September 25 2021 – I have written a post about the Tesla Tap that allows me to charge at Tesla Destination Stations. You can read about it by clicking here.
I own a 2017 Zero DSR with the 6.2kW charge tank. For those who are unfamiliar with what that means, the Charge Tank option which is currently a $2495.00 option on the DSR allows the owner to charge the bike at EVSE Level 2 charge stations where EV cars like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, etc. charge while away from home. My used DSR came with the Charge Tank and I would not have purchased it without one. It’s the equivalent of a gas station for smoker bikes and cars. Certainly not as fast to fill up that’s for sure, but imagine only being able to fill up your smoker bike at home. Sure you get more range if you have a 4-6 gallon tank like some smoker adventure bikes, but most dual sports are 2-3 gallons. So range a little better than my DSR. And this is not about ‘how long or how far’ you can ride just on the dirt. Because my DSR can get a shit ton of mileage/hours of riding if only on the dirt. Nope I’m taking about why I bought a dual sport bike. To ride it on the street AND THE DIRT, meaning not needing a truck or trailer to get me to off-road places. And if you’re saying it’s not a motocross bike then you are missing the point and can move along. Throughout my life even as a teen I longed for a dual sport bike. Not having to load my motocross bike into the back of my El Camino and JUST RIDE somewhere to hit the dirt seemed like a dream. So it only took 50 years to get here.
This post is about charging away from home using EVSE stations. I wanted to find out for myself the ups and downs, the ins and outs of using them. More so than I have casually done in the past riding up to San Francisco or the Marin Headlands. Like many others I ride, come home and plug into my 110v garage outlet to charge the bike. First off I do NOT use my bike for commuting which many reviewers say these bikes are for. I imagine they would make a fine commuter bike, but mine is strictly for pleasure riding. And most of the videos on YT along with things I read are about people who use their bike to commute, or are trying to figure out how to charge the bikes at EVSE stations which for me is not very helpful. I don’t believe in Facebook’s business practices so I’m obviously I’m not in any of their ‘communities‘ either.
I’ve charged my DSR many times before the next few tests. So first I rode to my favorite Chinese take out place in Pacifica which is only 16 miles from my home. I take the coastal route since it’s gorgeous. After lunch I looked at Plugshare and the closest ChargePoint station was at SeaBowl just a few miles away. The app stated that there were four J1772 plugs there.
I should state here that I pack a Cliq foldable chair into my top box. WTF would I do that? Well having a chair means I can be comfortable as I’m waiting to charge. During covid I’m not keen on going into restaurants to wait. And in some cases the EVSE stations I’m using are not near convenience things like restrooms, food, etc. And since I’m a boy scout I carry water, coffee, snacks and some food as well. I like being self-sufficient.
When I pulled into the parking lot I was pleased to see that no one was using any of the plugs. But one of the charging stations was completely out of service. The screen was black. So I went to the next station and was pleased to see that it was working. I plugged in to my 6.2kW Charge Tank and noticed that the amount of power going into my bike was only 3.1kW! WTF!
It was then I learned that some of the chargers use ‘shared 6.2kw’ meaning even if I’m the only one using a charger, it ‘reserves’ 3.1kW in case someone else comes to plug in. Even worse though is this charger varied the current throughout the charging cycle causing it to disconnect from my bike. So I had to reinitiate the charging cycle. I got fed up and just unplugged and kept riding.
The Plugshare app does not indicate if a station is a shared kW charger. In order to see that you’re then required to look up the charger on the charger’s app, in this case ChargePoint. And as you can see it does show “Shared Power.”
I decided to ride back towards home and go to the EVSE station near my house I’ve used many times. And the Chargepoint app indicated two of the four stations were currently available. When I arrived two cars were hooked up to one station. The other two J plugs on the second station were open and the screen indicated it was in operation. And of course I knew that these stations were not Shared Power stations. As I tapped my phone against the NFC’s station logo I heard the familiar ‘CLICK’ where it is releasing the locked J plug, but when I pressed the button to remove the plug I noticed that the plastic clip that holds it into the charging station was broken off. I inserted the J plug into the DSR’s Charge Tank, turned on my key….nothing. So I placed the J plug back into the charge station and tried the other side which also had its clip missing. Again nothing. I went to look at the J plugs on the cars and even though those plugs had missing clips they were charging. So the only thing I could figure is that Zero must REQUIRE the clip to be present in order for the signal to be sent to the EVSE station that all is well and to begin sending juice to the bike.
On went my jacket and helmet and I rode to the local Target only 1 mile away that has six single J plug stations and tons of Tesla Superchargers. When I got there one J1772 space was free and when I looked it too had the clip broken. But I tried it anyway and of course it didn’t work. And yes there were cars there using the other J plugs that all had broken clips, but were charging. SHIT!
So I looked at my PlugShare app which indicted there were many J plug chargers in the West parking lot structure where I use to work. So off I went and when I arrived I was pleased to see that many were available and all had the mounting clips intact. So I happily plugged in, sat down and enjoyed my coffee.
That day showed me many of the realities of public charging centers. It helped prepare me for what to expect. J plugs open to the general public are like public restrooms, they get hammered. I’m sure that broken security clips are a result of one of two things. Users struggle to remove the J plug and end up forcing them out breaking them or they are just the subject of vandalism. Gas stations have attendants, EVSE stations do not. In speaking to non Tesla EV car owners a vast majority of them have never even used public EVSE stations! They drive their Leafs, iBMWs etc. to work and drive home to plug in. I certainly understand how convenient it is to never have to go to a gas station. And for trips under 80 freeway speed miles I do the same. But I also bought my bike to stay out all day so KNOWING the details of EVSE charging quells my range and charging anxiety.
A Longer Journey Test
Because I bought my bike to go on pleasure rides or trips, not Iron Butt 800 miles a day but between100-200 miles combining on and off road riding in a day I decided I needed to test my assumptions about longer distance ride charging by going from my home down to Santa Cruz along highway 1, Coast Highway. The only charging stations after leaving home down to the coast are in Half Moon Bay and then in Santa Cruz which is 49 miles one way. It’s 17 miles from my home to HMB so it would total 66 miles to Santa Cruz. Heck along the coastal route there are only three gas stations too. I remember when I’d group ride with my friends we would fill up in Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay before doing our coastal rides.
So because this was my first test I stopped in Half Moon Bay to top up my bike as I was only down to 79% and the bike indicated 93.5 miles of remaining range when I got to Half Moon Bay. But I reminded myself that 10 miles of my jaunt to HMB is downhill and I actually pick up 4% charge going downhill. I had plenty of range to get to my planned destination. But just to be safe I ‘filled up.’
After I got onto the Coast Highway I put my bike into Eco mode since top end is 70 MPH in Eco. Plenty fast enough for the ride down the coast while also conserving energy. Plus it was pretty windy and I was heading into the wind going south. Along the way I stopped at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Davenport where my riding buddies and I use to stop to have breakfast. Plus I had to pee….
I didn’t doddle long at either point since I was anxious to get down to Santa Cruz and head back home before it got too cold. I had packed a heated vest and KLIM Heated gloves with me. I looked at PlugShare before leaving Davenport and decided to use the station at New Leaf grocery store. Food, bathrooms and it appeared nice. When I arrived there was one J plug open so I pulled into the parking spot and plugged in. When I looked at my dash I was shocked to see this:
3 hours and 14 minutes to charge my bike from 35-100% Holy crap man that seemed wrong. So sure enough I checked the charger and it was a shared 6.2kW station! FUCK!!!
Even though I ran into this in Pacifica I was TOO STUPID to not check the ChargePoint app before heading to the station. So I unplugged and searched again for a station close by that had a non-shared J plug. What I found interesting is PlugShare showed a station nearby with 3 J plugs, yet my ChargePoint app did not list it. So off I went… It was located in the parking lot of the Palo Alto Medical Facility and was NOT a shared 6.2kW station, THANK GOD.
And as you can see instead of 3 plus hours to charge to 100% it would be just over an hour. The reason it’s at 40% in this photo is I went into the hospital to pee and when I came out to take the shot it had already increased from 33 to 40%
It was getting pretty cold and the wind was picking up so I unplugged at 92%. I knew that with that amount of charge I could ride home without stopping to top up in Half Moon Bay. I again rode in Eco mode on Coast Highway and switched to Custom once I hit highway 92. No stopping just straight riding to get home. And at this point I want to mention that having both the heated vest and gloves was really wise of me to take. Both are self contained battery operated units, meaning off the bike I can wear them to keep me warm not tethered to my bike.
When I arrived in my driveway I had 5% charge remaining with 8.8 mile more range and the bike had not gone into ‘limp mode’ but performed as normal. Had I topped up to 100% in Santa Cruz I estimate I would have had approximately 13% charge remaining; 8%+5%=13%.
Santa Cruz Travel Stats
- Left house 1:03 PM
- Arrived home 5:52 PM
- Stopped time for charging and looking 1 hour 16 minutes
- Time to charge from 5% to 100% on home 110v plug in 8 hours 3 minutes
So What the Hell Have I Learned?
- I learned that I’m so stubborn and stupid it takes me at least two times to learn a lesson. So now I know that I need to check the app for the CHARGE STATION I’m using be it ChargePoint, EVGo or others to see if the station I want to use is a shared kW station.
- I learned that broken securing J plugs won’t activate on my Zero DSR’s charge tank. But I will experiment to see if my onboard charger will work with the aftermarket J plug I carry with a broken securing plug.
- I learned that when a parking place is clearly marked “EV Charging Only” drivers don’t notice or pay attention. In Half Moon Bay both spots were taken by smoker cars. So when I parked on the sidewalk to charge both women gave me a dirty look until I said “I’d have parked on the street but you opted to park in the EV Charging Only spot.”
- I learned that people who are charging their EV cars just leave them there plugged in for who knows how long. At the Palo Alto Medical Facility a Volt was plugged in and the charger indicated it was full a good 30 minutes after being full. ChargePoint sends an email and text to the driver to let them know charging has stopped. Sure the person could have been in a meeting, visiting someone or any other number of reasons. But just like a parking meter if you don’t move your car when the meter runs out, you may get a 35.00 ticket. So what’s the difference?
- I learned that had it been the only charger available and I needed to charge I would have unplugged their car and plugged mine in. How much more than 100% do they want?
- I learned that I will suggest to charging services that they charge those who remain plugged in after fully charged 10.00 per minute after a given grace period of time. Kinda like how day cares charge parents a dollar a minute for each minute they are late picking up their kid. If there’s no consequence, nothing happens.
- I learned that writing to the charging vendor is important to let them know something is broken, otherwise nothing will be done to fix the equipment problem.
- I learned that most people don’t have any idea that electric motorcycles exist. That they are quick to point out I should not ‘park there’ because it’s for electric cars.
- I learned that I’m so excited to live in a time where an emerging technology is happening during my lifetime and I’m part of the beginning.
- I learned that EV motorcycles are not as efficient as smoker bikes for range or time to fill up. But in reality I already knew that….
- I learned that I value experiencing new things over convenience. And that the lack of conveniences for me are heavily outweighed by the instant torque, incredible smooth acceleration, silence whilst riding and the smells of the open road.
- I learned that packing a chair, drinks and something to eat will be something I do even after covid.
- I learned that I no longer keep track of mileage for chain adjustments, cleaning and lubrication., valve adjustments, radiator fluid replacement, oil and filter changes, the cost of gasoline, head gaskets, tranny fluid or other shit I use to look after in 50 years of riding.
- I learned that a vast majority of other motorcycle riders still wave at me when we pass one another on the road. Just like when I rode a smoker bike.
- I learned just how much I love riding alone.
- I learned just how much I like my Zero.
- I learned that just like the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” has served me well including while riding. I don’t consider myself a ‘prepper’ but I do like to be prepared.
- I learned that EV bikes are certainly not for everyone and can understand many folks reticence to own one. Although motorcyclists like to ‘think‘ we are rebels the ones I know are very conservative. The infrastructure to support public EV charging is in its infancy as I imagine how it was when gasoline stations were in their infancy when society moved from steam to gas.
- I learned that just like food, drink, real estate or toilet paper; I buy for me and not for the approval of others. To each their own.