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How did Terry Hershner travel 3500+ miles on an electric motorcycle in 6 days?

Terry Hershner's recently completed a cross country trip with his 2012 Zero S ZF9 electric motorcycle, what's the technology that made this trip possible?

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Who says short range electric vehicles can only be ridden for short distances? Not Terry Hershner, a Tampa Florida resident who is in the middle of a cross country trip with his 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle. In order to attend Zero's launch of their 2013 model line at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California this past weekend, Hershner set off from his home on his Zero S and rode it cross country in six days. His total distance covered was over 3500 miles (he made a detour to Miami before leaving Florida), and he plans to ride the bike back home for a total trip distance of nearly 7000 miles.

For a look at what the trip was like for Hershner, see: Terry Hershner Drives 3000 Miles On An Electric Zero Motorcycles. To learn what technology was involved, read on.

The stock configuration of the 2012 Zero S ZF9 has a highway range of 63 miles, and a charging time of 9 hours. That would have required approximately 500 hours of charging and made the trip nigh on impossible. However, Hershner has already made a couple longer distance trips with his bike, and is no stranger to modifying it. It was Hershner's Zero S which Jeremiah Johnson rode during the TTXGP World Championship at Daytona in October. And earlier this year Hershner rode his bike to a conference in Tennessee, a distance about 1200 miles from his home in Tampa.

How can an electric vehicle with a 63 mile range possibly take such a long journey? Especially when that vehicle is a motorcycle with little room for additional batteries?

The answer has to do with the charging rate. For the trip, Hershner is carrying five chargers that together drop the charging time from 9 hours to under 1 hour. His charging setup let him ride for 45 miles, then charge for 45 miles, and to cover about 500 miles per day.

Zero has long sold an optional charging setup comprising multiple chargers connected in parallel. The maximum configuration sold by Zero is four DeltaQ QuiQ chargers, in parallel, for a 2.4 hour full recharge time. While faster than 9 hours that still would not have been fast enough for Hershner's cross-country ride.

Instead his setup used three of the DeltaQ QuiQ chargers plus two Elcon PFC 2500 chargers. Additionally he installed a 3rd party J1772 port so that he could access public charging stations during the trip.

The QuiQ chargers support a 1 kilowatt charging rate apiece, while the Elcon chargers support a 2-2.5 kilowatt charging rate apiece. Both brands of chargers can accept either 120 volt or 240 volt power sources. This means Hershner had the option of grabbing an opportunity charge at any available 120 volt outlet(s), or to use an electric car charging station at 240 volts. Carrying multiple chargers means the flexibility of plugging each into a different 120 volt outlet, in case multiple 120 volt outlets were available, and to adjust the charging rate to suit the available power outlet by plugging or unplugging chargers.

Most 120 volt power outlets support 20 amps maximum, and most buildings have multiple power outlets outlets on several circuit breakers. Each 120 volt outlet would be enough for 2 or maybe 3 of the QuiQ chargers, or one of the Elcon chargers. This means, in theory, any building has enough 120 volt outlets to let Hershner's charging setup run at full power. If given enough extension cords.

Charging with Hershner's setup at a public electric car charging station is simpler. The 3rd party J1772 adapters have a NEMA 14-50 outlet on one side, and a J1772 socket on the other (NEMA 14-50's are rated for 240 volts, 50 amps, and are typically used for clothes dryers). Most of the charging stations provide 208 volts (some provide 240 volts) and can handle a 35 amp or so charging rate. If at such a charging station, he could simply plug all the chargers into the J1772 adapter.

Hershner's Facebook page recounts a few examples. While still in Florida he'd run out of power a couple miles short of a campground where he planned to use NEMA 14-50 outlets for a fast charge. Fortunately he was in front of a convenience store, where he'd planned to snag some coffee anyway, and the store manager let him use a power outlet for a convenience charge.

Another story occurred in West Texas. The ChargePoint maps show a public charging station owned by Oncor Electric in Big Springs Texas, and Hershner's plan hinged at using the Oncor stations. When he arrived at the location he found the station wasn't available for public use. Hunting around he did find a truck service center who kindly let him plug into a power outlet normally used for welding equipment. He wrote in the facebook posting that "I'm learning so much on this trip that electricity is everywhere, you just gotta be resourceful to find it."

Some of the ChargePoint charging stations have both 120 volt and 240 volt outlets and act as two charging stations in one. Hershner was able to plug into both the 120 volt and 240 volt portions of these charging stations simultaneously to fast charge at 8000 watts.

“I just wanted to prove a point and show that we aren’t far away from real cross country travel on electrical vehicles. My Zero performed flawlessly and allowed me to cover an average of 500 miles a day,” said Terry Hershner. “I also learned a lot about the electric vehicle charging infrastructure and while we’ve made great progress there is still a ways to go to build the system out on a national basis. I hope to showcase the growing infrastructure by doing similar cross country rides in the future."

“Terry Hershner is a pioneer in the world of electric motorcycles. His determination to accomplish such a feat speaks volumes about his character and we are thankful to have him as part of the Zero family,” said Scot Harden, Vice President of Global Marketing for Zero Motorcycles. “This also speaks volumes about the future of electric motorcycles. The Zero S performed flawlessly and is now ready for its trip back home to Florida.”

Hershner has a second trip ahead of him in the immediate future, his return home, after taking a "short" jaunt up to the SF Bay Area to visit the Zero Motorcycles headquarters. He plans to set out from California at the end of December, on his motorcycle, making it the first cross-country trip on an electric motorcycle.

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jzj (not verified)    December 14, 2012 - 11:32AM

What speed did he travel, and if it was not real highway speed, then kudos to him for not getting run over from behind.

In a way, as a advocate for EVs, part of me regrets these stunts, because they really demonstrate what a huge pain in the ass EVs are for long drives. Long drives are the one thing EVs don't do (and racing: see next paragraph). For every single thing other than long drives, EVs beat the pants off ICEs, and of course the vast majority of driving is not long drives.

Similarly, I'm very interested in racing, and I avidly follow and support EV racing, but going very fast for a long time is the other thing that EVs don't do well. Moreover, I really like the sound and smell of ICE race vehicles. In my perfect world, the only place that one would see ICEs would be as specialty vehicles for long-haul driving and racing.

David Herron    December 15, 2012 - 6:56PM

In reply to by jzj (not verified)

I recognize what you're saying, but somewhat disagree.

I agree that this sort of stunt isn't something the kids should try at home but it points us in the direction of what's desparately needed for electric vehicles. More chargers, and a higher powered charging infrastructure. In other words, ubiquitous fast charging. Maybe the vehicles don't need to have a 260 mile range at all (like the Tesla Model S) but instead need ubiquitous fast charging to enable longer range trips.

Instead what we're being saddled with is an infrastructure of level 2 charging stations that are barely adequate.

As you say, long drives are a minority of driving, but the car buyers still feel the need to handle long range trips. What I found with my car - a home conversion w/ 50ish mile range - is that when I switched from a 3 kilowatt charger (Leaf speed) to an 8-9 kilowatt charger (faster than any manufacturer charger, except for the Model S) my sense of how far and where I could drive changed considerably. But my charger is powerful to blow the circuit breaker on most of the charging stations I find in the wild. This demonstrates that the infrastructure is not very future proof'd

As for electric racing ...

I am an avid fan of that field, and appreciate being able to have a conversation while a race is going on. I don't like the obnoxious noise of ICE race vehicles, nor the smell. Going very fast for a long time is possible right now with fast battery exchange, which would be the gasser equivalent to pulling into the pit to fill the fuel tank. In the future it'll be possible due to higher energy density battery packs. At the moment the high energy dense packs aren't power dense enough for racing.

jzj (not verified)    December 16, 2012 - 12:59PM

In reply to by David Herron

(First, I'm glad the comment box is working.)

Estimates are that between 60,000,000 and 100,000,000 households in the U.S. have two cars and a consistent place to park. (For those with one car or no consistent place to park, a PHEV is ideal.) I believe it is manifestly obvious that having an EV as a second car is the EV market for oh, say, the next decade or more, until batteries can enable cars to drive for 5 hours and then charge up in 15 minutes so that both household cars can be EVs. But we don't need to get to that place anytime soon, as the nation's vehicular fleet only is replaced at the rate of about 5% annually anyway. Let's focus on the positives -- economic, clean, patriotic -- that promote EVs as a second car. Once EVs are more regularly in the hands of people, and they realize that EVs are nicer cars that they prefer to drive, then the combination of technology advancements and market push will ensure their integration into every aspect of driving. (BTW: I also suspect that EVs are more readily adaptable as autonomous-driving vehicles, and that will be an advantage as well, as that technology becomes integrated into the mainstream.)

But: in my opinion, a story that confirms that long distance EV driving is difficult is focusing on the negative. Granted, it is hard to constantly focus on a middling subject -- that EVs are nice second cars -- but this is the critical message to impart. If anything, the interesting subject is what is a second car and what is a primary car: in my household, we use our Leaf whenever possible and are on track to put about 15,000 miles on it this year (unfortunately for me, this is more than I anticipated when I put PV on the house), while our minivan will get about 3,000 miles of use (outside of a very long trip we plan to take). Admittedly, it's not stunning news and doesn't make as interesting a story, but charging at home and work is the reality of EV owners.

If you want to do a public charging story, I'd like to know this: regardless that there are no fewer than 6 public charging databases, when will someone devise a program in which you can input the places you want to go and the lengths of each stop there, and you will be informed where to charge and be offered the opportunity to make reservations at the charging stations there? Now, that would be distance traveling news.


F. R. Eggers (not verified)    December 20, 2012 - 7:08PM

In reply to by jzj (not verified)

Although I am a fan of EVs, probably I won't get one. My 2004 Mazda 3 has only 18,000 miles on it so, considering the little I drive it, for me an EV wouldn't make much sense especially since I already have serviceable vehicles. I put more miles on my two motorcycles but sometimes take long motorcycle trips during which recharging would be exceedingly inconvenient with what is now available.

Extra fast charging is likely to reduce battery life significantly. It may be that part of the solution is a battery exchange system but for that to be practical, there would have to be a limited number of standard batteries. If fossil fuels to generate electricity are phased out, then EVs would considerably reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions.

David Herron    December 20, 2012 - 7:55PM

In reply to by F. R. Eggers (not verified)

You're right - it's probably better environmentally to hang on to your existing vehicles until they wear out because of the embedded energy in the vehicle and the energy/resource impact of replacing it with a new vehicle.

The 2013 Zero S has an option for CHADEMO fast charging. If CHADEMO chargers become widespread in your neck of the woods, that can become a great option for fast charging. I think, however, that Terry made it harder than he had to. Rather than that set of five chargers, he could have gotten a single Manzanita 40 amp charger (the same as I have on my electric car conversion) and gotten up to 8 kilowatt charging rate off a single charger. One thing about electric motorcycles is because the battery pack required for the same range is smaller than electric cars, the normal J1772 charging stations can act as if its a fast charger.

Whether fast charging degrades battery life depends on the chemistry.

Billmi (not verified)    December 31, 2012 - 12:23PM

In reply to by David Herron

But your charger won't charge as fast at most charging stations. At ChargePoint stations, Terry maxes out the amp draw through the J1772, and pulls additional amps from the Level 1 outlet. A single charger could only draw from one or the other at a time.

David Herron    January 2, 2013 - 7:22PM

In reply to by Billmi (not verified)

The only difference is Terry can use the level 1 outlet. With my charger I've popped the circuit breaker on one public charger, and one time the ChargePoint service detected overcurrent on the circuit and shut me off. Don't tell me that I can't max out the charging stations. The only ones I wasn't able to max out is the former Tesla charging station in Salinas.

However, Terry told me privately that the reason he is not using the Manzanita PFC40 is that at the 70-80 volts his pack uses, that charger does not pull so many amps. The pack on my car is twice the voltage of his bike and at 144 volts nominal pack voltage it can pull full power.