Two Wheels

Crossing the continent: electric motorcycles race across America

People have been making the North American transcontinental trip from sea-to-shining-sea ever since Lewis and Clark cleared the first path to the Pacific back in 1806. The journey has been managed on horseback, covered wagons, trains, planes and automobiles. Now, it's been done by electric motorcycles. Twice.

Last week, both the Moto Electra Racing expedition and Terry Hershner's solo effort traveled the length of the Interstate 10 – in opposite directions – to view both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans within the span of a few days. With the ultimate goal of finishing first, and secondarily, fast enough to set an enduring record, the race was on.

Each team took decidedly different approaches.

Each team took decidedly different approaches. Moto Electra towed a generator behind its chase vehicle to make up for the lack of charging infrastructure and keep the classic-looking Norton replica well fed. Hershner, on the other hand, took more of a hunter-gatherer approach, harvesting electrons for his streamlined 2012 Zero S from whatever source he could find, typically RV parks and charging stations.

This gave the Moto Electra guys an obvious advantage, since there was no need to track down charging stations that might be occupied, or worse, out of service. Still, out on the road, anything can happen and there could be no guarantee of success.
Hershner was the first to hit the road – perhaps unadvisedly, since he was already sleep deprived – and soon hit his first obstacle: Los Angeles traffic. Cars were backed up for miles, crawling along, whilst at the head of the jam, a California Highway Patrol unit had its lights flashing, inexplicably restricting vehicular flow. Nice.

Heavy duty congestion was to become a recurring them over the next couple days. A car and tractor-trailer made unfortunate contact, backing things up near Gila Bend, AZ. An impaired driver struck a bridge outside of Lordsburg, NM, precipitating the temporary closure of the highway to allow a helicopter to land and whisk the injured motorist to a hospital.

The motor was rendered useless and would need to be swapped out. Unfortunately, he wasn't carrying a spare.

Then came Texas. The Lone Star state had thrown a wrench in the works during Terry's previous record-setting trip and sure enough, it was there that the venture faced its biggest challenge. In the quiet burg of Katy, just west of Houston, the motor cooling fan failed after some previous tinkering allowed a bolt to come loose. The motor was rendered useless and would need to be swapped out. Unfortunately, he wasn't carrying a spare and didn't have access to a shop. Fortunately, Zero could ship one overnight and our protagonist, seasoned road warrior that he is, wasn't afraid to attempt open motorcycle surgery in a parking lot. Meanwhile though, the Moto Electra team had just left the beach at Jacksonville, FL.

With former AMA racer Thad Wolff in the saddle, team manager Brian Richardson and a small crew from James Madison University close behind to deal with the technical side of things, the Virginia-based team followed a conservative approach. Although they had a relatively sizable battery pack capable of at least covering 150 miles at a go, they chose to charge their retro-electro Norton at 120-mile intervals and avoid deep discharges.

With the traffic and weather cooperating, Moto Electra chewed up the miles like a dog on its favorite bone. Regular tweets from a Twitter account set up specifically for the trip showed an unrelenting progress towards the Santa Monica pier. Things were looking good. Mr. Hershner, however, hadn't given up.

The Zero back in one piece and rubber side down, Terry pushed on through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. The battle wasn't quite over though. Despite being called the Sunshine State, Florida gets a lot of rain – torrential rain – and was freely dishing it out as the black streamlined bike entered the home stretch. Still, Hershner fought on and, thoroughly soaked, arrived on a Jacksonville pier the better part of six days from the beginning of his epic journey. Too tired, we imagine, to holler "Firsties!".

The next day, Moto Electra Racing reached the Pacific, exactly 84.5 hours after beginning their run, laying down a time that's going to be tough to beat in the near future.

Moto Electra Racing reached the Pacific exactly 84.5 hours after beginning their run.

So, what do these two trips signify? Well, Terry proved what can be done with a little ingenuity using the existing charging infrastructure. Long distance journeys are the historical weak point in electric vehicle ownership, but even with this electric revival in its infancy, crossing the vastness of America is not impossible. Perhaps, it's not yet ready for the mainstream, but the tide seems to be turning in the favor of electric mobility.

And when charging infrastructure is ready for the mainstream, what will such a 2,400-mile transcontinental trip look like? Perhaps a lot like the the three-and-a-half day adventure enjoyed by Moto Electra with charging available when and where you need it.

You can keep up with Tery Hershner's future two-wheeled travels (he has a lot more long distance riding planned for the near future) on his Off The Grid Facebook page. As for Moto Electra, you can similarly "like" its Facebook feed and get more details on its record-setting venture in the official press release below.

Show full PR text
Moto-Electra Racing Sets World Record for All-Electric Vehicle Trans-Continental Crossings
-- Leader in electric motorcycle racing technology crosses the continent in 3.5 days (84.5 hours)-

Blue Grass, VA, June 12, 2013. Moto-Electra announced today that it has set a coast to coast world record for electric vehicles by making a trans-continental run in 3.5 days (84.5 hours). There was no battery swapping, and the vehicle made the entire trip under its own power. The record's verification is available through James Madison University personnel who monitored the ride, as well as on-board data acquisition systems.

This record was established using a standard motorcycle design – the same used by the Moto-Electra team for GP type racing, land speed racing, and everyday driving.

"The motorcycle itself performed beautifully," said team manager Brian Richardson . "The batteries were rock solid and the heat and rain were not a factor. We could have done it faster, but we wanted to be safe. If we were to do it again, we would travel farther between charges, and increase the speed a bit -- something learned."

According to Richardson, "The technology for electric vehicles may be 20 years out before it takes hold as a solid, feasible addition to gas-fueled machines. But in today's fast-paced world of technological changes, who knows?"

The team gives high praise to young Will Hays, a sophomore at James Madison University. "He was exceptional," Richardson noted. "With a laptop and other equipment, this student captured data every second - things like wind speed/direction, volts, amps, temperature, GPS location/speed/elevation. If you wanted to start installing charging stations across the U.S., Will has the database."

Former AMA PRO Thad Wolff rode the motorcycle for the Coast to Coast record. Thad also raced this bike successfully in the 2010 and 2011 TTXGP series. Moto-Electra was ranked second in North America for the 2011 season.
"The funny thing is .. when we said we could do this, many said it was impossible," said Richardson. "Already people are saying that it was easy and anyone could do it. I think that was the whole point -- to change perceptions."

Earlier in the week, another motorcyclist traveled from west to east using a different style all electric motorcycle. His time was just under 6 days, and the combination of the two crossings showed that the use of electric vehicles for long range transportation is now on the horizon.

"At the turn of the 20th century, gasoline powered vehicles were useless for long distance travel," concluded Richardson. "There were no roads, no filling stations, and the vehicles were not dependable. Gas powered vehicles could never replace the horse for long distance travel. Fast forward 100 years, and our goal is to challenge perceptions about the useful range of electric vehicles. We did just that. I think it's only a matter of time when charging stations will allow cross country travel by anyone with an electric vehicle."

To see pictures of the trip along the way, check out: or Facebook at Moto Electra Racing.

Sponsored or assisted by: IceWarp, Inc, StarkPower, James Madison University, Manzanita Micro Chargers, Virginia Urology, Freedom Solutions Group, Virginia Association of Electric Cooperatives, Cardo Systems, Dunlop Tires, Vanson Leathers, High Performance Electric Vehicle Systems, Race Tech, BST Wheels and Brocks Performance.

Moto-Electra Racing intends to re-invent the motorcycle as we know it. Started on a sheep farm in the Blue Grass Valley of Virginia, Moto-Electra Racing is developing some of the fastest electric motorcycles in the world. "You can silently accelerate to 130 mph, or cruise along listening to the birds in the trees. This is an expansion of the sport of motorcycling. We invite you to visit our quiet Blue Grass Valley -- To see for yourself the future of motorsport." Brian Richardson

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