Mention Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and most people will think: noise, petrol, and leather jackets.
But all signs now point to the maker of high powered touring bikes taking another tack, as they look to an electrified future.
Following slowing sales, the company has now confirmed to investors that it intends to reach out to a new generation of riders by bringing to production their electric motorcycle, the LiveWire™, with a view to get on the high road of EV technology as early as next year.
“Alongside our existing loyal riders, we will lead the next revolution of two-wheeled freedom to inspire future riders who have yet to even think about the thrill of riding,” says Harley Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich.
The announcement follows the development of the electric concept bike LiveWire Project, which was created back in 2014 to enable riders to test drive and give feedback on so that the company could refine the design before ramping up production.
In January, the iconic motorcycle maker confirmed that it was injecting funds to meet its target of getting its first electric offering on the road within 18 months.
The move is part of a strong push by the company to take advantage of changes in the mobility market.
In a slideshow released by the company, it describes how moving into EV technology will keep them competitive as they reposition the brand to embrace the opportunities presented by a market gradually making the shift to zero emissions vehicles.
The company doesn’t view this shift as one driven by concerns of climate change. By the sound of it (or is that silence), the LiveWire will with a noticeable lack of clutch and gears, offer riders a whole new ‘twist and go’ touring experience.
Speaking with CNBC, Levatich said that riding the LiveWire “is a different feeling. The combination of the power and the torque, and the sound even creates a different feeling for the rider, it’s almost like you’re flying and that to me was the moment where I said there is something incrementally valuable here in this technology, it’s not ‘instead of’ – it’s ‘in addition to’.”
There’s no mention of specs such as range and battery power, although with reports that the LiveWire concept bike had a range of just 100km, they might struggle to compete with other electric motorcycles manufacturers such as Zero Motorcycles.
The introduction of the LiveWire to markets in North America and some parts of Europe is just the start of Harley-Davidson’s plan to electrify.
The company isn’t exactly leaving the land of fossil fuels behind though – out of 100 new bikes planned for release in the near future, the LiveWire plus two more affordable models to be released in 2021-22 are planned.
These will be joined by a range of lightweight urban motorcycles also within 4 years, although for now, there are no more details other than a few concept sketches.
Will Australian riders have a chance to fly along Aussie highways on an EV Harley anytime next year? There are notes to the effect that penetration into the Asian markets is on the cards, but although Harley-Davidson Australia have been contacted for comment, there is no information on that at this time.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.