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Hershner's historic electric motorcycle win in Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge

The entrants lined up outside the Bonneville Salt Flats before heading across Utah.
The entrants lined up outside the Bonneville Salt Flats before heading across Utah.
Terry Hershner, used by permission

Terry Hershner has made history as the first electric motorcycle rider to win the Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge. The results, announced on Monday, concern a fuel economy event held in Utah on Friday. The race focuses on motorcycle riders, challenging them to score ever-lower cost per mile, and Hershner finished with a cost about 2/3rds his closest competitor. The Challenge has been run several times over the last 3 years, and this is the first time an electric motorcycle has won.

The participants generally add a fully streamlined fairing to regular motorcycles, and make a few other modifications. The fairing greatly improves motorcycle aerodynamics, reducing fuel consumption. The Fuel Economy Challenge is part of a larger project pursued by long-time motorcycle designer, Craig Vetter, to aim for a motorcycle with extremely high fuel efficiency that can replace most car trips. For that purpose, Fuel Economy Challenge entrants also have to demonstrate the ability to carry four bags of groceries.

The bike ridden by Terry Hershner is a highly modified 2012 Zero S electric motorcycle. Stock, that bike had an electric range of about 60 miles at highway speed. In its race configuration, Hershner has modified the bike to have a full Vetter Fairing, 21 kilowatt-hours of battery packs, and 15 kilowatts of charging capacity. Between those modifications Hershner believes his motorcycle has a range of over 200 miles, at highway speed, and can recharge in about an hour in the right conditions. It can also be configured for 24 kilowatt-hours of battery pack capacity, and 18 kilowatts of charging capacity.

The Fuel Economy Challenge covered 172 miles of Utah highways starting in Wendover (at the Utah/Nevada border), traveling down I-80 at 80 miles/hr (the speed limit), then taking a detour through some country roads and mountainous terrain before ending in Tooele Utah. After the event, Hershner traveled another 30 miles into Salt Lake City to the nearest recharging station.

Hershner is no stranger to long-distance electric motorcycle riding. He began a quest to prove electric motorcycles can go long distances in 2012, and during 2013 he took several cross-country trips with the same motorcycle. Participating in the Challenge meant riding the bike from his home in California, then returning home on the bike afterward.

His fuel cost was either $2.29 or $2.92, depending on Utah's two electricity rates. For the 172 mile journey, that equates to 1.3 cents or 1.7 cents per mile.

The closest competitor was Fred Hayes, riding a fully streamlined diesel motorcycle. His bike achieved 164 MPG, consumed $4 worth of fuel, at a 2.6 cents per mile cost.