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]
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 motorcycle
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]
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 cost
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.
Crossing the state line into Maryland on a recent electric-motorcycle road trip [photo: Ben Rich]
The three parkways I plan to ride are well-known as some of the most beautiful scenic highways on the eastern side of the country. I've ridden on parts of each of those roads in the past few years, but never along their full lengths.
Electricity is scarce in natural and scenic areas like those, so I’ll have to get creative and recharge at some RV parks along the way.
Murphy's Outback RV Resort in Eddyville, Kentucky, offers charging for electric vehicles [Ben Rich]
My original plan for the summer was to travel farther and faster, and my hope was to use CHAdeMO DC fast charging--just like Nissan Leafs do--to help with those goals.
Unfortunately that isn’t an option just yet, but at least I have more range and faster charging.
Long-range travel will become far more manageable when motorcycles can use DC fast charging (whether it's CHAdeMO or the CCS system), but I’ll have to wait a while longer for that to become a reality.
With luck, the weather will be warm and dry and the electricity will be plentiful.
Nissan dealers are key when traveling by electric motorcycle [photo: Ben Rich]
My trip launches this morning along a well-known route down to Washington, D.C.
There shouldn't have any surprises, but after that are long stretches down Skyline Drive that will be both beautiful and range-challenging.
If you have questions about taking a journey like this on an electric motorcycle, feel free to post in the comments. I’ll do my best to respond, either by writing or posting a video.
Wish me luck!
P.S. Yes, I end up taking a lot of selfies. There isn't room to carry a tripod.