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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Am.E, Aug 8, 2021.
Amy & Kevin,
CONGRATS on your lofty accomplishment!
I'm tickled that you two made it to Port Orford without having to use that 200 mi. long extension cord!
And what a great job you did of telling the story too!
Congratulations! You should really consider expanding this RR into a book. The combination of adventure, beauty, and suspense is perfect fodder. I do hope that the EV world takes note of your achievement.
Nah, no book. We're holding out for a movie deal. I want to be played by Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean).
An awesome read! thank you for sharing!
Fantastic accomplishment! Wow. Congrats.
I own an Alta MXR e-dirt bike (plated) and I love it. Riding quietly through nature is the best. Flowing single track, quietly zipping along, gets the zen on in a completely different way from regular gas bikes. I imagine the Zero would be the same in so many of the places you rode through.
Thanks for sharing with us, very inspirational. -Ed
That's it, exactly. Some have asked me if I miss the gas engine noise - not at all. It's like riding a mountain bike without all the work (and the legs of 50 Lance Armstrongs)! I like hearing the tires working for traction. I sneak up on more animals with the Zero - we saw a lot of critters, including moose, elk and a bobcat. When our Sena radios are on, most of the noise I hear is over the radio from her WR (which has a stock muffler).
Statistics and charging locations are coming soon.
Amazing trip and ride report!
Now for a little bit more nerd conversation.
I definitely hear you on the regen braking power to be tuned for drivability and safety. Locking up the rear wheel at every lift throttle instance would be rough. Thanks for the great discussion.
I work at the facility where these are designed and built. I started my career here as a test lab intern and have operated them on the test track. The SR motors can be switched from F to R or R to F at full speed without lifting the accelerator. Previously all extra power was put to resistor banks, but now only extra extra power goes to the resistor banks and extra power goes into a kinetic storage system. There is definitely lots of heat involved. The IGBTs on the loader are directly bolted to a water cooled plate.
This experience is what prompted and guided my questions and discussion.
Really neat! SR motors are one of my favorites, now that controllers are advanced enough to use them smoothly. For a long time, they were too prone to "cogging" like stepper motors. I looked up the spec sheet on those loaders - the motor controller cooling system uses 15 gallons of coolant! 30% reduction in fuel usage is no joke in a half-million pound machine with a 1200 gallon fuel tank.
Congrats to both of you on completing the TAT.. and congrats on making it on the Zero. I too have a DSR and ride it daily. I did try and take it off-road when I first got it and realized (very quickly) that it isn't a dirt bike in any way. I'm quite surprised you didn't change the suspension. The slow charging is the real hurdle for everyone else.
GREAT ride report and very well written. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
We had to focus on what was really needed to do the TAT, and changing the suspension didn't make the cut. Most of the TAT is pretty easy going, and I figured I could nurse it through the rougher sections. Agreed, the main problem was adding fast charging while also having the extra power tank battery. I used 100% to make it from Wendover to Tremonton UT, and without the extra battery I think it would be impossible (or maybe just barely possible on a 100*F day with a tailwind, and going 15 mph).
Andy Lagzdins modified a DSR for desert racing. He fitted CRF 250X forks, triple clamps, wheels and brakes. An inspiration, and maybe I'll follow his lead:
Request for questions
We're working on a post script with some stats and other misc info about our trip. Things like total number of charges, a link to a spreadsheet with everywhere we charged, how many charges on the various plug types, max distance, etc.
A few people have expressed that they have questions about our trip. I'd like to do a FAQ style round up to answer anything not addressed in the ride report. If you have questions, post them here, or PM me. They can be questions about the TAT, doing the TAT with an EV, EV questions in general, Zero DSR questions, overlanding questions...etc. I'm sure some out you will think outside the box ......I'm not sure how much interest there is, but since I'd like to do a round up post anyway, tell me what you'd like to know.
Thanks. I'll check it out. Mine is already set-up for commuter duties. I'm currently working on an Energica Eva for my next commuter. Fun never stops.
Thanks for taking us along for the ride. You both have a good way with words and making it picture heavy helps with covering all the ground for the readers. My wife and I did the SCBR earlier this year, a different kind of crazy, but are former DS riders that used to live in the West. You painted a great picture of your journey. Because we ride ADV scooters, we often get asked if they could do the TAT. I always say No, due to the harder sections and water crossings, even though most of it would be fine. It was fun to follow along and see your pictures from your trip.
Happy trails and best on the flights home, (if you're not already there).
I probably missed the explanation, but is there a point where you had to spray a mist of water to cool the charging system?
Congratulations on a great trip and report!
A very enjoyable RR, one of the best!
I have found, more times than not, great food in small town restaurants.
Well done! You did a great job documenting this amazing trip. I recognized a lot of the scenery from my TAT trip last year. The fish and chips were damn good, eh? Do you have a plan for getting your bikes back to the east coast? My bike is stashed in Oregon still and I am seeking transport back to New England if you have space (?)
2021 TAT – Postscript
2021 Trans America Trail (TAT)
(Text below is by a mix of both Amy and Kevin (more so than usual).)
Our Trans America Trail adventure was amazing, and everything we hoped it would be. Having nearly two months to spend riding across the country on motorcycles was, once again, an outstanding experience. As far as the desirability of riding the TAT on an electric motorcycle, or even just traveling on an electric bike? Well, we’re still not sure about that. But we definitely learned a few things.
7610 miles. 57 days. Coast to coast across the US on the Trans America Trail. The first electric motorcycle to complete the TAT, and only the second/third EV to ever make it across (we finished a month after the two pre-production, factory sponsored Rivian trucks, see below). Prior to 2021, no electric vehicles had completed (or probably even attempted) the TAT.
Total number of charges: 102
Average leg length (distance between charges): 75 miles
Maximum leg: 179 miles
Charging outlet types: Number of times charged at that type
120v wall outlet (overnight slow charging): 38
J1772 charge points: 23
Tesla destination charge points: 6
RV Campgrounds – 50 amp 14-50: 41
Shop 6-50 outlets: 1 (Thanks, Topar!)
This adds to 109 outlets used in 102 charges. Sometimes more than one outlet type was used simultaneously (Like one J1772 and one Tesla). The 120v outlet type was mostly NEMA 5-15, but also sometimes NEMA TT-30 at an RV Park. Both are 120v and we can use only one charger at half power there. (3 of the 4 chargers are used when plugged into the 50 amp RV plug, leaving one available for TT-30 if available). We thought about buying a second TeslaTap (converts Tesla to J1772), but didn’t, and never needed it. Tesla Superchargers are DC, not AC, and are not compatible with the Zero.
Only 16 of the 102 charges were at public chargers explicitly intended for public use by EVs. For these, anyone can just roll up and use them. Almost every other charge was at a public facing business (RV Park or lodging of some sort) where we asked permission before plugging in, and offered to pay. A few charges were at State Park RV campgrounds, or occasionally a county or town park, but most RV charging was at a privately owned park. Only one person refused, and just a few places asked us to pay a few dollars for the power. (Max payment was $10, but $5 was typical if we had to pay at all).
On a good day, where everything went just right, we would start the morning with a full charge. Then we’d ride all morning, and pull into an RV park around lunch time. We’d have lunch, do some admin like trip planning (checking weather, figuring out where to stay that night), some stretches and exercise, and after about an hour the bike would be charged and ready to go again. Then we’d ride through the afternoon until reaching a campsite or motel. It’s not too hard to ride 180 or 200 miles in a day this way (which is about all we do on similar routes with gas bikes). This actually worked out quite a lot – there are so many RV parks in America, including many that we never found online, but stumbled across while riding the TAT.
It did not always go like this. Sometimes we’d only go a little way in the morning before reaching a mandatory charge point. Mandatory because the next leg was long enough to require starting it with 100% charge. Other times, no charging was available directly on the TAT, so we’d have to divert off-route, sometimes up to 20 miles one-way, for a charge. Sometimes, only slow charging was available on route, and it was actually faster overall to slow the bike down, increase the range, and skip a charge point (or avoid a long diversion).
The longest we waited on charging was because we wild camped in National Forest with only 20% charge remaining. The next morning, we were up a dawn and went to Fort Lewis Lodge in VA to charge. We had already received permission, but the only outlet they had was 120v 5-15 (standard wall outlet). We were able to find two circuits on separate breakers, so could run two chargers at half power, but this still meant a 3 hour charge time. We made the best of it – cooked a full breakfast, walked down to the river, talked with people, answered some emails, and so on. There were 4 guys riding the MABDR who stayed there the night before, and they only hit the road about 10 minutes before us!
Best charging location:
Fort Lewis Lodge in VA. Slow charging but excellent location. Stay there for the TAT or MABDR if you have the budget.
Unity Lake State Park, OR.
Worst charging locations:
Literally abandoned RV park in Buffalo, OK. Would not count on power being on or available in the future. Owner was awesome, called number on the sign, he picked up, and said sure, plug in.
Well pump pole in view of ATK rocket garden in UT on the side of the road. Stole 10c of power for a few % on the battery. Piles of cow patties. Overcast and shivering cold. So tired. Pretty much the only charge where we used power without specific permission (b/c we were desperate, had no one to ask, and no number to contact).
Stats on the Zero DSR and WR250R:
997 kWh (it used nearly a MWh!)
131 Wh/mi (from wall, includes charger loss)
99 Wh/mi (average reported from bike [it reads ~20% lower than actual])
$69 directly paid for charging (doesn’t count lodging cost where we also charged)
737 Lbs. CO2 (based on average CO2 per kWh in each state we charged in)
~117 gallons of gas.
$524.70 paid for fuel.
2236 Lbs. CO2
In hydropowered Idaho, the Zero (indirectly) put out just 8% of the CO2 of the WR.
In coal-fired Utah, the Zero still only emitted about half the CO2 of the WR.
Overall, the Zero put out about 33% the CO2 of the WR.
As renewables grow, and coal is replaced with natural gas, these figures will improve even more. In the last 5 years, Utah’s generation has gone from 75% coal to 61% coal.
Here’s the log of everywhere I charged, and some other tabs with the charging we found along the route before making the trip. No promises, but I hope this helps:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/nfifh75650nrgto/TAT charging 2021-10-08.xlsx?dl=0
What I personally enjoyed most about this trip was the variety. As expected, the TAT is such a unique way to experience our enormous country. The landscape never stayed the same for very long. Every boring gravel road eventually came to an end, and you could count on seeing something interesting and new. Even on the longer bits where we were just sick of it and ready to be through it already, it was hard to avoid “intake overload,” and take it all in. For me, this novelty is part of the addiction to travel by motorcycle. (I also love running across other moto travelers and hearing their stories. We met some great people on this trip).
The United States grows a truly astounding amount of soybeans and corn in the middle part of the country. Rationally I understood this prior to the trip, but riding through it is still eye opening. Same with ranching out west. We herded thousands of cattle out of the road over the course our little backroad adventure with Kevin’s silly “honky” horn, and our route traversed only a fraction of the land dedicated to ranching. (He technically bought the horn to warn pedestrians because the bike is so quiet, but let’s be honest, it made me laugh the entire way across the country).
Disclaimer: the below observation treads dangerously close to CSM, but I want to mention it anyway. Please keep the comments civil. This thread has been free of trolls, which is surprising, because for whatever reason EVs make some people really mad.
I’m disappointed (but not really surprised) in how immediately political the electric bike was for some of the people we met on this trip, and EVs in general. A lot of people immediately reacted as if we had some sort of agenda, and overtly assumed we aligned with the American political left. (This went in both directions; since America’s political landscape is so polarized. People on the left assumed we were on their team, people on the right assumed we weren’t). One particularly blatant response to our trip from a stranger in a very red town was “Well, AOC must be proud.”
It’s such a shame for EVs to be so closely associated with a certain subset of the political spectrum and environmental movement. It unnecessarily biases people to a really awesome part of the technium, that like most technology, is politically and morally neutral (it’s what you do with it that matters). It should be obvious, but you don’t have to align with a political view to like EVs. It baffles me that it’s not more patriotic to like them; the best EV tech in the world by far is American, and it’s exciting watching the progress unfold (Tesla, Rivian, Ford electric F-150, Zero, LiveWire, Energica (ok that last one is not American)). Make no mistake, we both think EVs are part of the solution toward a more sustainable relationship between humans and the planet, but that doesn’t mean we think everyone needs to own an EV, or that this trip was some sort of evangelical promotion. We just like bikes. We like the Zero, and wanted to ride the TAT. We’re proud of the achievement of being the first to get an electric motorcycle across the Trans America Trail; it was a challenge. We also currently have a garage full of other bikes, which are all gas powered.
The only other EVs to make it across the TAT this year were of course the factory sponsored Rivian trucks. No EVs had completed (or even attempted?) the TAT prior to 2021, and then both the factory sponsored pre-production Rivian trucks and our humble effort on the Zero went across in the same year. Here’s the five-part video series for the Rivians. It’s fun for us to see the professional video showing some of the places we rode. If you want to get a sense of our trip, this short series will give you the gist:
Rivian R1T: Electrifying the Outdoors | Leg 1 of 5 Nags Head to Dalton | MotorTrend
Rivian R1T: Electrifying the Outdoors | Leg 2 of 5: Dalton to Bartlesville | MotorTrend
Rivian R1T: Electrifying the Outdoors | Leg 3 of 5: Bartlesville to La Sal | MotorTrend
Rivian R1T: Electrifying the Outdoors | Leg 4 of 5: La Sal to Tremonton | MotorTrend
Rivian R1T: Electrifying the Outdoors | Leg 5 of 5: (not published yet as of this post)
We laughed out loud when we saw this part of the video:
Rivian charging in Waterloo, AL – Trans America Trail
They are charging at the SAME EXACT plug where we charged at that sketchy RV park in Waterloo, AL, where the RV services are mounted haphazardly on live trees:
How far can you go on a charge?
It depends. Range is heavily speed dependent, and aerodynamics play a huge role. It’s completely possible to drain the battery in as little as 60-70 miles by riding highway speed (65 mph+) uphill into a headwind while fully loaded. Riding normally (not too slowly, but not aggressively) on a mix of slower back roads and forest roads usually yields about 120 miles, with a little to spare. Hyper-miling by keeping the speed down to about 25mph or so gets 180+ miles. We avoid planning charge legs longer than 100 miles whenever possible. At under 100 miles between charging locations, you do not have to worry much limiting speed to make sure to have enough range.
How long does it take to charge?
It depends on the charging source. A full charge takes just over an hour with fast level 2 charging, and up to 10 hours with level 1. Full charges are rare, most charging is topping up when there is an opportunity.
How much does it cost to charge?
A full charge uses less than $2 worth of power at typical retail rates in the US. About half of the charging on the TAT was at RV campground, and most hosts let us charge for free. Many public EV chargers are “free”, but the cost of pay chargers varies widely. In general, electricity cost per mile is like buying gas for $0.75 per gallon.
Pace of travel with the Zero vs a gas bike, and a few thoughts on why charging is not easy
At the start of the TAT on the east coast, charge legs were closer together, and charging locations that were on or very near the route at distances shorter than 100 miles were much easier to find than out west. Any given day might vary, but our overall pace of travel was not significantly different than how we like to travel on gas bikes on an off-pavement route. We generally went 175-200 miles a day on the TAT east of the Mississippi River. As we went further west, we either had to slow down more often to increase range, or divert more often, which was time consuming. There were times when we chose to stop early for the day due to the constraints of charging, when we otherwise might have gone another 25-50 miles had we been on gas bikes.
If I had to guess, I would say the electric bike made our trip about a week longer over the course of the nearly two months we spent riding the Trans America Trail compared to the schedule we would have ridden had we’d both been on gas bikes. Those willing to ride longer days could definitely do this trip on the Zero quite a bit faster. Neither of us minded this aspect of electric motorcycle travel on this trip very much, but it definitely could be a problem under other circumstances. As stated previously, we like to travel somewhat slowly, and made no attempt to go as fast as possible on this trip. If we had the time, we would have taken even longer. Still, as expected, the electric bike can be very limiting. Overall pace was fine, but waiting on any given charge sometimes tried our patience. If we rolled in needing nearly a full charge, there were definitely times that we wanted to leave before the bike was ready, and had to wait around for it to finish.
The tech and infrastructure are also not ready for this type of travel at all. You can’t just plug the bike in and walk away. Every charge required checking on the bike periodically to make sure it was still charging (and in Kevin’s case, manage cooling of the aftermarket chargers in some way while fast charging to hurry the process up). Many public EVSEs are not maintained, and you can never count on any public charger being operational. Some have compatibility issues, and will work for some vehicles, and not others. Some simply quit working part way through charging. Due to the aftermarket chargers, slow charging on 15A circuits was always a gamble. They pull nearly 15A, and you can’t turn that down, so if anything else is plugged into that circuit, and it really does only have a 15A breaker instead of 20A or sometimes 30A, it’s going to trip. For the same reason, he tried to buy cords with a heavy enough gage, but 14ga still sometimes got a bit melty. (We managed to never start of a fire the entire time, which is a little surprising). Whenever we overnight charged at a campsite or hotel with a regular wall outlet, Kevin checked the bike several times throughout the charging cycle to make sure it was still charging. The goal was always to have it plugged in for at least 1.5 hours or more before going to bed; if it made it that far, it would likely make it overnight and be fully charged in the morning. In places with only slow charging, this was really important, because if it stopped charging overnight for whatever reason, we’d be waiting around half a day or more the next day to charge up before we could leave. Thankfully this never happened. Lastly, just finding an outdoor wall outlet was not always easy. Hotels/Motels rightly do not want you creating a trip hazard with the cord, so sometimes finding a place to plug in that was acceptable (and didn’t trip) took some effort.
Water cooling of the chargers:
The aftermarket Diginow chargers came with aluminum heat sinks and fans. Each one is rated at 3300W, and assuming 95% efficiency that means 165W of heat (and probably a bit more).
Anatomy of two of four Diginow chargers. Heat sinks and fans since removed.
We wanted to package the chargers in sealed aluminum boxes, and keep the boxes thin so that the soft panniers were not too wide. This meant there was no room for the heat sinks. Instead, we mounted the chargers directly to the inside face of each box, with some thermal grease to improve conduction. Since the chargers only need to run about 75 minutes for a full charge (it varies, sometimes it’s less), it’s ok if they heat up a bit, which means that some of that 165W doesn’t have to be transferred to the air immediately. Even so, on a hot day the free convection can’t keep up and the chargers hit their thermal limit (something like 85*C), and reduce power output to prevent damage. The net result is that after charging for about half an hour, the chargers are hot and instead of 45 minutes charge time remaining, they slow down and it might take 2 more hours to finish (it was usually not quite that slow, but on a hot day, that last little bit of charging to get to 100% was sometimes painfully slow).
We tried a few things to speed along the charging. At home, I use a desktop fan to blow on the charger, but that’s not too portable. First I tried spitting water on the inside face of the charger boxes. This works, but is very tedious to do for half an hour or more. We also tried a small spray bottle, but it was still a lot of work. We realized that most of the time on this trip, fast charging was at RV parks. And RV parks have a water spigot right next to the 50A socket. It took a little development, but at an Ace hardware, we came up with a very lightweight hose and sprayer that could attach to the spigot. A binder clip holds it onto the rear wheel hugger fender, and it sprays the inner faces of the charger boxes. It’s easy to set up, cheap, lightweight, and 100% effective at keeping the chargers cool and running at full power. The sprayer is also handy for cooling us off!
V1 up top, V2 at the bottom – small, lightweight. worked great!
The sprayer just sort of mists in every direction. More directed towards the chargers would be better, but this worked great for keeping the chargers cool and keeping the charge rate high, so why try harder.
We figure the sprayer saved around ½ hr or so per charge (it varies). With the sprayer, we were generally able to have a full charge in about an hour or even a bit less at an RV 50A plug (with the TT-30 plug as well). At J1772 plugs, if we needed closer to a full charge, it could definitely take an hour and a half or more since there was no water cooling (with 2 Jplugs going at the same time).
How we got back from the west coast:
We would have preferred to ride back on paved roads from Oregon back to NC, but were out of time. After comparing options, shipping the bikes and flying turned out to be the fastest and lowest cost way to get us and bikes back home (not much more expensive than riding back, actually, and much faster). Uhauls were prohibitively expensive. After finishing the TAT in Port Orford, we rode up the pacific coast highway for a bit and then rode east to Eugene, OR.
We left the bikes at a motorcycle shop in Eugene that agreed to hold them for pick up by the shipping company, and then we flew home. Three flights in one long-ish day: Eugene to Seattle, Seattle to Atlanta, Atlanta to NC. We actually flew wearing our moto kit. Moto pants and boots the entire time. We didn’t want to leave any of the stuff we wear (helmets, gloves, jackets, boots) with the bikes since we would not get it back for a month (and there was nowhere to safely transport it on the bike), and we didn’t need to check any bags if we just wore it, so that’s what happened. We left the camping gear, tools, med kit, puffy jackets, shoes, etc. and anything else we didn’t need for the next month on the bike in the panniers to be shipped back home, and personal items, clothes, electronics, and the wearable moto kit came with us on the plane. We used the roll top dry bags that are the inner liners of our panniers as carry-on luggage (1 each), plus our camelbaks (for under the seat in front of you). We had no problem with the helmets as carry on, despite also having the dry bag and camelback – we just stuck the helmets in the overhead bin on every flight (they barely fit on the small planes). The motorcycle dry bags made predictably terrible carry-on luggage (heavy and packed full, no strap or wheels – I farmer carried the damn thing across four airports while wearing moto boots after getting up at 3:15am pacific coast time, and definitely felt that the next day, but what are you gonna do).
We chose Haulbikes.com. So far so good, but as of this post, the bikes are scheduled to be picked up this upcoming week, and should be received in NC by end of October. So, we’ll see how that goes.
Some thoughts on how to ride an electric bike across the TAT if you’re not an engineer:
(meaning, just using plug and play off the shelf, readily available consumer equipment, and not having to do any custom design and assembly):
So, this trip pushed available tech to the limit. We thought it was possible, and planned it for a few years. And it was possible! But just barely. And it required modifications that are out of reach for many. The biggest trick was both getting enough range to make it through the long sections, while having fast charging to do it in a reasonable time. With the current batteries in Zeroes, this meant the extra Power Tank battery was required. And THAT meant that Zero’s fast-charge Charge Tank could not also be fitted. Hence the custom build with Diginow chargers (bought used because they are out of production).
However – batteries continue to improve. Farasis makes the cells in Zero’s battery, and they announced a 25% capacity increase earlier this year. If/when this makes it to production, you may be able to buy a DSR with the main battery having as much storage as my bike does with the extra battery. This would leave room for the Charge Tank, a dealer-installed factory option. Combined with the on-board charger, you could then charge at up to 7.5 kW, for a full charge in about 2 hours. With a few off-the shelf adapters, you could use the same mix of sockets that we did (5-15, TT-30, 14-50, J1772, Tesla). Throw Giant Loop or Mosko Moto rackless (or whatever) luggage on the back. Then some other simple mods as needed, like knobbier tires, and maybe raise the handlebars. It would do the job, without all the engineering. You’d also end up with a lot less weight – maybe 60 pounds lighter than my DSR. It would be lighter, far cheaper to buy, and would require no almost no custom modification. The only sacrifice would be 2 hour instead of 1 hour charging, and you’d have to be more careful about ground clearance with the onboard charger mounted underneath. This is just one way forward. So much is happening with EVs – who knows what comes next?
Cross posted from here.
Sorry! Call haulbkes.com. That's who we're using. Recommendation TBD, bikes don't get home until the end of this month. I'll let you know then whether we'd hire them again:)
edit: the postscript post with stats and FAQ is on the previous page for those interested