Summertime is upon us: barbecues, beaches ... and electric-vehicle road trips!
As electric cars and motorcycles gain popularity, more and more people can venture farther afield thanks to expanded recharging options.
Cross-country road trips in Tesla Model S sedans are now commonplace, courtesy of Tesla's Supercharger network.
Drivers even travel hundreds of miles in Nissan Leafs, thanks to a growing network of CHAdeMO DC fast-charging stations.
However, my favorite mode of summer travel is riding an electric motorcycle--and I'm leaving today for my longest trip yet.
I plan to ride my new 2014 Zero SR from my home near New York City down to Mexico, then up to Canada later this summer.
White Marsh Park-and-Ride near Baltimore has plenty of Chargepoint charging stations [Ben Rich]Enlarge Photo
This type of trip requires special equipment and planning, but I've done it before on my 2012 Zero S.
Two summers ago, I was only the second person to ride an electric motorcycle across the country, during the Ride the Future Tour.
Last summer, I traveled 5,500 miles through the East Coast and Midwest.
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My route took me from New York to the mountains of North Carolina, to St. Louis and then Chicago, and finally to New Hampshire.
This past winter, I traded in the trusty 2012 Zero S for a 2014 Zero SR with a "power tank" that boosts the range considerably.
The charging system is upgraded from 5 to 6.3 kilowatts. Now I can travel farther on one charge, and recharge at a faster rate.
2014 Zero SR electric motorcycleEnlarge Photo
The bike has both its onboard charger (1.3 kW of power) and two Elcon 2.5-kW chargers from Hollywood Electrics.
Each Elcon is about the size of a shoe box and weighs 15 pounds. They have to be mounted to side racks on the rear of the bike, which cuts down on what I can pack.
The top rack holds a case that's my only luggage, besides a backpack, so there isn’t much room for fancy clothes.
Gathering of electric motorcycle riders [photo via author Ben Rich]Enlarge Photo
I'll be visiting friends, so there isn’t much need for special outfits.
My goals for the ride include (1) getting into Mexico; (2) riding Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Natchez Trace Parkway; and (3) visiting friends and family.
One of the main reasons I’d like to get to Mexico is because I’m competitive by nature--and my good friend Terry Hershner hasn't managed to get into the country yet. He rode from Canada to the Mexican border, but I actually plan to gain entry.
Terry Hershner competing in 2014 Vetter Challenge for motorcycle with lowest energy costEnlarge Photo
I've traveled through more states than Terry, in part because I live on the East Coast, where states are smaller, but I've also traveled on some epic road trips.
He even joined me for the last part of my cross-country journey and has always been a kindred spirit.
But I still want to beat him to Mexico.