Fast charging electric motorcycles, actually makes a huge difference

I’ve been using my Zero SRF electric motorcycle for almost 2 years now. The initial reason for getting this electric motorcycle, besides desire, was to cut the cost of commuting to and from work. Little did I know covid-19 regulations would force me to work from home and did so since March 2020.

Anyway that is another story. That I went electric is the important part to remember from this introduction. Back then I still had a BMW R1200 GS, a so called ICE powered motorcycle for longer trips and as a backup in case that Zero let me down. Those longer trips didn’t happen… indeed due to covid-19 regulations.

The backup functionality was used for sure. Not too much luckily. I had one severe breakdown with the Zero due to water infiltration that I documented on my YouTube channel in more detail. Apart from those issues I really had no more use for the BMW R1200 GS. Don’t get me wrong that is a great bike to own. It just didn’t get much use so it didn’t make sense to keep it.

For the Zero I was pretty sure from the start that sooner or later I would invest in the faster chargers. The way I bought it, with the 6kW chargers on the bike, it would still need 2 hours to get charged from 0 to full. Sure you don’t ride it to empty and yes you don’t need it to be at 100% to get going again. But as much sense those claims make, it should also be clear that faster is always more convenient in terms of charging. Especially when you’re on the road.

I say on the road cause the way I was using my Zero most of the time, again covid-19 related, was going from my own garage to the garage at work. Both places have a charger installed and are only 50 km apart, about 1/4 of the available range on that bike (given you don’t go there on highway speeds).

So in reality I was plugging it in at home with a charge delay set to kick in when the price drops for electricity and would only let it charge up to 80%. If I had to be somewhere else I made it a habit to plug it back in when I get up and make myself ready to go. That way I would easily reach 100% when I hit the road. I don’t really like to hurry in the morning anyway.

The thing is this even works with just a normal 220V household plug. When charging that way you’re limited to around 3kW (just below that) so you get the charge speeds a standard trim Zero SRF would get. Those come from factory with only a single 3kW charger installed. Saving weight and money, not time cause that way you need 4 hours to fully charge the bike.

Not at all an issue when charging overnight at home. A big issue when charging on the road. Even with the 6kW charge setup I was using I quickly found out that riding for longer distances takes a lot of time on … waiting while the bike is charging.

For example, if we just work with some easy numbers. Sure this won’t hold up all the time because your range will depend on how you ride, and even charging depends on temperature and charge options. Ignore those and you could say that a full charge on these Zero SRF models with a 14.4kWh battery gives you around 200 km of range. That is mixed use and will probably work out as long as you stay away from highways.

For that 200km range you need it to charge 2 hours when you would deplete it. Sure you don’t do that. On the road you would for example ride 50 km and then have a quick stop to charge up the lost 25% battery again. Charging 25% takes 1/4 of that 2 hour charge time so around 30 minutes.

30 minutes might sound like it’s not too bad… however my experience is that anything above 20 minutes really needs you to have something else to do. Having a quick stop, a drink, a short walk to stretch the legs, maybe a toilet break… All those things together really don’t take much longer than 20 minutes in my experience.

I turned to photography, street photography so something I can literally do everywhere. I did that before, I just started doing it while charging. Or did I start charging while I was taking pictures? Doesn’t matter, I ended up having to hurry up to get back in time that way.

What I really needed was the charge tank that zero sells for their SRF and SRS bikes (and even for some of their lighter models). I knew I wouldn’t go for the power tank since that is a heavy battery mounted up high and out of sync of the main battery, age wise. No I knew I would want that charger there instead. It’s a 6kW charger that simply halves your charge times.

So at that point I could charge from 0 to 100 in around 1 hour. Going back to those numbers given earlier the charge breaks between the 50 km rides now only take 15 minutes. And even less if I don’t bother fully charging the bike. Although you can’t keep charging less cause the shortage will add up over time.

Due to several issues with that charge tank installation I haven’t been able to fully test that approach just yet. I still think that is the way to go. Just need to put it to the test now that I have that setup. Remember covid-19 regulations.

If you follow my YouTube channel you’ll know that I have bought an Energica recently. That bike does 2 things that matter for longer rides. First of all it has a bigger 21.5kWh battery. That is 50% more capacity compared to the Zero. And even 60% more than their previous models. More capacity isn’t always better though, sure it will increase range on a single charge. But if, for instance on the Zero with the power tank, you get more capacity and stay with the same chargers you end up with an even longer charge time.

Luckily Energica’s already a had a solution for that on their 13.4kWh models. Together with Harley-Davidson LiveWire they have actual quick charging capabilities. Not the way Zero claims they have fast charge solutions that are just a lot of heavy AC chargers but actual DC fast charging like the way it’s implemented for cars. Mercedes for example has cars (and vans) with 100kWh batteries that have only 11kW AC chargers on board but do support proper 110kW DC charging.

In a very similar way Energica has 20kW DC charging and if you know how you can even push that to 24kW. Putting the Zero and Energica numbers for charging next to each other yield very similar 1C charging so around 1 hour for a full charge. But Energica does that with a bigger battery so giving more range for that hour of charge (plus they go above 1C). I still have to fully test that Energica solution at this point. But once I have a better view on practical use I’ll sure get back here and explain how awesome DC charging is.

2 Comments on “Fast charging electric motorcycles, actually makes a huge difference

  1. I’m waiting curious for your experiences. When I first rode the Energica Ego (btw. – Energica is spoken like “Energy” in English: “Enertschika”, just a little hint from Italy *g*) I had absolutely no clue how charging works and what the numbers on the display mean when charging.

    Meanwhile I learned, like you: the 6 Premium-kw are far too slow when on the road ..

    Best Regards,

    1. Looks like Zero is a bit stuck with their commuter application. For that a 3kW config is adequate but they should really ship that premium with 12kW already installed. So standard with 3kW and premium with 12kW (for current prices). In Europe they kind of do that now with the free charge tank upgrade you get when ordering a new SRF or SRS. Don’t have much details on that though. I’ll try to remember when I talk about Energica next time, thanks for the tip.

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