Passing by the corner of Fairfax and Willoughby in West Hollywood, you might’ve noticed some motorcycles hanging out front. And, perhaps you thought, that’s just another little trendy cycle shop. Well, you’d be wrong.
Hollywood Electric is the first ever all-electric motorcycle shop.
Electric motorcycles are changing the image of motorcycles.
The electric Zero SR/F can hold its own in performance.
Hollywood Electric is creating a new community of riders.
Hollywood Electrics is the first-ever motorcycle shop dedicated to electrics, and so far, the only one in the world. That’s pretty interesting in and of itself. Now consider it’s been sitting on that exact same corner for 10 years. Way before electric vehicles, let alone electric motorcycles became part of the zeitgeist.
The brainchild of Harlan Flagg, Hollywood Electrics is a place where both aficionados and novices will feel at home. Flagg is a motorcycle guy through and through. He doesn’t even own a car. A motorcycle enthusiast before he even hit puberty, Flagg and his dad used to work on motorcycles in their own garage. However, due to a Nervous Nelly mother, Flagg wasn’t allowed to ride. “One of the reasons I went away to college was so I could play with motorcycles,” Flagg says with a grin.
Inspired by the images of Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando, Flagg bought a Triumph 650 from the 1970’s to ride while he attended the University of Pennsylvania to study electrical engineering. He tooled around the east coast, riding all over Philly, up to New York and down to Washington DC while he was in school.
When Flagg returned to Los Angeles after college, he worked a few places, including developing digital imaging devices for a tech startup. He also built an electric car with his dad. Remembering that experience Flagg says, “We should’ve started with a motorcycle.”
At that time there were a few electric motorcycle startups around and Flagg considered building his own bike. But that would’ve been a capital-intensive endeavor that required spending a lot of time raising money. Since there were already other guys doing that, Flagg thought maybe he just wanted to be the place where you learn about, test drive and experience electric motorcycles. Hollywood Electrics was born from this vision. And still remains faithful to it.
Which Electric Motorcycle Do I Want
When you walk into the shop, you don’t have to stress about making the wrong decision and getting an unreliable or unproven bike. Hollywood Electrics is not a superstore carrying every electric motorcycles available on the market. “We’ve curated a selection of electric motorcycles for you, we’ve done all the research and we’ve picked the best brands, so you can come in and decide for yourself what you like,” Flagg said.
Though Flagg has carried a lot of different brands over the years, he’s honed in on the ones that provide the warranty, product support and high-level customer service he and his customers expect from a premium product. He definitely doesn’t want to pick up a brand that might be gone tomorrow and leave customers in limbo. And, there are companies where that happens.
Although electric motorcycles aren’t a mainstream product just yet, the time is fast approaching because electric motorcycle technology is reaching performance levels of bikes with gas engines. For example, the Zero SR/F, a brand and specific model Hollywood Electric carries. The model SR/F, which just came out, is impressive all on its own, not just in the electric category. “It’s the first time you can put an electric motorcycle side by side with a gas-powered one and you don’t have to make excuses for it,” Flagg said. Electric motorcycles have reached a place of performance parity.
Are Electric Motorcycles Fast
The Zero SR/F packs a 110 hp motor and the average gas motorcycle comes in at 100-120 hp. Where the SRF will blow your hair back is with its 140 lb-ft of torque. Torque is what accounts for off-the-line acceleration and the SRF has more than most super bikes.
Electric motorcycles can suffer from unfair comparisons because a lot of the petrol-powered bikes on the market are literally racing bikes capable of going 180 mph on the track. Not something you’d use to travel every day, necessarily. To give an example, a Honda is a nice car, but nobody would put it head to head with a Ferrari. And, that’s what’s happening.
“I always find it amusing when you’ve got all these motorcycle magazines comparing motorcycles on the track and these guys are reading these magazines and deciding which of these bikes they’re going to buy,” Flagg said. “They have no intention of taking these things to the track.”
The first electric motorcycle Flagg rode was a kit bike a few guys had thrown together. He was curious to try it, but wasn’t expecting much. “ I rode it and I hit the throttle and it was like magic,” he said. In contrast to the noise of an engine and dealing with the clutch and transmission, riding an electric bike was so unexpected, an incredible experience.
Why Electric Motorcycles
Gas motorcycles tend to be associated with the bad guys, such as the Hell’s Angels and the Mongols, the non-conformists and the rebels. Not exactly an image mom wants you to aspire to, especially with bikes going by with loud, obnoxious pipes and even more obnoxious riders.
“I want people to love motorcycling the way I love motorcycling,” Flagg said. “I want a kid to look out the window and say I want to ride a motorcycle like that when I grow up.”
Flagg sees a unique opportunity for the electric motorcycle to positively rebrand what motorcycles represent. For one, electric motorcycles are a lot less intimidating than their gas counterparts. You don’t have to contend with a transmission or a hot engine or the deafening noise. And, you don’t have the steep learning curve required for clutching and shifting gears. Get on, twist the throttle and you’re driving. All you need to do is get safety certified, which takes a weekend.
Flagg built himself a custom electric motorcycle and when he gets on to ride, he said he feels like Batman. He notes that Harley-Davidson’s first electric bike, the LiveWire, debuted in the Avengers movie in 2016, the transportation of choice for superhero Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. The LiveWire is not set to the hit the market until 2021, but you can place an order now. Check out why this bike could be such a game changer for Harley here.
You have to remember that Flagg began his love affair with gas-powered motorcycles. He still has a pretty impressive collection too. “Funny thing is, I have all these gas bikes, which is more out of nostalgia. I hardly ever ride them,” Flagg said. “I look at them and say I really want to ride them and then I see my electric bike and I’m like, I’ll just ride this one today because this one is better.”
Is There An Electric Motorcycle Community
When you purchase from Hollywood Electric, you’re getting more than a top-quality motorcycle, you’re gaining entry to a tight-knit community. It’s important to Flagg to build a relationship with his customers and nurture the electric motorcycle culture. Every month, Hollywood Electric puts on a group ride where everyone hangs out and then grabs food afterwards. Flagg says it’s a small community, but they stick together
In addition to motorcycles, Hollywood Electric carries some select electric scooters. Flagg calls these the gateway drug. With a scooter, you don’t need a motorcycle license to operate one. The idea is, once you have fun riding this two-wheeler around, you might graduate to the next step of a motorcycle.
Flagg possesses an infectious enthusiasm for electric motorcycles and would like everybody to enjoy the thrill of riding one. “I want people to realize that it’s not something that’s out of their reach. It’s something very attainable,” he said.
For Flagg, Hollywood Electric is much more than a business, it’s a mission, a passion and a lifestyle. “I want riding a motorcycle to be a positive thing. I don’t want it to be something that your mom is scared you’re gonna grow up to do.”