Well, it may still be years before you cruise cross-country on an electric Gold Wing or the like, but early in June, two motorcyclists smashed existing travel times. Terry Hershner went from San Diego to Orlando in six days on his heavily modified 2012 Zero, fighting traffic, adverse weather, and a failed motor. Terry’s bike has changed a lot since I spoke to him earlier this year — Craig Vetter helped with a fairing that makes the bike look like a two-wheeled Conestoga wagon, battery capacity has doubled to 18 kilowatt-hours, and there are enough fast-chargers on board to dim the lights of a small city. Terry’s bike can now travel 150 miles at a steady 70 mph and charge time is reduced so he can ride two hours for every hour he spends charging—that’s a huge leap from the usual one-to-four (or more) ratio most electric vehicles offer. He cruised his last leg—90 miles—at a steady 85 mph.
Terry’s bike would seem to be a ringer for the cross-country electric record, but then the forces of science came in the form of the Moto Electra, which you may have seen on the “Cafe Racer” TeeVee show. It’s been competing in TTXGP and other racing events, and is notable for using a Norton Featherbed frame and fairing. The old-timey look shouldn’t fool you—builder Brian Richardson, working off his farm in Virginia, had the help of Dr. Robert Prins at James Madison University’s engineering department. He and his team have developed the Electra into a pretty impressive tourer.
With AMA racer Thad Wolff and Richardson trading off riding, followed by a support team with a high-output generator (cheaters!), the bike left Jacksonville, Florida and arrived at the Santa Monica pier 84 hours later. Like Terry’s Zero, the bike can ride two hours for every hour it spends charging. The only snag was some trouble with the throttle, but the trip, along I-10, seemed uneventful.
Charging stations are being added daily, and though having the kind of battery and recharge capacity of these two bikes is outside the realm of possibility for most consumers, the idea that electric motorcycles will be capable of speeds, ranges and recharge times that will make them competitive with gas-powered products is no longer an absurd dream.