Real Rides: Terry’s Zero S

Dailies -



Can electric motorcycles really serve as practical transportation, even on cross-country trips? Terry Hershner thinks so. He’s put over 20,000 miles on his Zero S, including riding it from Florida to California and back.

Terry brandishing a charger.

The Rider
Terry has been riding since he was in college because “parking was a pain with a car, so I bought a motorcycle to park easier.” He’s had a whole slew of motorcycles, including a Yamaha R1. He did this for the next five to ten years, then discovered alternative energy. After having “been into alternative energy for a while, converting older vehicles to run on vegetable oil” he got into the idea of having an electric bike.

The Zero S.

The Bike
The Zero S was introduced in 2009, and now has an electric motor that puts out 54 horsepower and 68 foot pounds of torque and can get up to 95 miles an hour. It has a 137 mile range and can be charged to full in 8 hours. Instant torque is provided as soon as you twist the throttle.

The Zero S charging.

Why He Does Electric
Terry started riding electric motorcycles due to his interest in alternative energy vehicles while he was in college. He started to have a hobby for electric motorcycles and decided to give the Zero S a try. He was taken by the “infinite mpg versus 30mpg” and calculated that the bike would pay for itself in a couple years, even at its greater upfront cost. He purchased the bike and used the extra power from his wind and solar-powered house to charge the bike.

“I don’t miss the R1 because the Zero has max power and torque between 10mph and 70mph and maxes out at 100mph.” The bike “can out do a ferrari and porsche, has no clutch, instant torque and syncs with my iPhone.”

“There’s a lot of beenfits to the Zero, I have a free hand to hold a coffee, use my phone because it doesn’t have a clutch. It’s also an electric bike, just like an electric wheelchair, so I can park it in my hotel room without any problems. The bike is very quiet and I can even hear a Prius sneaking up on me in electric mode, and there’s no pipes to burn you.”

The Zero S in Florida.

He Rode Across the US
Last November, Terry rode his Zero S 3,500+ miles in 6 days “as a part of a demonstration to showcase the possibility of electric vehicles and motorcycles as cross country options for transportation.”

While the Zero S is designed for primarily urban use, Hershner modified his the bike to make the long distance journey. Complete with three Delta Q QuiQ chargers, two Elcon PFC 2500 chargers and a J1772 car charging port, Hershner was able to reduce charging time from eight hours to less than one hour. During the course of this adventure Hershner would alternate between 45 minutes of riding and 45 minutes of charging to complete the ride.

“I just wanted to prove a point and show that we aren’t far away from real cross country travel on electric vehicles. My Zero performed flawlessly and allowed me to cover an average of 580 miles a day,” he told us. “I also learned a lot about the electric vehicle charging infrastructure and, while we’ve made great progress, there is still a way to go to build the system out on a national basis. I hope to showcase the growing infrastructure by doing similar cross country rides in the future.”

  • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

    45 on / 45 off doesn’t sound like very much fun. I dig the idea of an electric bike, but won’t be looking to buy until I can get 250+ highway miles on a 30 minute or less charge.

    • Ricardo Gozinya

      Most ICE bikes can’t get 250 miles to a tank, why would you expect more out of an electric?

      • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

        Currently? I don’t expect anything near that. But whenever it’s available I’d be willing to buy a bike that takes 30 minutes or less to “fill” if it had that kind of range. I think the tech is neat and has potential, but in the meantime I’ll stick with a five minute pit stop for dino juice.

      • runrunny

        that’s what would make for a more reasonable better trade-off. more range than an ICE needed to justify the much longer “refill” time.

    • markbvt

      Agreed, basically… though I’d alter those numbers to be 150 miles and 10 minutes. It’s nice to take a quick break after 150 miles or so of saddle time, but more than 10 minutes at a time would get really old really fast.

  • Versys Jake

    Very Cool. Where did you stop to charge? That must have made for a long trip. Were you able to find a Type 2 charging stations every 50 miles?

  • Justin Henry

    seems like way too much work for me. he’s clearly a fanatic and I think that’s what it takes right now to own any electric vehicle.

    • protomech

      Partly true. It takes significant dedication and compromise to make an elmoto your *only* vehicle – can be done with a significantly modified production bike, as Terry is doing. But probably too far out there for most people.

      But elmotos don’t have to be an only vehicle to be very useful as a primary vehicle – they’re very easy to own for daily commuting and short rides (50+ miles/day if you charge only at home, 100+ miles/day if you can charge at work as well). I put 8k miles on a 2012 Zero last year and 6k miles on a gas car .. and those numbers would have been 11k and 3k if I’d had it for the entire year.

      I wouldn’t recommend an elmoto (or any pure battery EV) to most people as an only vehicle. But they work very well when paired with a gas vehicle for longer trips – and most riders I know have a car for bulk transport and inclement weather.

      • Justin Henry

        good points, but i think i’d need a 2nd bike too. sometimes i like to take the bike out for long rides even if i have no where to go. but you’re right, for strictly commuting an electric bike would probably be great.

        • protomech

          Yeah, electric doesn’t work well for the “take off from work and ride for two hours in no particular direction” rides. But no reason you can’t have two bikes.. no single bike is the perfect bike for everything anyways.

  • Filly-fuzz

    “There’s a lot of beenfits to the Zero, I have a free hand to hold a coffee, use my phone because it doesn’t have a clutch.”

    Please tell me he’s joking

    so many beenfits

    • Jesse

      I suspect this type came at the keyboard, not his face.

      That’s not going to stop me from trying to work beenfits into a conversation today, though.

      • Troy Rank

        Terry is the man. Drinking coffee while riding is highly advisable IMO. :)

        • Jesse

          My Dad used to do it on his Goldwing, but that was barely a motorcycle, and more like half of an RV. Harder to do with full face helmets and sportsbike ergonomics.

    • mugget man

      Haha, coffee while riding. I like this guy already.

      Although if you’re bike isn’t so accommodating, RamMounts make a self-levelling cup holder. Handy…

  • Kr Tong

    I like how he’s just taken off the “tank” and put a tank bag there. I like seeing the evolution a motorcycle takes when they start to be customized by what works in that moment. Good stuff.

  • runrunny

    “cover[ed] an average of 580 miles per day.” really? if he spent half his time charging, half the time riding (or 45 min on/ 45 off, as he says), he would have had to avg 48 mph for 12 hours every day, with the other 12 spent charging. impressive if true, i’m just skeptical.

    • karlInSanDiego

      or 9.7 hrs at 60 with the last charge at the end of the day, always. So that’d be 9.7 riding + 9 charging in between. Assuming he can nap and flirt with the local girls during those many charges, I think it’s plausible, but not terribly fun.

    • Brett Lewis

      In the video he said 50-70 mi/charge. If he avg 60 mi/chg with riding time being 45 minutes – he’s doing 80 mph.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Cool writeup! Thanks for sharing, Terry. I think it’s a little confusing how you tuned your controller and tweaked your batteries/charger, but suffice it to say, when you’re trying to cover major distance, it helps to augment the production bike. The good news is, manufacturers can learn a lot from your endeavors. For example, in addition to 110V, Brammo gave the Empulse a J1772. Reasonable to assume Zero will do that in the very near future. Removing the rear brake altogether in lieu of regen makes good sense in a hyper range sense, and you could vary the braking effect while your learn.

  • mid40s

    He seems like a cool dude. That seat looks awfully uncomfortable…;-)

  • Scott Jameson

    Real Rides rule!

  • Susanna Schick

    keep in mind he’s on an older Zero. The 2013′s have twice as much power and can average 100 miles range. The faster you go, the shorter that range becomes, of course. But it’s still a massive improvement. I finally bought one, the FX with S wheels, and it’s the IDEAL around town bike for LA. I’m saving my R1 for longer rides, as I am totally ok with having a different bike for trips to NorCal. I just wish I’d been able to put the R1 on “vacation duty” before the damn starter motor crapped out. Apparently those things weren’t designed to withstand ~4 starts/day for 25,000 miles in 3 years.

  • Khali

    Love the idea of carrying his own chair…hes gonna spend a lot of time waiting…

    Electric motorcycles are still far from being really usable but people like Terry pushing the limits help on their evolution…i guess :)

  • speedfreak

    what is that shirt in the second photo? solar powered sets?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I’m not going to try a gas bike until it can go 250 mile per tank and only costs a dollar to fill up.

  • Mister X

    It’s nice to see folks embracing electric bikes and bringing them to the general public’s attention, but what he’s done isn’t anything a person of average means can duplicate easily, as he’s got some serious money tied up in those auxiliary chargers and electronics, apparently he can afford such luxuries on top of an already pricy bike.

    But it sure looks like he did it ‘right’, talking to all the technical gurus and experimenting before hitting the road, and the mounting of the extra chargers is perfect as it keeps the additional weight centered, very nice work.

    Removing the rear brake seems sketchy to me, but I’d have to try it with the regen braking under several different kinds of road conditions to see for myself as I’m not so sure on a dirt or wet paved surface it would be such a good idea unless there’s some easy ‘real time’ way to modulate it.

    I was hoping he’d talk about how the charging regimen went when an SAE J1772 car charging station wasn’t available, like in a hotel room with only 120 volts available at 20 Amps (bathroom circuit).

    And averaging 580 miles a day with the charging regimen he says was necessary boggles the mind, that’s a long time waiting every riding day, I would of liked to hear much more about that as well.

    I’m glad to see HFL also not hating on electric bikes, as they are only getting better and at some future point will surpass ICE bikes in range, then instead of articles about their limitations, we’ll have more articles about road trips, and modding one’s controller and motor and such for more range/performance, back to the essence of Motorcycling.

  • Mister X

    I was curious as to how much extra money it may have taken him, so I did a bit of looking about for prices.

    He possibly got a better price deal than I could find here, and he didn’t specify what model ACG DeltaQ charger, so this is a conservative ballpark estimation of the additional charging related kit that he mentions he installed on the bike to make the trip.

    J1772 Inlet UL 75 Amp w/ 5 ft cable

    Price: $177.00

    ElCon HF PFC-2500 Charger

    Price: $734.50 x 2 = $1468.-

    ACG DeltaQ QuiQ 36 Volt Golf Car Battery Charger

    Price: $499.99 x 3 = $1500.-

    Over $3000.- additional to make his point, so it’s clear that electric bikes still aren’t viable long distance rides yet. I’m anxiously awaiting for that day though.