Beginning June 3, electric-motorcycle pioneers Moto-Electra and a team of James Madison University engineering students will make an attempt on the U.S. coast-to-coast record for electric vehicles. Their machine, built on a traditional Norton “featherbed” chassis with sleek replica John Player Norton streamlining, will be ridden by ex-racer Thad Wolff. The present record stands at around six days.
Brian Richardson, manager of Moto-Electra, said, “We will travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean using only the batteries in the vehicle.”
This is significant because it deliberately includes charging time. Batteries will not be exchanged for freshly charged ones kept ready in a chase vehicle. This will be a real life-cycle test.
Richardson said the attempt is intended “to demonstrate the capability of current technology. We will run for two hours and charge for one hour.”
This is a unique kind of test because it seeks to discover how batteries and other systems will perform under steady, real-world charge/discharge/charge conditions. This is not a drag race or a single 37-mile lap of the Isle of Man.
“We anticipate the batteries will slowly come out of balance due to the demands that we will put them under,” explained Richardson.
In commercial EVs and hybrids, battery life is carefully preserved by “protection circuits,” which prevent over-discharge and over-charge, and also limit current output and temperature. For such vehicles, the compromise between battery performance and battery life must favor the latter.
The fast charging and deep discharge necessary for this electric Cannonball Run will take a toll on cell condition, but as Soichiro Honda often said, “More is learned from failure than from success.” This is information needed if electrics are to become more than commuter vehicles.
“If we fail, the story is the effort—the first step,” said Richardson. “If we are successful, the story is the effort—the first step.”