The Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle is Coming
In today’s age of smart technology and eco-friendly products, the market for internal combustion motorcycles is facing challenges. Harley-Davidson has noticed the trend for eco-friendly technology, and realized that electric machines might be the way of the future.
Apparently, the future looks like smart helmet technology such as Jarvish, and a bluetooth motorcycle helmet that makes miscommunication a thing of the past, and, of course, electric motorcycles. The 115-year-old company is now facing the music of changing times; that the image they build upon an outlaw-style, loud rumble of an engine and a practically patented loud sound could be on its way out.
“You’ve heard us talk about Project LiveWire,” Matt Levatich, the president and chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson said on Tuesday. “It’s an active project we’re preparing to bring to market within 18 months.''
Well, they’re actually doing it. And it’s coming to us soon.
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Harley’s fourth-quarter results were released, and the company announced that “it will invest more aggressively to lead in the application of electric motorcycle technology,” and the first Harley electric motorcycle released in-line with this new strategy is due to hit the market within 18 months.
We all know about Harley’s prototype all-electric motorcycle, the “LiveWire” project in 2013. LiveWire was an all-electric, cool-looking concept that was even used in the popular Avengers series on the big screen. “The most radical departure in the 111-year history of the brand," the prototype used a 7kWhr battery to power an electric motor, reached 74hp and 56-lb of torque, and could go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds.
In retrospect, the concept was likely launched as a way to gauge the interest of the market. After it was tested on 12,000 riders around the world, the experiment gave Harley-Davidson executives enough insight to plan for marketing the production version of the electric bike with the goal of becoming the world leader in the electric motorcycle market.
“Our brand stands for freedom, independence, and personal freedom, and we think the brand is fundamentally sound,” Levatich said. “The EV (Electric Vehicle) motorcycle market is in its infancy today, but we believe premium Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles will help drive excitement and participation in the sport globally. As we expand our EV capabilities and commitment, we get even more excited about the role electric motorcycles will play in growing our business.”
Harley’s continuation of EV technology is a surprise, but it also came as somewhat of a double punch. The announcement accompanied news of job cuts and a plant closure at the Milwaukee-based company, while Harley's Financial Officer John Olin reported that over the next few years the company will spend around $25 million to $50 million per year on electric motorcycle technology.
Research shows that sales of Harley motorcycles, popular among baby boomers, are falling due to a generational gap and lack of appeal to millennials. Harley released new internal combustion models, such as the 2017 Street Rod, in the hopes to attract younger buyers, but sales continue to slump for petrol-powered machines. Harley hopes that the market growth for electric motorcycles could be the answer, and are pouring its resources in that direction.
The powersports industry may be declining, but the electric motorcycle market is gaining momentum. In 2016, the market research firm TechNavio reported that a 56 percent growth is expected in the electric motorcycle industry by the year 2020. This number is definitely positive, with a rampant decline in demand for motorcycles in the U.S. Industry retail sales of motorcycles in 2017 were down 6.5 percent, and Harley sales in the fourth quarter fell 11 percent, equalling an 8.5 percent decline for the year.
Here's a look at Project LiveWire in 2015:
It remains to be seen whether this electric innovation is enough to jump-start the millennial market, we'll just have to wait and see. Figures suggest the electric motorcycle industry is set up for huge growth.
What do you think? Is Harley onto something that could electrify the market? Or is this effort just shooting sparks? Tell us in a comment!