12.09.2016 - by Plug In America
Electric Motorcycles: Present and Future

This week, Plug In America’s John U’Ren had the opportunity to interview Harlan Flagg at Hollywood Electrics about the present and future of electric motorcycles.

Hollywood Electrics first opened back in 2009, and quickly established itself as the largest dealer of electric motorcycles in the world.

Increasingly, electric cars are entering the mainstream consciousness of consumers, but other electric vehicles are also making significant strides, including affordable, long-range, and really fast two-wheelers. “Electric motorcycles are more in reach for most people in terms of affordability and capability,” Harlan Flagg, of Hollywood Electrics, said. For instance, Zero Motorcycles sells the 161-mile SR ZF13.0 for $15,995, which can be further upgraded to 202 miles with an optional “Power Tank.” Compared to many popular gasoline-powered motorcycles, these electric motorcycles actually have a longer range. Flagg hopes to see new electric motorcycles that feature a faster recharge time.

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The Zero SR ZF13.0 boasts a 202-mile all-electric range and a zero to sixty time of 3.3 seconds.

For most electric motorcyclists, range really isn’t an issue and thus doesn’t need to increase. Rather, Flagg believes a greatly decreased charge time could easily make electric motorcycles just as practical as gas motorcycles, even for long distance riding. Compared to an electric car, the batteries of electric motorcycles are small, and thus can be quickly recharged on 240-volt level two charging in as little as two hours; however, Flagg states that most riders choose to charge on 120-volt level one, which can take up to eight hours. For city riding, this is largely a non-issue; many riders choose not to charge their bike every day, while others simply plug in to a wall socket at night or at work (Flagg even told us about some customers wheeling their electric motorcycles into the elevator, up to their office, and charging them from an office wall socket).

Flagg noted that the range of an electric motorcycle is very susceptible to individual riding style. A bike with 200 miles of electric range could easily achieve only 100 miles of range from an aggressive riding style. Still, 100 miles of range is more than enough for the vast majority of riders. For longer trips, fast charging is a necessity, but for those familiar with electric cars, “fast charging” for electric motorcycles is not what you think. Electric motorcycles fast charge at 6.3 kilowatts – meaning that any level two 240-volt J1772 charger is a “fast charger” for electric bikes. Electric motorcycles can recharge a completely drained battery in as little as two hours at 6.3kW, making road trips doable.

Electric motorcycles can recharge a completely drained battery in as little as two hours at 6.3kW, making road trips doable.

“I’ve been riding electric motorcycles for years and I’ve only fast charged a handful of times,” notes Flagg.”People think [range anxiety] is an issue, when it’s really not.”  With the proliferation of chargers across the nation, even coast-to-coast long-distance trips on an electric motorcycle are possible.

Lightning Motorcycles claimed a landspeed record of 218 MPH at Bonneville, UT 2011. The production motorcycle sports 200 hp with 168 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Lightning Motorcycles claimed a landspeed record of 218 MPH at Bonneville, UT 2011. The production motorcycle sports 200 hp with 168 ft.-lbs. of torque.

The abundance of range and accessibility of the electric drivetrain has garnered a whole new audience to electric motorcycles.  “A full third of our customers have never ridden a motorcycle before in their life,” Harlan revealed.  “These new riders are attracted to electric motorcycles because they are not as intimidating as gas motorcycles with their loud exhaust, gear shifts, and hot tailpipes.”  Other customers are returning motorcycle riders, who had given up riding for various reasons, but got back in the saddle because of electric motorcycles.

“And LA is a great place for a motorcycles in general – there is so much traffic so lane-splitting is a real benefit,” says Harlan.

For those riders who feel a need for insane speeds, electric motorcycles fit that bill, too. Lightning Motorcycles recorded a landspeed record in Bonneville Utah in 2011. Lightning also beat out gas-powered competitors at Pikes Peak in 2013.

See Hollywood Electric’s 2016 Pike’s Peak run below:

Many thanks to Harlan Flagg and Thomas Ito at Hollywood Electrics.

3 comments on “Electric Motorcycles: Present and Future”
  1. Robert Curry says:

    Nice performance, BUT: Such motorcycles need accommodation for those that wish to add saddlebags and accessories. Most seem styled in such a manner as to make outfitting them with saddlebags difficult. It is nice to have secure, weatherproof storage, for rain gear, clothing changes, shopping, etc. (Not easy on a “Crotch Rocket” design!)-Not all of us want to ride in a race riders crouch, some simply wish to ride to work, or tour the countryside!

  2. Steven says:

    “For most electric motorcyclists, range really isn’t an issue and thus doesn’t need to increase…”

    Well to get me on an electric bike, I’m going to to need a range of at least 350 highway miles per day (daylight hours)

    1. TT says:

      350 miles? Really?! Maybe you should try to lessen your commute instead?

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