Electric Motorcycles Race Across America

Setting a record, two electric motorcycles complete a transcontinental race within a few days.

| June 24, 2013

A hundred years ago, a transcontinental expedition with gasoline-fueled cars seemed impossible when compared to horseback: there were few service stations, few roads, and the car itself wasn’t considered dependable. Today, electric vehicles face the same obstacles. But on June 12, two electric motorcycles – both using different approaches – made an unprecedented coast-to-coast expedition within a few days.

Moto Electra Racing and Terry Hershner’s solo effort traveled the length of Interstate 10 in opposite directions in hopes of setting an enduring record. Moto Electra towed a generator behind its chase vehicle to make up for the lack of charging infrastructure and keep the Norton well fed; Hershner, however, chose to harvest electrons for his streamlined 2012 Zero S from whatever source available, such as RV parks and charging stations.

In Katy, Texas, just west of Houston, Hershner’s motor cooling fan failed after some previous meddling allowed a bolt to come loose, rendering the motor useless. Because he didn’t have a spare nor access to a shop, Zero shipped a motor overnight. As Hershner fixed up his motorcycle in the parking lot, Moto Electra team 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 for technical support, the Virginia-based team followed a conservative approach. They charged at 120-mile intervals despite the battery’s ability to last 150 miles.

Meanwhile, Hershner pushed through a torrential downpour in Florida and arrived on a Jacksonville pier within six days of starting his quest. The next day, Moto Electra Racing reached the Pacific, exactly three and a half days after beginning – a record that will surely be difficult to beat.

“The motorcycle itself performed beautifully,” Richardson told AutoblogGreen. “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.”

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