Each summer I ride my electric motorcycle over 4,000 miles to show how easy it is.
Except it wasn’t actually easy—until this year.
What I mean by that is that it wasn’t easy and practical until this year.
Of course it was easy in 2013 to ride 4,500 miles in 44 days, only going about 100 miles per day. But it wasn’t very practical for the average rider.
Visiting the Continental Divide in 2016 - photo courtesy Ben Rich
That all changed with faster charging and greater availability of charging stations.
All of these trips were made using equipment that is available for everyone to purchase. There are no secret tricks I have, no special engineering, nothing besides a stock bike with aftermarket chargers that anybody can buy.
Ben Rich's 2013 cross-country tour
2013 - Charleston to San Francisco
Riding a 2012 Zero S with a 9-kilowatt-hour battery from Charleston, South Carolina, to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, was my first taste of cross-country travel on an electric motorcycle.
After a phone call from a Nashville woman living in Thailand got me on the Ride the Future Tour, we traveled about 100 miles per day and I used 110V outlets almost exclusively.
I had one Elcon 2.5-kilowatt charger with me, but didn’t use it much. Overall, I traveled 4,500 miles on 44 riding days.
Little did I know that riding through Arkansas would help my total state count tremendously in the future.
By the end of the summer I rode through 14 states and I became the second person to cross the US on an electric motorcycle.
Terry Hershner had completed a trip a couple of months earlier going from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. We met in person on this trip and assumed that others would soon follow.
We were wrong.
Ben Rich's 2014 East Coast electric motorcycle journey
2014 - Blue Ridge Parkway, St. Louis, and Chicago
The next year, I added two 2.5-kilowatt Elcon chargers that allowed me to charge up in 1.5 hours and go 85 miles per charge on side roads.
I kept the speed down, but got to ride such legendary roads as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Tail of the Dragon, and the Cherohala Skyway.
Visiting New England and some Midwestern friends along the way, I grew my state tally to 28.
Ben Rich's 2015 electric motorcycle tour
Ben Rich's 2015 electric motorcycle tour
2015 - Three Country Tour
Riding to Mexico and up to Canada was more enjoyable on a 2014 Zero SR.
It was more powerful, had a 14-kilowatt-hour battery and could take me 85 miles per charge on the highway easily.
The new bike meant that I could charge a bit faster, so instead of 5-kilowatts of charging power like the last summer, I could charge at 6-kilowatts in 2015.
DON'T MISS: Ben's 2014 electric motorcycle road trip
By visiting family in Florida and friends in the Southeast, I added 5 more states to my running tally to bring me up to 33 states on electric motorcycles.
Now I started getting the idea that I’d be the first to ride all the lower 48 states on electric motorcycles.
But at the same time I was getting tired of waiting 1.5 hours to charge.
Ben Rich's 2014 Four Corners tour
2016 - Four Corners
In 2016, a new charging system was developed that was advertised to be able to charge a Zero at 11-kilowatts.
This convinced me track down the last 15 states to collect them all.
I really pushed my limits going from the East Coast to Seattle, Los Angeles, Florida and back home for a whopping 8,600 miles!
This time I had a newly designed Supercharger v1. Charging at up to 9-kilowatts meant that I could top off in about 45 minutes, which improved my average daily ride from 312 to 410 miles per day.
The longest distance I traveled that summer was from Denver to Park City, Utah, going 525 miles starting at dawn and arriving just before midnight.
ALSO SEE: Zero's strategic shift
Crossing the border into Oregon was an incredible moment because marked the 48th state border I crossed on an electric motorcycle.
Ben Rich becoming the first person to visit the Lower 48 on an electric motorcycle
I had collected all of the lower 48 states and could enjoy the rest of the trip without that pressure weighing on me.
This was also the year that two other electric bikers finally crossed the country on their own solo treks.
John Flores rode from California to New York City following the first transcontinental motorcycle ride route while writing an article for Road Runner Magazine. He used a Zero Charge Tank that allowed him to charge at 3.8-kilwatts, but he often charged using 110V outlets and he took his time.
Another person from Georgia, who wishes to remain anonymous, rode from San Diego to New York City without any extra charging equipment. His trip was similar to my first trip, charging via 110V outlets and making lots of friends along the way.
Ben Rich's 2017 electric motorcycle trip route
2017 - Maine to Florida
After riding through every state in the continental U.S., I decided to scale back a bit and only go from Maine to Florida by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tail of the Dragon.
Using the newly improved digiNow Supercharger v2, my bike could charge at 12-kilowatts! I lugged both 2.5-kilowatt Elcons and the digiNow Supercharger, which weighed a lot, but gave me charging options.
On this trip, I could use two Level 2 charging stations at the same time to charge up to 13-kilwatts at once.
I could also travel over 100 miles on a single charge at highway speeds and have charge to spare in case of emergency. Then charging only took 1 hour and I could go another 100 miles, which meant I rode for 2 hours and charged for 1 hour most of the time.
Riding an electric motorcycle 4,000-plus miles is easy now that faster charging is available. This was the first summer I could start on my ride without fully planning every stop along the way.
With so many charging stations available up and down the East Coast, it felt good to be able to travel without the worry of previous years trying to find a place to charge.
Double charging a Zero electric motorcycle
DC Fast Charging
All of this progress is great, but to truly move electric motorcycles forward, there needs to be DC fast charging on the bike itself with no extra charging equipment to haul around. My love of road trips has allowed me to overlook the fact that I carry at least 30 lbs of charging equipment on the bike.
I fantasize of the day when my bike connects to a DC fast charging station and I can go another 100-plus miles after 20 minutes of charging and stretching. Right now only the $35,000-plus Energica Ego & Eva can fast charge like that, although their highway range is closer to 80 miles
When a $15,000 bike can go over 100 miles on a charge, then fast charge in 20 minutes, there will be a major shift in electric motorcycle adoption and it will go from being a niche market to the big time.