Harley Davidson president and CEO Matt Levatitch said Tuesday an electric motorcycle “is an active project we’re preparing to bring to market in 18 months.”
Clearly the its Livewire Project, shown in the U.S. in 2014 and Europe in 2015, gave Harley the positive feedback it needed to dedicate resources to developing an electric motorcycle for production.
While this may be surprising news to many—it came during a routine earnings call—it 's in line with what Harley Davidson has said for several years.
In June 2016, Sean Cummings, the company's senior vice president of global demand, told the Milwaukee Business Journal (subscription required) that Harley-Davidson planned to produce an electric motorcycle within five years.
CEO Levatich had previously said in a May 2015 interview that the company would wait until battery technology developed, so it could produce bikes with the range its customers would demand.
He was also quoted in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) as saying the price was expected to be in the range of $21,000 to $25,000.
Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle concept
The only indication of what direction Harley will go with this new electric motorcycle is its LiveWire concept, styled like its street and sport style bikes, and also featured in the movie "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (see video clip above).
Within the motorcycle industry, it's no secret that Harley is losing market share as its primary buyers get older and then age out of motorcycling.
Harley spokespeople have expressed interest in engaging younger and new riders, as the entire industry emerges from a challenging year in 2017. It hopes electric motorcycles will bring new riders into the fold
The company hopes to engage new riders who like the traditional Harley style, but don’t want to deal with the maintenance or noise of a internal-combustion engine.
Almost certainly Harley will strive to differentiate its electric bike from other brands by creating some form of customized sound. Its bikes have long been associated with exhaust notes that range from distinctive to extremely loud.
Feedback from LiveWire test riders was that they would need at least 100 miles of range on a single battery charge.
Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]
With Zero Motorcycles increasing the range of its bikes by 10 to 20 percent a year, Harley will need to launch with a bike that has at least the range of a current Zero SR, perhaps more.
It is to be hoped the company is sufficiently aware that it realizes DC fast-charging, which permits riders to go on any kind of long-range motorcycle cruise, is mandatory.
The electric motorcycle market is growing more competitive as Zero and Alta aggressively expand their dealer networks, and Energica focuses increasingly on the U.S.
BMW has found a foothold in Europe with its highway-legal maxi-scooter, the C-Evolution, which it recently brought to the USA. KTM also sells its Freeride-E in the United States.
The electric-motorcycle community has asked for years for a cruiser-style bike, and hopse Harley will provide it. Indian Motorcycles also has said it will produce an electric motorcycle, but has said little else.
With more announcements to come from the Harley Davidson PR machine, riders may well muse over what will the electric-motorcycle industry look like just 18 months from now.