Riding My Electric Bike to Sessions

Story author
Neil Blanchard
A man standing in front of a red electric bicycle

I’ve driven my electric car to Sessions in Castleton, VT, the past four years, which helped me understand the process of traveling in an electric vehicle. In August 2019, I decided to ride my PEBL (“pebble”)—an electric recumbent bike with a body shell that allows faster travel than a bicycle, as well as protection from the weather and more luggage room.

The round trip from my home to Castleton is just over 329 miles—the longest trip I have been on, with more elevation change than I have seen before. I traveled for two days in each direction (6 to 7 hours on the road each day), staying overnight at the Putney, VT, Friends Meetinghouse each leg. I charged the bike fully before leaving and at Putney, and partially charged halfway between Putney and home.

The main difference between traveling by electric car versus the PEBL is the time it takes. I have driven the car in a bit over four hours each way, versus about 13 hours over two days on the bike. I could have done it in one day, but that would require about 4 hours additional to get the full charge needed. Seventeen hours each way would have been a much bigger challenge.

But I was able to do the trip on a fraction of the energy to drive an electric car—about 1,000 miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) by bike versus about 140 MPGe by car. If I had driven a Prius, I would have gotten 55 to 60 MPG. The comparison comes down to energy required and carbon footprint versus time and cost.

But the time was hardly a waste:  I got to see parts of our beautiful planet that I would have whizzed past in my car or missed completely. Google Maps took me along several bike trails and lots of gravel roads, as well as smaller roads and highways plus a couple of walking trails. I got to see two abandoned mill buildings. I saw wildlife and farms, and had several conversations with folks who flagged me down because they wanted to learn about the PEBL.

I got as much exercise as I wanted. I peddled to extend the range of the batteries while climbing the steepest roads. My PEBL has the largest capacity battery available, rated at 100 miles on flat(ish) ground with a 150-pound rider at 70° F without pedaling. I can travel about 30% farther by pedaling and have gone 134.4 miles on a single charge. I weigh 230 pounds, and I pedaled a lot with about 50 pounds of stuff and through an elevation change of about 3,200 feet. I would guess that I pedaled for 78 to 80 miles. I have many details that I can share with you, so ask me if you are interested.

I am consciously working at making changes to reduce my carbon footprint. This is something we all need to do, as individuals and as a Friends community. We share this planet and we are totally dependent on all other living things for our own wellbeing.

Please join the Earthcare Ministry Committee in furthering the transformational work needed to make this just and life-affirming transition possible.

Read Neil's blog

See videos of Neil traveling in steady rain and in a deluge.