The college of arduous knocks by no means provides out a diploma. You’re by no means carried out studying issues the arduous method in case you’re an fool like me. I just lately took a category on what occurs if you fail to plan forward and whereas I positively realized one thing, it was most likely one thing I ought to have already identified to start with. Anyway, that is the story of how I borrowed a model new Harley-Davidson LiveWire in Los Angeles and rode it 500 miles house to Reno, Nevada.
Alongside the best way, I did my degree greatest to interrupt the bike, get stranded and die alone within the chilly California Central Valley. This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers, who helped me repair the scenario and get again on monitor. There’s nonetheless some good on this planet, and this journey really helped me revive somewhat little bit of the optimism that I’d misplaced by the course of 2020.
(Full Disclosure: I’m making an attempt to run your entire month of December with out burning a single ounce of fossil gasoline. To make that somewhat extra doable, I requested Harley if I may borrow its electrical motorbike for the month to check out on our native using roads. I rode the corporate’s Road Glide 131 I’d been borrowing right down to LA to swap bikes and arranged my very own lodging and gasoline/cost to get there and again. This isn’t a assessment of the bike, however fairly a assessment of our charging infrastructure and my very own psychological capability.)
I deliberate this journey round a press launch, as a result of why not kill three birds with one stone? I used to be over in Malibu to check the brand new 2021 Slingshot, which I can’t discuss till December 8, so I awoke early and rode the loaner Road Glide 131 again to Harley to return it and picked up my subsequent steed. The Gold LiveWire was charged up and ready for me.
The display screen on the bike learn 108 miles of vary, which I knew can be lowered on the freeway, so I plotted a course for a ChargePoint charger 80 miles away and hit the street. The factor about using an electrical motorbike is that you just’re always doing psychological math to calculate how far you’ve come, how a lot vary you’ve used to get there, how far it’s important to go, and what number over that mileage you’ll want in vary to realize it. Percentages, miles, aerodynamics, topography, all of it provides as much as whether or not you’ll make it or fall wanting your vacation spot.
Typically that math doesn’t work. As I headed north out of Los Angeles, I used to be making good time and good vary because the Harley is among the best bikes to lane cut up with. I used to be maintaining a gradual 35-40 miles per hour by simply above standstill site visitors for miles at a time. I knew that when site visitors cleared on the outskirts of city that my extraordinarily un-aerodynamic human kind would cut back vary accordingly at velocity, nevertheless it didn’t look too dangerous for some time. At one level I handed an indication that stated “Subsequent Providers 25 Miles” with three little symbols subsequent to it indicating gasoline, diesel, and EV charging. I had 40 miles of indicated vary remaining and I hadn’t been burning miles as shortly as I assumed I would. I pressed on, considering I’d make it to my first cost cease with a handful of miles to spare.
Then the freeway began to realize elevation and the miles ticked off a lot faster than that they had been simply minutes earlier than. No worries, I assumed, I’ll simply decelerate a bit. Tuck in behind a semi-truck and preserve a gradual 60 mph to maximise vary. I switched the bike to eco mode and settled right into a gradual cruise. The climb continued and the vary plummeted. With 20 miles to go my vary was right down to 20. With 10 miles to go my vary was down to six.
That’s when desperation set in. At that time I pulled into the shoulder and set the cruise to 25, hoping I may simply make it to the following exit. I ended up working out of juice simply Three miles from my vacation spot, and inside just a few hundred toes of the uphill turning right into a downhill. I began to push, hoping I’d have the ability to make it to the highest and coast down the following half mile or so to the closest exit. However then my savior with a trailer pulled up and requested if I wanted some assist.
This very good gentleman didn’t know me from Adam, may inform nothing about me save I used to be in bother, he simply wished to assist. He provided to assist load the bike, strap it down, and haul it these ultimate three miles to the charger I’d meant to make use of. What a man! And after we arrived, I provided to purchase him lunch or a tank of gasoline, or each, and he completely refused any type of compensation. Man, I owe him a debt of gratitude.
Regardless of the assistance, issues bought worse from there. Within the kerfuffle, I’d uncared for to show off the LiveWire’s flashers, and so they stayed on for the entire haul to the DC Quick Charger I wanted to make my subsequent bounce. Just about each electrical automobile has a 12v battery, identical to a gasoline-powered automobile has, which runs issues just like the lights and the TFT dashboard display screen. It stays charged with a DC to DC inverter, which steps down the principle motivation battery juice to a continuing 12v feed to maintain the pc and different operations working like regular. Nicely, if you depart the bike on with a lifeless motivation battery stack, that 12v provide runs out in a short time, notably on a motorbike with a tiny lithium 12v battery.
When you may have a lifeless 12v battery, there’s nothing to speak with the DC charger to inform it to start out charging. So far as the charger is anxious, you’ve simply plugged into lifeless air. A fast name to Harley and so they indicated that I wanted to both cost up the battery or change it with a brand new one. Fortunately there was a motorbike store only a quarter of a mile away from the charger, so after confirming that they had what I wanted, I pushed the bike as much as their store doorways and set to work disconnecting the previous battery and swapping within the new one which I had bought for $120. Once more, due to the kindness of strangers, I used to be capable of full the duty with borrowed instruments and a free fuse that I’d blown within the course of.
Within the strategy of loading the bike onto the trailer, I had damaged the correct aspect flip sign clear off, , like a dumbass. One of many bike store techs provided to superglue it again on for me only for the street journey house. Don’t fear, I’ve already ordered a brand new one from my native Harley dealership and can have it changed earlier than I return the press mortgage again to Bar and Protect headquarters.
Okay, so with a brand new 12v provide, the charger now acknowledges that the bike exists. I plugged it into the motorbike store’s 110v provide to cost up a few miles so I didn’t should push it again to the ChargePoint charging station. And what do I discover after I get there? It’s already occupied by this electrical shuttle van. Simply my luck, proper?
The man driving the van was extraordinarily good and stated he solely wanted to get to 60 p.c cost to make it to his vacation spot, so after 30 minutes he unplugged and allowed me to plug in. Once more, strangers being very sort. It’s virtually like particular person individuals are really fairly okay. It’s massive teams of individuals appearing collectively who’re the issue.
Anyway, so the motive force tells me that these electrical vans are constructed by an organization known as GreenPower, which additionally builds electrical faculty buses and municipal transit buses. This van, known as the EV Star, seems to be quite a bit like every variety of different huge transportation vans, however I can’t actually place it. The motive force stated he thought the issues have been imported from China with ultimate meeting in California. It was good to speak to him, however after having already been within the space for just a few hours, I used to be itching to get charged and get on the street.
Nicely, that’s enjoyable. After the bus took off for his vacation spot of Los Angeles, I plugged in and charged for about 5 minutes earlier than I bought an error display screen. With a number of unplug, re-start, re-plug, cost for 5 minutes, error display screen cycles in a row, I known as ChargePoint to ask what was happening, after which the machine stated it wanted to close down for upkeep. The girl on the assistance line stated that it will most likely be two or three days earlier than upkeep would present up. I used to be just about out of luck with about 14 p.c state of cost on my bike.
Fortunately the Degree 2 chargers nonetheless functioned just a few toes away, however the LiveWire’s onboard charger isn’t suitable with degree 2 charging. It’ll plug in and settle for a cost, nevertheless it’s both the common 110v charges or DC quick, there isn’t a in-between. The closest useful DC quick charger was one other 15 miles up I-5, so I plugged into the extent 2 to get one other few miles of vary after which went to go discover one thing to eat. Fortunately a really good native Mexican restaurant was close by, so I ordered some completely kickass quesadilla a la diabla, and because of the kindness of a stranger, the restaurant charged my telephone inside whereas I dined within the California-COVID-compliant parking zone eating.
From then on, the experience house was easy crusing. I knew my vary limits, and I knew what large impact elevation change had on vary, so I used to be way more conservative about my charging distances. It meant extra stops than I had deliberate for and fairly a bit extra time than anticipated, however I knew from then on I’d make it house. After my good Mexican lunch, I hopped on the near-silent Harley and headed towards the following charger. This time it was within the again lot of a Denny’s restaurant.
I’d picked up the Harley at Eight a.m. I arrived on the Denny’s at 3:30 p.m. By all of my breakdown, restore, cost, lunch shenanigans, it had taken me seven and a half hours to go 100 miles on certainly one of America’s most electric-friendly thoroughfares. I used to be already exhausted, however I had a number of hours to go earlier than sleep, and solely about an hour to go earlier than sunset. I let loose one lengthy deep exasperated sigh and straddled the bike once more for an additional stint.
The most important draw back of blending electrical motorbike journey and the nation’s woefully insufficient charging infrastructure is that there isn’t a option to cost your equipment. As a result of I used to be utilizing my iPhone for navigation and music, and a Cardo helmet communicator to broadcast these telephone sounds to my ear holes, I had two gadgets that wanted a cost and positively nowhere to cost them. As a result of the entire eating places are closed, I sometimes discovered myself visiting truck cease loos to search out an outlet to plug in my gear. Fifteen to 20 minutes of cost at a time was sufficient to get me to my subsequent cease, however once more I used to be in search of an empty and useful plug like a coke fiend in search of a repair.
Right here’s a prime tip, all of these chargers in Wal Mart parking tons are completely nice, however as soon as Wal Mart closes, you’re in a desolate space with tons of of 110v three-prong plugs to cost your stuff, however these shops lock them up! With battery life dwindling, I used to be fortunate sufficient to run into a very gracious gentleman by the identify of Mayor Rey Léon from the close by city of Huron, California. He was charging up his Chevy Bolt whereas attending a Zoom assembly of the county’s mayors, and was so sort to cost my telephone and headset in his automotive. And on prime of that he gave me a stunning freshly picked pomegranate to eat for dinner, which was in regards to the measurement of my head.
The most important draw back of taking this journey on a LiveWire? No place to take a seat, no place to get out of the weather, and no place to cost gadgets. The upside? Assembly so many terribly good individuals. There was once an previous Honda motorbike marketing campaign which stated “You meet the nicest individuals on a Honda,” however the different H-brand is fairly good at attracting good individuals, too.
[Edit: Since writing this, I have been informed by Harley that the LiveWire does indeed include a USB-C charger behind the headlight fairing.]
I needed to snicker somewhat bit seeing this commercial for Lengthy Method Up on the primary Electrify America charger I ended to make use of. Should you’ve watched the Lengthy Method Up sequence on Apple TV, you’ll know that messrs McGregor and Boorman had a equally rocky begin to their Harley LiveWire journey. Now, admittedly, their journey went a number of thousand miles longer than mine, nevertheless it felt a bit acquainted. It’s present, you must most likely watch it.
It was on this Wal-Mart parking zone at one within the morning the place I made a decision that I wasn’t going to make it house in at some point. I discovered an affordable resort within the suburbs of Sacramento to crash for the evening as an alternative of making an attempt to courageous the Donner Cross at evening in sub-20 diploma temperatures.
The morning of day two I used to be up and at ‘em fairly early. Sadly my resort didn’t have any exterior plugs I may use, so I used to be compelled to move to the closest charger to get some juice earlier than heading out of the Sac space. I checked my PlugShare app for my choices and settled on one at a spot known as “Golden Bean Cafe” which sounded good as a result of I wanted a dose of caffeine. Nicely, because it seems, this charger was in an workplace park which included the regional workplaces of an organization known as Golden Bean Cafe, so whoever created that itemizing deserves a correct walloping. I used to be severely upset, but when this was the worst factor I’d run into that day, all the higher.
Maybe one of the best shock of the journey was this free DC quick charging station on the Donner summit relaxation space off of I-80 eastbound. It hadn’t been utilized in a few days, because the wire was buried in a foot of snow, however as soon as plugged in I used to be capable of head inside the remaining space (masks on, after all) to get pleasure from a bit of warmth whereas the bike charged up for the final 40 miles of using to get house.
I pulled into my driveway at 1 p.m. the day after I had left. Contemplating I had began this journey on the LiveWire the prior morning at Eight a.m., it meant that I had gone slightly below 500 miles in 31 hours. That averages out to about 16 miles per hour. I positively gained’t be setting any data at that tempo. However, actually, if I hadn’t fucked up, it will have been a a lot shorter journey. Like a minimum of 7 hours shorter.
The ethical of the story right here is that persistence is a advantage, strangers will be fairly sort, issues occur for a purpose, and generally there are issues past your management. I really feel like I’ve a a lot deeper understanding of not solely this motorbike however the state of our nationwide charging infrastructure as a result of I took this journey. On a gas-powered bike, I may have simply walked to get a gallon of gasoline and returned to the bike to fireside it up and experience the remainder of the best way to the following fuel station. On an electrical bike, if you run out of juice, just about everybody will inform you you’re shit out of luck, apart from the one good man who pulls over to assist.
I’m grateful for everybody I met on this journey, I’m grateful for each little bit of hospitality and kindness they confirmed to me, and I’m grateful that it didn’t find yourself a lot worse. Subsequent time I’ll be the man who pulls over to assist. Cross on any kindness you obtain, you by no means know who’s going to reap the advantages.