Cannonball Run 2020: LA to Vegas

More and more high-end production electric motorcycles are making their way into the hands of excited SoCal residents. The new owners are excitedly organizing regular group rides. Brandon and I were fortunate enough to attend one a few months ago and enjoyed a wonderful mix of Energica, Zero, and Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles. A few weeks ago one of the more prominent riders in the group decided they should race from Northeast LA to the famous Las Vegas Sign on the South edge of town.

electric cannonball run motorcycle race ev LA to Las Vegas

Invitations were graciously extended to me, so I fired up PlugShare to look at the route. The DC Fast Charge infrastructure continues to expand making this a very feasible trip.

The Ride

Plugshare route plan electric motorcycle race

Easy. At least, that's what I felt until I looked at the elevation changes. One of my favorite features about PlugShare is the elevation button on the right side which will show any large hills along your planned trip. As we all know, hills eat into battery capacity, and I've ridden the Grapevine in Los Angeles, peak of over 4,000 feet, enough to know what that can do to range. The route I usually take when doing that is only 43 miles and it eats over 70% of the pack on my 2018 Energica SS9. To be on the conservative side of things I usually plan a 50 mile gap between DC stations knowing that I can do over 70 ride at 60mph and control throttle movements with precision.

Plugshare elevation map electric route plan

The gap between stops 4 and 5 concerned me most as it was 62.5 miles with over a 3,500 foot climb in the cold of December. Yeah, I probably can do it, but the combination of that uncertainty coupled with my needing to do a full day's ride to get down there in the first place, not to mention back, cemented my decision to sit this one out and watch. Again, my conservative nature advocated 4 charge stops factoring my bike's 13.4kWh pack, which doesn't compare to the capacity of the new 21.5kWh Energicas or the 15.5kWh pack on the LiveWire. I made some test routes with those bikes in mind and figured 3 stops for them, the last being a quick top-up 25 miles outside of Vegas in Jean, NV. That did nothing to faze the 5 intrepid riders who showed up early that brisk December morning.

The Contestants

Daren Sorenson Energica EGO+

Daren's Energica Ego+

Diego Cardenas Harley-Davidson H-D LiveWire ELW

Diego's H-D LiveWire

Energica EVA Ribelle socal

Zero SR/F Premium socal Patrick McBride

Adrian and Robert's Energica Eva Ribelles freshly delivered a mere 2 days prior.

Patrick's Zero SR/F Premium

Out of the group, I knew Diego had the most electric touring experience, having gone from Mexico to Canada on his LiveWire as well as many other trips. While Daren didn't have as much touring experience, he seems to be on his bike every day and twice on Sunday. There's more to it than just having the largest battery or the fastest charging bike; you need to know how to maximize both to your advantage. There is no substitute for experience. Knowing that Adrian and Robert received their bikes two days before the ride indicated to me that, much like Ewan and Charlie, they'd need a little bit of time getting used to them. And, finally, while I respect Patrick's determination, the fact that he would be relegated to 2 hour charge stops on the J1772 network didn't inspire much confidence in me that he would be, shall we say, in the top 4. As the trip was starting, I made my predictions publicly.

facebook electric race prediction

The rules were simple: Get to Vegas first from the starting point while riding your motorcycle. The route and charging stops are all up to you. They're all friends so there's no need to get weird with rules and look for loopholes.

Unsurprisingly, Daren and his Ego+ took an early lead. Not only did he go the farthest before his first stop, he also had about 20% battery remaining, meaning he would only need about 30 minutes to charge up to the next location. I found this very impressive considering this first leg covered a ~3,200 foot elevation change.

Eddie World Yermo Energica Ego+ Zero SR/F charge fast DC chargepoint
These stations weren't online the last time I passed through

Surprisingly, mid charge-session, Patrick rolled up on his SR/F and began his first 2 hour charge stop on the J1772 station. Considering Daren's helmet is on in this photo I suspect he was about to unplug and cut through the desert on the way to his next stop: Baker, CA.

This is where, to me, it gets interesting. Everyone would need to stop in Baker. It is at the base of another massive climb; you can see it marked as stop #4 on the elevation table I posted earlier. There are 3 sets of DC stations in Baker. The question, then, becomes where to stop. Do you go to the furthest station and hope it's not full? How hard do you push it to reach Baker and stay competitive? Do you go slow and steady or gun it?

Diego, sensing he was falling behind, gunned it and reached Baker at 2%. He opted to take the EVgo stations at the famous World's Tallest Thermometer. This meant a full hour to climb the pass ahead.

Meanwhile, enjoying a comfortable lead, Daren was joined at the Northmost Chargepoint stations by both Ribelle riders, who were also making great time.

Energica EVA Ribelle Ego+ Chargepoint DC fast charge Baker
3 Energicas and a lonely J1772 station wait longingly for a Zero

The final decision was whether or not to power through 85 miles and another 3,500 foot climb and go straight to Vegas, or safely do 62 miles with the same elevation change but a quick top-up in Jean, NV. I can tell you that Daren, Adrian, and Robert, on the Energicas, all made the same decision attempting to go for broke and skip the last station. It paid off.

Energica Ego+ EVA Ribelle race winner cannonball run Las Vegas Sign
No Harley-Davidsons pictured.
Daren Sorenson cannonball run race results
Not too shabby on my top prediction!

I am super impressed. Last year, Zero DSR owner Gabriel Dos Santos did the same trip which took him 10 hours. It would appear all brands are showcasing significant improvements in performance to their lineup. It also helps as more infrastructure is added every day. Most importantly, everyone made it safe and sound. I was legitimately surprised, though, by how well the new Ribelle riders did, taking to their new bikes like ducks to water. I was also pleased to see Patrick on the SR/F make it there before sunset and, aside from neck pain due to tucking, in great spirits. The evening ended with a celebratory homage to NewZeroland by going to White Castle and ordering a lot of food. In the end, a group of fully grown adults rode electric motorcycles 221 miles through the desert for White Castle. Where will you take your bike?

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