Friday, December 30, 2016

The art of the charge: Where to find an emergency or opportunity charge.

Kayenta, Arizona 6:15pm:
My Zero S 9.8 has a maximum range of 120 miles. At around mile 80, it was becoming very apparent that I was not going to achieve anywhere close to that. The stretch of road between Tuba City and Monument Valley is about 98 miles and I had about 11 miles of range left. Fortunately, the small town of Kayenta lay in-between and I happened to be on its main street. Range anxiety is the fear of running out of energy, fuel, gas etc., and being stranded, but on an electric motorcycle it should just be defined as the fear of asking for permission to use someone’s power, or the fear of looking goofy checking for plugs behind trash cans, because electricity is present in America wherever there are people. You just have to know where to look for it
I always start my search in the same way. I find a place I would like to spend the time that it will take to charge and span out from there. Kayenta has a McDonalds. McDonalds has food and Wi-Fi. Perfect. Now to find an outlet. Outlets outside are uncommon, but I wouldn’t go anywhere close to calling them rare. In fact there are some places where you are almost guaranteed to find one.
  • Hotels/ Motels (for some reason, there almost always seem to be an outlet or 4 somewhere on the outside of hotels. Every place I stayed on my trip to Pikes Peak had at least one receptacle and most had many more.
  • Convenience stores- They have stuff outside and for this reason they are designed and built with receptacles on the outside. Sometimes owners will lock unused outlets, but usually they won’t, leaving you free to charge for a few minutes while you get something to drink and use the restroom.
  • Grocery Stores I agree this is a weird one, and might just be specific to my area, but it seems that lots of grocery stores have outlets near the front door. You might get some weird looks plugging in there and I’ve never done it, but people tend to leave you alone if you aren’t bothering them.
There are also a few places that are less of a sure bet, but will occasionally hide outlets you can use for a boost to your destination.
  • Outside machines (Soda, Redbox, Water, etc.) There is usually only one plugged into a receptacle. You can use the other outlet.
  • Signs I’m surprised by how many business signs have outlets under them or at the base.
  • Landscaping Outlets: They aren’t common by any means, but large shopping centers and malls will sometimes have landscaping outlets scattered about the parking lot in islands and on light poles. These are convenient when you can find them because you can just park with other vehicles and don’t need an extension cord to reach the outlet.
My last option and honestly one that I’ve never had to use with one notable exception is an outlet inside of a building. Most people will answer yes to a request that doesn’t require them to hand something over. You can literately just ask if you can run an extension cord inside the building to charge while you patronize. I know a few people who have done this.
I lucked out in Kayenta. One building down from the McDonald's is an older gas station with an attached auto shop. In front of the auto shop are 3 two outlet receptacles. I plugged the bike in, walked over to McDonald’s, used the restroom, picked up some food to go, hopped on the Wi-Fi for a bit and walked back over to the bike. Then I used two of the outlets to run the quick charger for about 20 extra minutes while I ate. I was wary of using all 3 because two of them looked to be on the same circuit and I didn’t want to risk tripping the breaker so I charged with the bike on.

Kayenta 7:00pm:
I was on the road again and with a battery level of 40% I had a comfortable margin on which to make it to monument valley. Tomorrow we’ll be in Colorado and enjoying a cool mountain reprieve from the heat of summer.

I always offer compensation, but I never ask first, that way if there is a policy of saying no, you don’t get stranded. I’ve never actually had anyone say no. I’ve also never had anyone accept my money, but I will continue the practice because I don’t want anyone to get the idea that EVers are thieves.

Until Next time,



  1. Feel free to make your own suggestions here in the comments, and I'll make a revisit post that includes your suggestions.

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  3. Very insightful - I'm considering getting a Zero soon

    You make a good point about electricity. Gas seems convenient on the surface - but in a way it's more risky using it because it's produced in relatively few locations, whereas electricity generation and distribution is far more secure.

    A small town with a population of 20,000 probably contains ~10 gas stations and ~100k standard AC receptacles just within city limits.

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