Will Victory Beat Harley-Davidson With First Electric Cruiser Motorcycle?

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2014 Brammo Empulse electric motorcycle

2014 Brammo Empulse electric motorcycle

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A patent for the name “Victory Charger” has been filed by Polaris with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

Polaris recently bought the manufacturing business of electric-motorcycle maker Brammo; it's also the parent company of Victory Motorcycles, a manufacturer of cruiser-style bikes that compete against Harley Davidson. 

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The Polaris patent is for “Electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor”, which appears to be a placeholder, since it does not trademark a symbol or signature design bearing the name.

The motorcycles will employ Brammo’s drivetrain technology and Polaris management has inferred that it intends to sell an electric Victory motorcycle in the third quarter of this year.

Victory Gunner motorcycle

Victory Gunner motorcycle

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This represents the first public action taken by Polaris to substantiate that claim.

But will the Victory Charger look more like a Brammo Empulse, or a Victory Gunner?  It would be a herculean feat to incorporate a Brammo drivetrain into an existing Victory chassis in a short timeframe. 

Which makes it likely that the new Victory Charger will basically be a rebranded Brammo Empulse. However, the bikes will be made in the Victory manufacturing facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa. 

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It is quite possible that the new electric Victory bike will resemble the Empulse, because while the aluminum frame was outsourced to a company in Italy, other components are made of steel. This would make transferring manufacturing capabilities relatively easy.

However, the new electric bike will be more in-line with the Victory brand if it were a cruiser, which could bring in different customers than current electric motorcycles.

Sine Cycles electric cruiser motorcycle concept

Sine Cycles electric cruiser motorcycle concept

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Undoubtedly an electric Victory motorcycle will benefit from the publicity and awareness created by the Harley-Davidson Livewire tour and test rides.

Thousands of people have now had the opportunity to ride a few miles on an electric motorcycle during those test rides, giving them a taste of the strong acceleration and smooth riding that comes with electric vehicles.

It's been a few years since a truly new design has been seen in the electric motorcycle industry.  Brammo used the same chassis since its inception, and Zero has two frames underlying its line of various street and off-road bikes.

In Switzerland, a custom bike builder at Sine Cycles used a Zero motorcycle's drivetrain to give us a glimpse of what an electric chopper would look like.

A particularly interesting facet of this story is how will an electric motorcycle be received by current Victory dealers.

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In theory it should be a significant advantage for Victory to sell electric motorcycles, because they already have an established dealer network that sells 10,000 to 20,000 bikes per year.

However, any dealer has to undergo a learning curve to carry and support an electric motorcycle.

Experience shows that dealers who are already interested in electric motorcycles can succeed at selling them, but dealers who are forced to carry them will have a difficult time moving the metal.

Whether the Victory Charger is a re-badged Brammo Empulse or something entirely new that's secretly under development, it will offer an interesting entry into the electric motorcycle industry--and likely expose electric bikes to a whole new audience.

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