Retiree’s historic quest to ride electric motorcycle from Perth to Sydney

When Ed Darmanin pulled on his leathers and hit the road on his Kawasaki 1100 to ride from Perth to Sydney in the early 1980s, he followed a well-worn path.

Now, 40 years later, he’s forging a new one as the first person to make that 4,500 kilometre trek on an electric motorcycle.

And he’s taking his time to enjoy the experience.

When he purchased the Harley Davidson LiveWire as a retirement gift to himself earlier this year, the former electrical engineer decided to retrace his earlier journey on an electric bike so he could experience the new technology and take in all the sights along the way.

“When I was in my early 20s, it was all about just getting to the destination,” Ed, now 63, said.

That petrol-fuelled trip took him just four days.

When he reaches his home in Balgowlah Heights on Sydney’s northern beaches on Friday — if all goes to plan — it will mark 21 days since he left Perth.

His electric motorcycle has a 200 kilometre range when travelling slowly, but sitting on a highway at top speed reduces the mileage to about 120km per charge.

And with vast distances to cover between charging points, Ed has been happy to make the trip at a leisurely pace.

“A part of the reason I bought the Harley was because I was retiring, and I wanted to re-live my youth, but I also wanted to experience the future of motorcycling before I got too old,” he said.

“Now, I’ve been pulling into the lookouts and taking my time to look through each of the towns and roadhouses.

“I’ve even got time to have a beer and chat to the locals.”

The Nullarbor challenge
Before he set out on his desert crossing, Ed got a feel for how his bike would handle over long distances by first taking it for a trip up the east coast — a 2,500km trip from Sydney’s northern beaches to Cape Tribulation in north Queensland.

Happy with that experience, he then sent his bike to Perth by truck so he could ride it back to Sydney.

“In order to cover the distances across the Nullarbor, where there is up to 200km between roadhouses, the only way to manage that is to go slower,” he said.

“The Nullarbor has been challenging because it’s nearly 1,400km of road from Madura to Tanunda with no fast charging.

“Wind resistance is what chews up energy.”

It was a similar case when he travelled from Streaky Bay to Kimba in South Australia last week, where there was nowhere to pull over and recharge for about 240km.

“I was very fortunate because I had a strong tailwind which meant I could ride faster than normal, so I sat on 65kph for the whole time and when I arrived at Kimba, the battery was down to 3 per cent,” he said.

Plenty of stops to recharge
Ed said he called roadhouses and motels to ask the owners’ permission before charging his bike using power points, as it took up to 11 hours to completely recharge the electric battery.

“I offered to pay but all of them were quite happy to have me stay and not charge me for the power,” he said.

There have been a few DC fast-charging stations on the route, which has made some days a lot easier.

“On those chargers, the bike takes 45 minutes to get 80 per cent or an hour to completely fill up,” he said.

From Kimba, he’s travelled to Port Augusta then through to Spalding and Tanunda, where he’s taken advantage of a fast-charging station before embarking on the home stretch towards New South Wales.

Riding into the record books
Ed believes he is the first person to make this trans-Australian journey on an electric motorcycle, as extensive research on the internet has failed to find any other contenders.

He is in an Australian Facebook group with other electric motorcycle riders and says none of the other members know of anyone else who has made the trek.

“There’s no records online and there’s only 41 LiveWires that are available in the country.

“If someone wants to challenge me and say they’ve done it before, then prove it,” he laughed.

But he expects others will soon follow in his wake, as he says the journey will become easier for more riders once the government installs more fast-charging stations along the Nullarbor and when bike batteries improve.

“This is the first electric motorcycle that Harley has produced, and the battery technology is improving in leaps and bounds, just like how solar panels became more efficient,” he said.

“Within five years, the bikes will be able to do double the distance than what they do now.”

Ed is documenting his journey with a GoPro attached to his helmet and is taking drone footage as he plans to produce a mini documentary of his journey when he returns home to Sydney.