes
  • Ride from Ventura to Orange - 80 miles
  • Charge in Orange - 33 minutes
  • Ride from Orange to the La Jolla - 80 miles
  • Charge in La Jolla - 30 minutes
  • Ride from La Jolla to the Mexico Border to Imperial Beach - 54 mi
  • Charge at Imperial Beach - 2 minutes
  • Ride from Imperial Beach to Irvine - 92 miles
  • Charge in Irvine - 42 minutes
  • Ride from Irvine to Ventura - 114 miles
  • Charge in Ventura - 45 minutes
  • Ride from Ventura to Santa Maria - 89 miles
  • Charge in Santa Maria - 35 minutes
  • Ride from Santa Maria to Salinas - 160 miles
  • Charge in Salinas - 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Ride from Salinas to San Jose - 61 miles
  • Finish!

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

'Iron Butt' motorcycle endurance ride by Terry Hershner on electric motorcycle

And these are the full-trip statistics:

  • Total miles = 1,047
  • Total riding time = 16 hours 37 minutes
  • Total charging time =  6 hours 20 minutes
  • Total time = 22 hours 57 minutes
  • Total cost = $21.43

Terry says the key factor to his success was using multiple plugs.  He has always thought "When they are available, why not use the electricity?!?"  With four Level 2 plugs on his bike, he could draw 24 kW of electricity--which is why his charging times are so short. 

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In fact, his charging times were so short, he didn't have time to get food. Many charging stations were located close to restaurants and markets, but with such short charge times, he rarely had time to leave the bike.  

A generous security guard in Santa Ana gave him a bottle of water and a banana. That was the only food Terry consumed over the entire trip. Next time perhaps he'll order pizza to be delivered to his next charging station, so it will be there when he arrives.  

Because Terry was ahead of schedule near the end of his trip, he had a little time buffer that allowed him to relax.  

At the final charging stop, a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid was drawing a minimal 0.615 kW, whereas Terry can pull more than 6.15kW with each charger. He had plenty of time, so he charged using a level 2 charger and a pair of 120-Volt cables, letting the plug-in Prius driver come back to a full charge.  

Shortly after spending that extra time charging, Terry hit traffic. Fortunately, it lasted just 15 minutes--and part of the time he could continue moving forward by splitting lanes (legal in California, though not in every state).

When the road narrowed down to one lane, he had to sit and balance the very heavy bike for about 5 minutes. Then it was smooth sailing for the final 40 miles.

With every new technology you need pioneers, and Terry Hershner is pushing the boundaries on his Zero motorcycle: going farther than anyone else and demonstrating the promise of electric vehicles. 

With each accomplishment, Terry shows electric vehicle manufacturers what is possible with a little creativity and dogged determination.  

Congratulations Terry, you inspire us.  

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