Electric Motorcycle Road Trip: What I Learned, What You Need To Know (2024)

Last summer I took a cross-country road trip with a group of people driving different types of electric vehicles.

It was an amazing experience, and our trip, our adventures, and our misadventures were portrayed in the documentary Kick Gas.

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That experience gave me the idea to take my own road trip to experience the freedom of traveling alone on an electric motorcycle.

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My goals were simple: ride the great motorcycle roads of America, meet other electric motorcycle riders, and visit friends.

The cross-country trip last summer taught me that charging stations are plentiful near cities, but sparse near the good roads. By "good roads" I mean the mountainous, twisty, curvy, windy, fun roads you dream about when buying a motorcycle!


To take road trips in an electric vehicle as easily as in a gas-powered vehicle, two things are necessary: a car with a highway range of 150-plus miles, plus DC fast charging available every 50 miles. That would be a good beginning as we await an affordable 1,000-mile battery.

Currently drivers must rely on the availability of public and private charging stations to venture further than half the range of their electric vehicle. This creates a bit of an adventure if you want to take a journey of, say, 4,000 miles.

Adventures in charging

Public charging stations are easiest to access. On the East Coast, you can show up at a charging station and pretty much expect that nobody else will be plugged in.

That's not the case in California, which has a much higher density of electric vehicles--at least some of them already using the charging station you've just arrived at.

My favorite public charging stations are at restaurants, so I have a place to eat and relax while my vehicle is charging. On this trip, I stopped at several Cracker Barrel restaurants in Tennessee and a Makuto's Japanese restaurant in Boone, North Carolina.

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Car dealerships will let motorcycles charge, although not always electric cars of another make. Nissan in particular has outfitted their dealerships with 240-Volt Lvel 2 chargers, and more recently, some of them now have high-powered CHAdeMO DC fast chargers.

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Even dealerships that normally only allow charging by cars sold by that dealer will allow me to plug in my electric motorcycle, since it's unique. Some dealers happily let me charge, others let me charge after a little conversation.

Still, recharging my electric bike at a car dealer proved less than ideal, since they're often far from food or anywhere interesting to hang out.

Personal homes are fun if you plan ahead. I've met some interesting folks who make their home Level 2 charging stations available to travelers by listing them on the PlugShare app. They are lovely people, and meeting them is a fun part of being an early adopter.

Clearly, though, using someone's home charging station is not a sustainable way to propel electric vehicles forward.

My electric motorcycle

  • Motorcycle: 2012 Zero S ZF9

  • Charging System: 2 Elcon 2.5kW chargers for a total of 5kW

  • Accessory cord: Nema 14-50 to J1772 (i.e. - RV park 50 Amp connection to electric car plug.)

  • Charging: (1) Overnight in 110V outlet (2) Level 2 charging stations (3) RV Park 50 Amp outlets

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Great roads

The fun riding part of my journey began in Front Royal, Virginia, on Skyline Drive going through the Shenandoah Mountains. The road winds its way around the mountaintops and was designed as a sightseeing project by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

After a great day on Skyline Drive, I got to ride through the back woods around Blacksburg, Virginia, until I reached the glorious Blue Ridge Parkway. The road is absolutely incredible, flowing through farmland and mountains on either side for miles and miles.

I made a brief stop in Asheville to swing -dance to bluegrass music with friends from Italy; I rode to the top of Mt. Mitchell, and then I headed to the best motorcycle road in America, known as the Dragon.

It's formally known as Route 129, and crosses the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, with 318 curves in 11 miles of road. I rode it six times in 36 hours, and loved every knee-dragging minute of it! (OK, I didn't actually drag my knee--but it was close most of the time.)

After riding the Dragon, I headed to Nashville to visit some electric-motorcycle friends, and we headed down the famous Natchez Trace Parkway. This is another phenomenally beautiful road with scenic stops and meandering curves that caress the local terrain.

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The first half of my journey ended in St. Louis, where I attended my cousin's wedding and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame. My trip was broken up because I had to fly back to New York City for a week, but I'll resume today--traveling to Chicago, Cleveland, and Rochester, New York, on my way to ride up New Hampshire's Mount Washington.

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Lessons learned

1) It's still an adventure to take an electric-vehicle road trip (unless you're driving a Tesla using the company's Supercharger network).

2) While it's easy to find charging stations, they're not always guaranteed to be available. They could be in use already, not working at all, or--worst of all--they might be "ICEd," or blocked by a thoughtless driver of an internal-combustion engine (ICE) car.

3) Most people at RV campgrounds are super-nice! I've shown up to many campgrounds unannounced, and most were incredibly welcoming and let me recharge my motorcycle for free (even though I always offer to pay the dollar or so for the electricity).

4) To take a road trip in any electric vehicle, you need to plan ahead. At the start of each day, I decided where my stops for charging would be--including alternate locations if available.

5) I relied on RV parks that allowed me to charge for about an hour in the middle of each day, and I usually showed up with very little charge remaining. If I don't call ahead, then I basically arrive in a state of emergency--and have to rely on the kindness of strangers to continue my journey. That's why I usually call ahead ....

6) A couple of RV parks have claimed that they needed to replace receptacles to their 50-Amp hookup after a Tesla used it. This should be further investigated, as electric-vehicle owners very much don't want to burn those bridges or create any distrust of our community on the part of park owners.

7) When I learn a Tesla has stopped at an RV park, the park operators will often ask me for $10 or more to recharge (my bike uses maybe $0.60 of electricity). This highlights the fact that most people have no idea how much electricity costs--and no one understands how much electricity different electric vehicles use. My motorcycle battery holds one-tenth the energy of a Tesla battery, so the cost for electricity is a factor of 10 less--but I often have to explain that slowly and carefully.

Ride on!


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Electric Motorcycle Road Trip: What I Learned, What You Need To Know (2024)
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