Harley Davidson is launching a line of electric motorcycles.
In a move that seems completely antithetical to a company that built itself on loud, burbling engines and a distinctly un-economical design, Harley Davidson just announced it will start selling entirely electric motorcycles within the next 18 months.
“You’ve heard us talk about Project LiveWire,” said Matt Levatich, President and CEO of Harley Davidson during an earnings call at the end of January, according to Bloomberg. “It’s an active project we’re preparing to bring to market within 18 months."
LiveWire was a prototype electric bike that Harley Davids unveiled four years ago. The bike, at the time, was capable of doing 0-60 in 4 seconds with an approximately 50-mile range. By comparison, the Zero SR, a popular brand of electric motorcycles currently available, can reach 60 in 3.3 seconds and have a maximum advertised range of 212 miles.
According to research, the market for electronic bikes is set to grow in the next few years even as the overall motorcycle market is shrinking. Harley Davidson especially has its work cut out for it as they continually lose customers as the baby-boomer generation ages out. Meanwhile, millennials seem to have little interest in Harley’s brand of loud and obnoxious road hogs.
“Our brand stands for freedom and independence and personal freedom, and we think the brand is fundamentally sound,” said John Olin, Harley’s Chief Financial Officer. The company plans to invest between $25-$50 million in research over the next few years.
Harley Davidson will have to act fast as California-based e-bike companies are already miles ahead. Santa Cruz-based Zero already has the aforementioned SR tearing up pavement across North America, while Silicon Valley-based Lightning has its sights firmly set on the electronic racing bike market. Harley e-bikes will have to find some other way of differentiating themselves to compete in an already competitive market.
“The universal appeal of that product was the most astounding aspect of that initiative,” Levatich said of LiveWire during the call. “It gave us a lot of confidence that electric motorcycles have broad-based appeal. … They are going to sit alongside existing Harleys and garages as much as they’re going to create new interest in the sport.”
For Harley’s sake, he’d better be right.