The quiet Hog: Harley tests electric bike
MILWAUKEE — Would a Harley still be a Harley if it didn't have that out-of-my-way rumble and those fat, hydrocarbon-belching exhausts?
Enthusiasts are about to find out as Harley-Davidson rolls out an electric bike, the LiveWire — a sleek, futuristic motorcycle that sounds like a jet airplane taking off.
The public will get its first look at handmade demonstration models at an invitation-only event on Monday in New York. The company will then take the models on the road for riders to try and provide feedback. Harley will use the information to refine the bike, which might not hit the market for several more years.
Harleys have long been the bad-boy bike of choice with an image associated with motorcycle gangs, even though most riders are middle-aged and middle-class. The venture is a departure from Harley's mainstay touring bikes and presents an added risk because there is 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.
But those focused on electric vehicle development say Harley has the marketing power to create demand, and its efforts to lower costs, build charging stations and improve technology will help everyone involved.
“It does validate what we've been doing; it adds additional credibility to it. It is certainly going to draw more people's attention to electric motorcycles. The marketing horsepower of Harley-Davidson is going to be able to do things for us that we can't do on our own,” said Scot Harden, vice president of global marketing at Zero Motorcycles, the top seller of full-size, high-powered electric bikes.
Zero expects to sell 2,400 electric motorcycles this year, a drop in the bucket compared with the more than 260,000 conventional motorcycles sold last year by Harley.
The new LiveWire won't make the distinctive “potato-potato-potato” chug that Harley once tried to patent. Its engine is silent, and the turbine-like hum comes from the meshing of gears. But electric motors do provide better handling and rapid acceleration — with the electric Harley able to go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds. LiveWire's design places the engine at the bottom of the bike.
“When you ride a motorcycle, it's the movement of the top of the bike side-to-side that gives you agility in regard to making turns. So, if I put weight low in a motorcycle, I can turn faster. I can drop the bike down and make quicker moves,” said Gary Gauthier, of NextEnergy, a Detroit-based nonprofit with expertise in electric vehicles.
Jeff Richlen, Harley's lead engineer on LiveWire, put it this way: “Some people may get on it thinking, ‘golf cart,' and they get off thinking, ‘rocket ship.' ”
One hurdle Harley and others have yet to address is the limited range offered by electric motorcycles. Batteries typically must be recharged after about 130 miles, and that can take 30 minutes to an hour.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Natural gas industry buys share of Super Bowl spotlight
- As banking goes mobile, branch closures rip through local economy
- Kennametal plans plant closings, job cuts in fallout from oil and gas decline
- Employers prepare for demographic shift
- No more room on iPad? You’ll need to trim some of that fat
- Taxpayer clinics fill IRS void
- Alcoa, Israeli company collaborate on aluminum-air battery
- MSA Safety products in demand to protect workers in dangerous jobs
- 8th-grader gets venture capital for inexpensive Braille-printer
- Super Bowl ads win by playing to viewers’ emotions, experts say
- Trib 30 stocks drop to 4-month low