Zero SR vs Energica SS9: EV Race

Brandon and I recently drove down from Monterey to LA on business. He rode an Energica Esse Esse 9 while I rode my Zero SR. One of the main features of the Energica is the full support of level 3 CCS stations which can deliver a full charge to the bike in as little as 20 minutes. One of the goals of the trip was to visit as many CCS stations down Hwy 101 as we could and determine if it was possible to make the trip entirely utilizing CCS.

Meanwhile my Zero SR was equipped with 4 digiNow SuperChargers capable of delivering 13kW from the plentiful selection of level 2 stations available at every town and sometimes in between. This gave my Zero with a Power Tank a consistent 1 hour charge time if totally empty but required use of either dual J1772 stations or a single Tesla Destination station.

On Thursday we drove down and mostly explored what was available for CCS while meeting with friendly fellow riders and documenting stations. Late Thursday night we stayed with a friend in Hollywood and discussed the plans for the rest of the trip and reviewed footage taken earlier that day.

Brandon Miller Morgan Vetter Electric Motorcycle Race, Escape From LA EV Style
Not pictured, Bob Thurstans feeding us dried mangos.

The next day Brandon and I parted ways to take care of business but hatched the idea of a race back to Monterey on Saturday. I would be starting in Irvine and Brandon in Long Beach. Neither of us thought the other stood a chance, and we both proclaimed our own easy victories. Obviously I would win, I had consistent 11-13kW and a nearly infinite amount of stations. Brandon had powerful 23kW stations as long as he was in the greater LA area. Beyond that they grew fewer and fewer, sometimes only one per town, and in some cases the single one was offline. I fully expected him to be far ahead in the morning with me easily overtaking him when he was forced to subsyst on level 2 charging at 3.3kW. He, on the other hand, figured he would gain an insurmountable advantage early on and the times he would have to utilize level 2 would be inconsequential. We were both wrong.

The night before the race I mapped out my route via PlugShare. It should be noted that I had rode this route once before with Brandon about 15 months prior. He was my guide because he had ridden these roads constantly and knew every station along the way. I remembered a couple of his preferred stops, but not all of them. On his end, he was going on the information he’d learned on the trip down. He knew the roads but not the level 3 stations. I would also like to note that I was carrying all of the gear. This includes about 40lbs of 6awg wires and portable charging stations in the case on my bike because primadonna Brandon refused to sully the beautiful Energica with things like luggage or straps.

Morgan Vetter Brandon Miller EV race from LA on motorcycles
Made using PlugShare trip planner

Saturday morning I awoke shortly after 6am. My gracious host was already awake and playing Hearthstone on his PC but offered to cook breakfast for me, which I readily accepted, not knowing which charging stations were near any sort of amenities. I was also accutely aware of Brandon’s inability to function before 8am and figured I would ensure my victory by starting early. By 7:15 I had said goodbye and was on the road. Please note the awesome matching Teslas of my host. Zero hidden in middle of shot.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles

My first stop was a complete failure. I had planned out a reasonable office complex in Santa Monica that had a non-shared ChargePoint. I made great time, but one of the stations was taken by an EV car. As I plugged into the single station I quickly scanned Plugshare for alternatives. The Wells Fargo building nearby promised 8 J1772 stations, but I quickly discovered it was locked for the weekend, and also apparently under construction. I then wandered, seemingly aimlessly, for some time as my GPS on my aging iPhone 6 is spotty and unreliable. I eventually found myself in a paid parking lot at some sort of recording studio fussing with Tesla Destination chargers. They worked but shut off after ~4 minutes. I tweaked the settings on my chargers to skip the ramp procedure so I could just reset every 4 minutes and grab full power, but this grew tedious. A security guard wandered out after 20 minutes to investigate what I was doing, but wished me luck after I explained what I was doing. I found another potential spot for consistent charging and left having only gained about 25% battery and paying an astronomical $12 parking fee.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles a very fussy tesla station
A very fussy Tesla station

Brandon was awake by this point. Not only awake, but also apparently playing in Malibu Canyon a mere mile or two from me.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles Brandon Goofing off on his energica esse esse 9
Whee i'm fancy boi Brandon I'm going to goof off all morning

My next stop was perfect. It was a 4 story parking garage between Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys that promised 4 ChargePoint stations on the roof. As it was Saturday I figured it would be empty. I was right. Not only was it empty but it also had a shaded alcove with 3 benches where, presumably, employees took smoking breaks. I popped the drone out and took a little footage. I was able to get full power off 2 stations and completely top off having wasted over an hour getting lost in Santa Monica.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles Zero charging from charge point

At this point I made sure to share my location on my phone with Brandon. He had already done so for me so I felt it was fair that he should see what I was doing. Due to the inconsistency of my GPS this did make him paranoid as apparently my map location had a tendency to warp. My next stop was one I remembered from the previous trip, the Amtrak station in Carpenteria. This one was extremely important because I remembered 4 Chargepoint plugs, bathrooms, a mini mart, and a beachfront burger joint. I arrived at around 15% charge and discovered, much to my dismay, an EV car plugged into one of the stations. These were shared stations meaning each station has the capacity to deliver 6.6kW total between 2 plugs. In order to get full power I would need to be the only one at the 2 stations. This proved impossible so I plugged in 3 of my chargers into the 2 plugs and set myself to ¾ charging capacity.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles zero beach front stop carpinteria
A lovely spot to stop for a beachfront burger

I checked my map to discover I was actually ahead of Brandon but he was closing in fast. I thought he might watch his map and come say hi but instead just blew by on highway 1 at high speeds. 

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles jerks GPS
Fine, don't stop and say hello. Jerk.

Sadly my ¾ charging speeds meant I would need over an hour, so I had a burger at the tiny beachfront joint. It was noon by this point. After I was done there it came time for one of the most enjoyable legs of the trip: Highway 154 to Chumash Casino. This is an absolutely gorgeous twisty road that climbs up and down the mountains and a must for anyone traveling the 101 on a bike. As it ends it spits you out at Chumash Casino which is jam packed with free level 2 charging stations. I plugged in, went inside the casino, and had some sort of asian steamed veggie bowl at the food court so I could feel good about patronizing the establishment. I don’t have a photo of this because I was trying to do a facebook livestream but apparently the signal in the garage is insufficient. Refreshed and full of bok choy, I resumed my trek north.

My next stop was the Lowe’s parking lot in Santa Maria. I had scouted this out on PlugShare and knew it was a goldmine. 10+ free J stations? Heck yeah. I used to live near another Lowe’s that had a similar setup so I was certain this was a good choice. It was. I parked, plugged in, and checked my map. Brandon was a mere 0.3 miles away at the CCS station at a BMW dealership. It was at this point my brother texted us and said he had made a ton of cheeseburgers on the grill and we should hurry home to eat them. I found out later Brandon had not eaten all day and was basically drooling in his helmet the next few hours thinking about burgers. I sat down behind a shaded wall in the parking lot and uploaded the following picture to FaceBook:

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles zero charging at lowes

This generated a buzz because Brandon was posting about his progress and people realized we were damn close. This, to me, indicated some theatrics were in order. I noted that my batteries were quite warm at 120F, and Zero’s safety measures shut them off around 136F. However, the cautious way I was riding meant my batteries cooled down as I rode and warmed up as I SuperCharged. I knew this, and I knew how to keep them from overheating. But I posted like I was concerned about this to generate a little drama. Obviously I was going to win at this point. Brandon was a couple hundred yards away and running out of CCS stations. What chance did he have? In fact, his very last CCS station was next and it only gave 17kW. I topped off, packed up, and headed to Paso Robles.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles handicapped charging
Why are so many EV spots denoted as Handicapped Parking Only?

Because I was so confident in my imminent victory I decided to delay posting of my photos until I was done and packing up rather than having just arrived. I had planned to use a high-power Tesla Destination charger in Paso Robles, but some inconsiderate Tesla owner, no doubt a paying guest of the hotel, was using it instead. Disgusted, I backtracked to the South edge of town and the promise of 4 open ChargePoint stations. There I encountered 2 homeless men keeping out of the sun thanks to a large tree on the south edge of the parking lot. I asked if I could share their shade and struck up a conversation. It was a father, Jim, and his adult son who had fallen on hard times, had been living in a shelter in San Luis Obispo, but took the train up to Paso to visit mom for Mother’s Day. We chatted and he charged his phone off my bike. As we talked I checked my map and realized Brandon was literally about to pass by within 50 feet.

“Wait for it,” I said to my new friend Jim. About 10 seconds later the banshee wail of the Energica could be detected. Brandon breezed through town, looked right, and gave a friendly wave and beep while heading to his CCS station. Jim was over the moon with newfound excitement. I hope he gets back on his feet.

Despite pulling ~12kW from the 2 ChargePoints, Brandon was fully topped off and heading North before I was even done. This is where it truly got interesting. North of Paso the headwinds kick in STRONG and there was literally no more CCS for Brandon. I planned to stop at a place called The Mill at 43 Olive Ranch which has several Tesla Destination chargers and a Clipper Creek J1772. The final stop would be King City which had a single Chargepoint station. Brandon would have to stop at The Mill to top off before King City, and it was basically all over for him at that point.

I pulled into The Mill to find it totally empty. No Brandon. Turned out he found a nice, fat truck to draft behind and, AGAINST ALL ODDS, made it from Paso to King City in 30mph headwinds on a naked sportbike. Hell, it killed half my battery to get to The Mill a mere 30 miles away. Tiny voices of doubt started to make themselves known. But surely he could only charge at a paltry 3.3kW in King City, right? I was drawing 12kW and could draw 6.6kW once I hit King City which was double his rate.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles 43 ranch in san ardo
This is also where the video at the top of this page was filmed two days prior.

I cautiously drove to King City. As Brandon pointed out in one of his posts during all of this, the Zero batteries were never meant for this sort of duty. They are meant to be bulletproof. The cells are encased in a flame-retardant epoxy. This keeps them super safe but makes cooling them a bit of a challenge. Running air, water, or ice along the outside does not appreciably lower the temperature of the cells deep in the middle of the pack. They have to naturally dissipate heat. I’m aware of this so I almost never went above 70mph to allow my pack to deal with the constant stress of lugging me and all of Brandon’s 6awg charging cables. My batteries never went above 124F which is, as I posted on FaceBook, where stuff gets REALLY fun. The hotter the battery the less resistance there is and in Brandon’s bastardized phrasing, more opportunities for ‘dank whoolies’.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles dank whoolies

I arrived in King City. This was our first stop a mere couple days before. We were both around 30% if memory served but I was charging at twice his speed at this point. This was where the biggest decision was made. Brandon assumed he had it in the bag at this point, because the road ahead was Carmel Valley G16, an incredibly twisty difficult path. I have driven this road. I’ve driven it in both daytime and nighttime. It is completely acceptable in daytime. Welcome, in fact.  In nighttime is is full of families of wild boar crossing the road in packs and moths that suicide into your visor and render it inoperable. No thanks. I opted to stay on Highway 101 to Salinas and deviate to Highway 68 from there. Brandon’s smirk shriveled when I told him this. “But.. the twisties are where I have an advantage!” he bemoaned

“I know,” I said, “I’m not a complete idiot.”

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles Zero and Energica charging at keefers inn

To pass the time we headed to the local diner and consumed our pre-battle milkshakes while Rampage played on the TV.

Morgan Vetter and Brandon Miller Race from LA on electric motorcycles pre race milkshake
I've heard good things about Rampage.

As my Zero SR finished charging, Brandon was only at 74%. He insisted I couldn’t leave before him, and some other words I couldn’t hear from my helmet as I left before him. I drove to Salinas VERY, very carefully. The headwinds were very strong and constant. I probably never went above 60mph. Up ahead were milestones I knew from months of commuting and were also the most harrowing parts of the journey. I *knew* that at the turnoff I was headed towards I would need 15% battery under normal riding conditions. I reached the turnoff at 14%. I *knew* that it would take me 7% battery to climb Los Laureles Grade to get to the EV station on the other side. I reached the grade at a low 7% and drove it at 30mph, waving any car past me. At the peak of the grade I was casually climbing at 25mph and wondered what would happen if I twisted the throttle all the way. Nothing happened, actually. I crested the peak at 2% and was horrified to remember that regenerative braking doesn’t work when you’re that low. I coasted all the way down to the EV stations at 2% and found all parking spots were full. Just about to give up I realized only 2 out of 3 cars were actually charging, and the 6.6kW Clipper Creek was open. Carefully I wedged my Zero between the cars without touching them and, with about an inch to spare, plugged into the station for some sweet sweet sip.

I checked my map and Brandon was lost in the deep, dark, receptionless land of Carmel Valley. I *knew* I needed at least 10% from that particular EV station to the finish line, so I opted to charge to 11% and pack up. I checked my phone again and Brandon popped into view less than a mile away. Aw, crap. I hastily packed up my EV cord and avoided hitting the charging Teslas as the unmistakable motor in the Energica passed me. Single lane road. No way to catch and pass him. Double crap. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we finished within mere minutes of each other. He arrived at 2% battery; I arrived at 1%.

Final thoughts:

I was really pushing the Zero to its limits. Brandon was regularly dumping ridiculous amounts of power both to and from the battery. As long as Zero motorcycles have the 1C limitation on charging they won’t be aimed towards any sort of touring. Or, to put it another way, if you plan a day trip that has more than 2 full charge stops, the Zero is probably not the right choice. But this was NEVER what the bike was intended for. I’m literally trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. The Energica battery, on the other hand, is more suited to dissipating heat as Brandon was not only charging at 2C or more, but as he admitted later he was often driving well above the posted speed limit*.


If you are in an area with plentiful level 3 CCS charging, an Energica is an incredibly viable choice for not only a daily commuter, but also for a killer weekend twisty beast. Personally I think we should embrace both. What do you guys think?

Also for real neither side is paying me for this write-up. Both Brandon and I agreed we’d like to do more of these races in the future. If you’d like to get in on this with your electric motorcycle please drop us a line. The more the merrier.

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