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  • Nigel Morris

Tesla charging motorcycles

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Pic: Livewires love Tesla charging stations too

Sometimes I pinch myself because I own a Harley Davidson Livewire.

Even better, I have two adventurous friends who also own them giving us the chance to compare notes and most importantly of all, get together for regular weekends away.

Touring on an electric motorcycle with a relatively small (15.5kWh) battery might seem impractical but the rapid roll out of DCFC stations and the recent opening up of some Tesla charging stations has absolutely changed the game.

As I have mentioned in previous stories, sitting on any motorcycle for hours on end is an exercise in stamina and most riders will tell you that they need a break and a stretch every one or two hours. If you can align charging station locations with rest breaks, charging shifts from an inconvenience to a symbiotic rider convenience.

Of course, charger reliability and wait times can impact, but the theory is good so recently, my two riding buddies and I set out to test this theory, thinly disguising our 800km riding weekend away as “science”.

We departed Sydney’s Northern beaches and headed to Lawson via some of our favourite riding roads; Galston Gorge, Arcadia, Yarramundi, Windsor and on to Lawson. At 128kms and mostly urban or 80mkmh speeds, it’s no test for our range and we all arrived with around 35% remaining after around two and a half hours. Lawson has two Chargefox chargers which were conveniently free so we were able to charge two of the three bikes straight away. By the time we had coffee and a snack we were able to shuffle the last bike on to the charger and barely had time for a yarn before we were topped up to around 90% and ready for the next leg.

Stop time was around an hour which many will scoff at but frankly, I enjoy the break and time to chat with my ride buddies, adjust the bike and talk with the never ending array of curious bystanders. If you stop trying to rush, it’s no problem.

Refreshed and with a mere 115km leg to Bathurst via Oberon’s fantastic mountain roads we got our mojo on and revelled in the pure joy of motorcycling. The fact that we were electric was utterly irrelevant; we just punched through the country side care free, like any other rider would, and lapped up the quiet country backroads, fresh tyres and big brakes.

Tesla recently opened their Bathurst charging station to all vehicles, plugging a charging gap for us and making this trip infinitely more practical. After around ninety invigorating minutes in the saddle we arrived and charged all three bikes simultaneously while we had lunch at the co-located café and listened to the somewhat ironic cacophony of speedway motorcycles at full noise just across the road.

The Tesla charger proved to deliver slightly higher power than we normally see, topping out at almost 22kW until it tapered down but also delivering higher power during the final stages of charging. Again, knowing our next leg wasn’t a long haul we didn’t need to charge to 100% and after around 40minutes were gearing up to leave.

We took the obligatory detour to Mount Panorama for a lap of this famous race track/public road of course and were only hampered by rain, speed limits, traffic and sadly a road closure on part of the circuit. Ultimately, just riding on that world famous track is exciting so it was all good and we set our maps for our final destination of Rylstone, another comfortable 100km away.

This road is a bit of a gem; lots of open sweepers and some great tight sections too. With the rain behind us, wets packed away and more than adequate range, it was simply another thrilling ride with unlimited power on tap, marred only by our middle-aged sensibilities and occasional traffic.

We arrived at the historic Globe Hotel (solar powered no less) shaken but not stirred and ready for an evening of obligatory shit talking, beer and good pub food. The owner was supremely accommodating and provided us with a shed for the bikes and several extension cords later, we were all comfortably sipping electrons overnight.

Pic: The Globe Hotel, old school pub hospitality and charging

Next day, we were on the road by just after 8am with a slightly more confronting 150km, higher speed mountainous ride to our next charging stop. For an ICE bike (or larger capacity EV) this distance is not an issue but for us it required a bit more care. The key for us is to just take a breath, slow down a little to begin with and enjoy the serenity. I really like this approach because you start to take in what’s around you more and it’s a bit calmer than the frantic go fast or die approach that a younger me would have taken.

We’ve all also learned that starting out a bit slower while everything warms up allows you to conserve some energy and capacity for the exciting twisty bits when they come along. By half way along this leg we all calculated we had been superbly judicious and could start lifting the speed as we got closer, knowing we had plenty in reserve. By the time we hit some really nice roads around 30kms out, the younger me was able to be unleashed again taking any sting out of the tail of being conservative. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

We arrived at Hollydene Winery after a couple of hours, our next charging stop and another recently opened Tesla charging station. After the obligatory bystander explanations we had all three bikes charging simultaneously, but suffered our first technical glitch. One of our gang’s bikes simply failed to be recognised the charger with a confusing array of messages from the (excellent) Tesla app. After some experimenting, we changed chargers a few times and finally everything clicked and charging began. Our theory was it may have been a fault with one pair of chargers and or perhaps an issue with poor reception on an older phone.

Pic: Hollydene Winery and charging station

The lesson here is don’t give up – swapping chargers and resetting apps can often make the difference. Sure it’s a bit shit, but it’s a first world problem.

With a fine late breakfast in our belly’s we were keen to push on as the temperature soared to the early thirties. This time it was a short hop of 75km to Pokolbin where we needed a quick fill to tackle the last longer leg home. Here, the Plugshare app proved invaluable as both chargers were occupied.

In an outstanding example of charging etiquette, one Tesla owner had left his car charging and gone for breakfast but, had checked in on Plugshare so we were able to message him to let him know we were waiting. Within a few minutes and with adequate charge he turned up and courteously made way for our first bike to get charging. The other bay was also occupied, and the inquisitive and friendly Ionic 5 owner made way for us with only a ten minute delay.

We stretched, hydrated, talked shit and before long were almost charged then hit our second minor glitch. With soaring temperatures and the chargers and bikes in full sun, charging stopped at 93%. Whilst not essential, we really wanted an extra buffer for the next leg so a bit of unplugging and re-plugging was required to push to full, but we got there.

Our final run was predictably, the longer way home on better riding roads, via Cessnock, Wollombi, Peats Ridge and the Old Pacific highway, all motorcycling staples. Our maps all showed around 175km to home but knowing a fair bit was low speed we were able to pretty much sit on the speed limit the entire way, again being a tad more conservative to begin with but with the added security that as we approached town charging was available if needed. We decided to check in at the Berowra charging station because its newish and has had reports of charging issues and, I was ready for a break after a couple of hours at the end of two long days.

Tucked away at a tennis court, the Evie charge station at Berowra has two chargers located under fantastic solar panel covered parking bays and was a cool respite. Both chargers worked but one was limiting the power delivery significantly so we played around for ten minutes but couldn’t make it deliver full power. Having arrived with around 35% in our batteries we didn’t need to charge so we geared up after ten minutes and took the final run across town and home.

Pic: Berowra charging station and solar carport

This trip yet again highlighted to me that electric motorcycle touring has got dramatically easier in just the last few years and massive props to Tesla for opening up their charging stations to other owners and making the entire EV ownership experience better for everyone.

Footnote on range:

Having three identical Livewires makes for a fantastic back to back range comparison. Our bikes are all the same year and only have minor customisation.

We all have optional screens (from a Katana1100) which improves range by 5% plus. We each run them in different positions and previously proved position makes no discernible difference.

We carry similar luggage so then we are left with weight and height. Two of us are bigger and carry around 25kg or 25% more rider weight, which consistently impacts on range. Our smaller lighter buddy typically arrives with 5-10% more remaining range and capacity then we do.

I'm also now convinced that my height and wide shoulders are another reason that more often than not I'll arrive with the least remaining capacity. I'm a bigger obstacle for wind and particularly as speeds rise, it can sap another few percent.

Of course ride settings can also help or detract but after experimenting on our last ride, I couldn't detect a material impact between Eco mode and just being vigilant on the delicate use of energy by my own input. For mountain roads I ended up switching back to my personal favourite setting (100% everything) and using maximum regen at every opportunity gaining me a few percent in the right conditions.

So all up, between three variable humans, smaller, lighter and gentler will always help but there are many factors at play, most notably speed. This graph gives you an estimation of the differences.

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