Would former president Ronald Reagan have bailed out the last remaining American motorcycle manufacturer if it was more The Jetson’s than Easy Rider? While that will have to go unanswered, it’s clear that the times, led by Tesla, are changing when it comes to making electric “cool.” While it’s difficult to believe that someone on an all-electric Harley, tattooed and bearded, will be welcome at the annual Harley rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, stranger things have happened.
A silent Harley-Davidson?
Harley-Davidson Inc (NYSE:HOG) is known for its growl rather than its whisper, and that won’t change no matter how many electric bikes it sells. Thing is, Harley Davidson has built itself a reputation that won’t change with the introduction of its first electric motorcycle. The company is calling its creation the LiveWire, and early reports largely agree that it’s quite the bike.
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The all-electric endeavor brings a sound like nothing you’ve ever heard as it goes from zero to sixty in just under four seconds.
The bike has yet to go into production but the company is taking a couple dozen of them on a tour of Europe and the United States.
“Any business has always got to look ahead to see where customers are interested in going, and see where society might be going,” says Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson’s marketing chief.
Heavy battery means light frame and wheels
Harley-Davidson has always built its bikes around an engine, but now has to build around a battery. Batteries weigh a bunch and while Harley isn’t saying exactly how much, given the range at recharge time the company is disclosing experts put it at about 250 pounds. With all that weight, it needed to lighten up elsewhere and did so with a cast aluminum perimeter frame that weighs just 14 pounds along with hollow spoke wheels that Harley-Davidson says are the lightest they have ever produced. As there are no emissions, there is no need for an exhaust system and that gives the bike a sleek look as well as keeping its weight down.
The LiveWire offers 74 horsepower, 52 foot-pounds of torque and a (governed) top speed of 92 mph which makes it quicker off the line than the Zero DS but with less torque and range.
It’s important to note that Harley-Davidson execs aren’t touting the specs as this is not a production model bike that has a range of 53 miles and requires 3.5 hours to fully charge.
When asked about the move towards electric while maintaining a line of bikes whose roar sets off car alarms company president and COO Matt Levatich asked, “Why can’t Harley-Davidson do some of these other cool things, too, and see where it takes us?”