Born to be mild: Harley-Davidson goes electric as it launches its first battery-powered Hog (but what will the Hell's Angels say?)
> The Wisconsin-based company has unveiled its first electric motorcycle.
> Called Project LiveWire the bike will be touring the U.S. to the end of 2014.
> It is seen as a bold move, as the company is known for its big touring bikes.
> But they are now hoping to become a leader in developing electric vehicles.
> LiveWire can go 0-60mph in 4 seconds and has a range of 130 miles.
Harley-Davidson is known for its big touring bikes and iconic brand. But now the Wisconsin-based company is aiming to break new ground in a bold new move when it takes its first electric motorcycle, Project LiveWire, on a tour of the country beginning at an event in New York next week. And President Matt Levatich said he expects the company to become a leader in developing technology and standards for electric vehicles
The announcement is seen as taking the company in an entirely new direction - they have not previously showed interest in electric bikes, instead preferring to develop the iconic vehicle that has been a mainstay of American culture for nearly a century.
Harley will show handmade demonstration models of the new e-bike at the invitation-only event on Monday, having given a sneak preview today.
The company will then take the bike down the U.S. Route 66 to 30 Harley-Davidson dealerships to give riders the chance to test drive the bike and provide feedback
Harley will use the information it gathers to refine the bike, which might not hit the market for several more years.
Some see the venture as a risk for Harley because there's currently almost no market for full-size electric motorcycles.
The millions of two-wheeled electric vehicles sold each year are almost exclusively scooters and low-powered bikes that appeal to Chinese commuters.
In addition the company has little experience in such an emerging technology.
But one analyst said investment by a major manufacturer could help create demand, and Levatich emphasized in an interview with The Associated Press that Harley is interested in the long-term potential, regardless of immediate demand.
'We think that the trends in both EV [Electric Vehicle] technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders,' Levatich said.
'So, nobody can predict right now how big that industry will be or how significant it will be.'
At the same time, Levatich and others involved in creating the bike predicted it would sell based on performance, not environmental awareness
With no need to shift gears, the bike can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometres) per hour in about four seconds.
The engine is silent, but the meshing of gears apparently emits a hum like a jet airplane taking off.
'Some people may get on it thinking, "golf cart,"' lead engineer Jeff Richlen said.
'And they get off thinking, "rocket ship."'
One hurdle the company has yet to address is the limited range offered by electric motorcycles.
The batteries must be recharged after about 130 miles (210 kilometres), and that can take 30 minutes to an hour.
San Jose State University police Captain Alan Cavallo helped his department buy two bikes from Zero Motorcycles, the current top-selling brand, and said officers have been 'super happy' with the quiet, environmentally friendly bikes made nearby in Scotts Valley, California.
But he said American riders who like to hit the highway would likely lose patience with the technology.
'That's the deal with the cars; you can't jump in a Tesla and drive to LA, it won't make it,' Cavallo said. He added: 'People want the convenience of "I pull into a gas station, I pour some gas in my tank and I go."'
California firm Zero Motorcycles introduced its first full-size motorcycle in 2010 and expects to sell about 2,400 bikes this year, said Scott Harden, the company's vice president of global marketing.
That would give it about half of the global market for full-size, high-powered electric motorcycles.
In comparison, Harley-Davidson alone sold more than 260,000 conventional motorcycles last year.
But John Gartner, a research director for the consulting firm Navigant Research, said having large, well-funded companies get into the electric motorcycle market could give it a significant boost.
The major automakers helped drive sales for hybrid and electric cars, he noted.
'Their marketing budgets are much larger and they have dealerships set up everywhere, and so it's much easier for companies like Ford, BMW and Honda to advertise about their electric vehicles,' he said.
Levatich said true growth will require common standards for rapid charging and other features, as well as places for people to plug in.
Harley expects to play a key role in developing electric vehicle standards, and its dealership network could provide charging stations to serve all drivers, he said.
'We've been very silent up to this point about our investment in EV technology,' Levatich said.
But, he added, 'now that we're public, and we're in this space, we expect to be involved and a part of leading the development of the standards, and the technology and the infrastructure necessary to further the acceptance and the utility of electric vehicles.' Source: Harley-Davidson goes electric: The iconic motorbike firm reveals its first battery-powered ride | Mail Online p.s.:
No thanks, Give me an old Kunucklehead anyday over this