Electric Vehicle infrastructure issues demonstrated by Shocking Barack ride

As previously reported Brian Wismann (lead designer at Brammo) and Dave Schiff (a Creative Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky) have set out on a cross country electric motorcycle ride to raise awareness and to demonstrate the utility of the Enertia motorcycles made by Brammo (see Cross country electric motorcycle ride by Brammo hopes to raise awareness).  They are also demonstrating some issues about the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.  The Enertia motorcycle has a maximum speed over 60 miles per hour and they claim a 42 mile range.  To maximize range (it uses more energy to go faster) they are riding side roads and keeping the speed limited to 35 miles/hr.

While the ride itself is very interesting, what it says about electric vehicle charging infrastructure is very illuminating.  “You’re riding through America and electricity is everywhere, it’s far more ubiquitous than gas stations,” said Dave Schiff, “ironically it’s not accessible.”   It seems like a no-brainer to just use that existing electricity infrastructure for EV recharging.  What infrastructure?  The wall sockets in your house and practically every building in the country.  The problem is one of access, can an EV owner effectively access the electricity infrastructure?  And will the planners rolling out electric vehicle service equipment installations for electric cars also accommodate electric motorcycles, electric scooters and electric bicycles?

During the Shocking Barack ride they have been able to pull up to strip malls as needed, approach small business owners saying “Hey, we need a charge” and in almost every case have been met with interested support support and been allowed to plug in.  Obviously there is some novelty playing into this, and if this were a daily occurrence the small business owners might be put off by the requests to plug in.  Clearly there’s a business opportunity for strip malls and other businesses to install paid electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), but electricity regulatory rules make this problematic.

An advantage the Enertia motorcycles has over electric cars is the charger is designed for regular 120 volt 15 amp household electrical circuits.  No special EVSE infrastructure is required, unlike the larger electric cars.  In addition to Brammo’s Enertia motorcycle there are electric motorcycles, scooters and bicycles available or soon to be available from several manufacturers.  These vehicles are a very green way to get around town and they do not require fancy EVSE installations, normal outdoor certified 120 volt outlets are perfectly suitable.  It would be very convenient for all concerned if the EVSE infrastructure being built for electric cars would also accommodate electric motorcycles and scooters.  It would certainly make Brian and Dave’s ride to Washington DC that much easier.

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During our conversation and Brian Wismann described the J1772 connector being standardized for electric cars as “that large connector”.  On motorcycles, especially ones as small as the Enertia, space is critical making a “large connector” a problematic fit.  At the SF Bay Area EV Infrastructure meeting reported on earlier I did ask about this issue, and the response (by a committee member planning the SF Bay area EV infrastructure) is that motorcyclists might appreciate the higher recharge rates possible through the higher power carried by the J1772 connector (see Planning for the coming wave of electric vehicles and Infrastructure considerations for gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, hydrogen, etc).  That may be true however the connector socket still has to fit onto the vehicle.  In any case Brammo does not at this time have plans to utilize the J1772 connector and instead Brian described efforts to raise awareness of the need for 120 volt outlets at the EVSE installations.

In the meantime perhaps this ride will enlighten planning committees around the country.  A small addition to the EVSE infrastructure being built for electric cars would also accommodate electric motorcycles and scooters.

 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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  1. Pingback: Cross country electric motorcycle ride by Brammo hopes to raise awareness | The Long Tail Pipe

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