Ouch! Take that, EV doubters. It’s one thing for a fresh new electric vehicle startup like Tesla to rock the world of personal mobility. It’s quite another when iconic US manufacturers — you know, the ones that made America great 50 or 100 years ago — walk the EV walk. In the latest development, yesterday the legendary Harley-Davidson company jumped into the world of electric motorcycles with the launch of pre-orders for its new 2020 LiveWire at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
That’s just for starters. Harley-Davidson also showcased new concepts for lightweight electric motorcycles and other two-wheelers at CES, indicating that it expects healthy interest in two-wheeled electric mobility of all kinds.
How healthy? Let’s take a look at the pitch.
Harley-Davidson To Gasmobiles: Buh-Bye
For a company that made its name on burning gasoline to the unique tune of two pistons and one pin, Harley-Davidson sure seems in a hurry to vault into the all-electric future of motorcycles.
They dropped a huge hint right up front in a press release announcing its CES showcase. It hit the wires under the headline, “Harley-Davidson Electrifies The Future Of Two-Wheels With Debut Of New Concepts And LiveWire™ Motorcycle Available For US Dealer Pre-Order.”
Harley-Davidson first teased the Livewire back in 2014, so this has been a long time coming. Now that it’s here, it really is here.
Matt Levatich, Harley-Davidson’s President and CEO, hammered home the point:
We’re at a historic juncture in the evolution of mobility, and Harley-Davidson is at the forefront. Innovation that moves the body and soul has always been at the heart of our brand, and this next chapter in our history is about creating products and opportunities for existing and aspiring riders of all ages and walks of life.
Keep in mind that Harley-Davidson can trace its roots back to 1903, and you can see what a significant break with the past this is.
The hard sell emphasizes that Harley-Davidson is leaving the petroleum economy behind in the dust:
The LiveWire represents the future of Harley-Davidson, bringing high-performance electric propulsion, evocative design, and cellular connectivity to today’s rider. The first of a new electric portfolio of motorcycles that provides an all new two-wheel experience, LiveWire delivers thrilling acceleration, agile handling, premium materials and finishes, and a full suite of electronic rider aids and interfaces for a completely connected experience.
Do tell! The company promises an “exhilarating ride for seasoned motorcyclists” with a clutch-free system that entices newbies with a riding experience that’s “easier than ever.”
The Electric Motorcycles Of The Future
Okay, so CleanTechnica will hit them up for a ride-and-drive and let you know how easier than ever that is. Hmm, checking back in personal history for last time on a two-wheeler without pedals…still checking…
Oh, never mind. Harley-Davidson sure is going out of its way to make the LiveWire feel like a good alternative for cyclists in need of more horsepower and other amenities. Here’s a sample of the goods:
Amazing acceleration: From 0 to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds.
Twist-and-go ease of use: Electric power requires no clutch and no gear shifting, greatly simplifying operation for new riders.
The LiveWire motorcycle is equipped with H-D™ Connect, which pairs motorcycle riders with their bikes through an LTE-enabled Telematics Control Unit coupled with connectivity and cloud services using the latest version of the Harley-Davidson™ App.
Don’t forget the regenerative braking!
The H-D Connect thing also lets you get all the latest news about your two-wheeler on your phone, including battery status, range, charging station location, service reminders, tampering alerts and theft tracking.
Not for nothing but they also promise an electric vehicle version of that unique Harley sound:
The LiveWire model is designed to produce a new signature Harley-Davidson sound as it accelerates and gains speed. This new futuristic sound represents the smooth, electric power of the LiveWire motorcycle.
The Future Has Two Wheels
As for the concept two-wheelers, that’s a clear indication Harley is zeroing in on the urban market. Aside the whole thing about Harley gasmobile buyers aging out, President* Trump’s new tariffs are motivating the company to look beyond its US base and carve out a bigger space in overseas.
Our friends over at Electrek spotted the artwork for not two or three (as previously reported) but four new all-electric Harley concept two-wheelers at CES: an e-bike, a lightweight motorcycle, a moped, and a dirt bike.
Okay, so that last item is more for the non-urban crowd, but still.
The company is billing them as important elements in the “More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan,” which basically acknowledges that, yes, younger gasmobile buyers are not stepping up to replace the heart-and-soul generation of Harley gasmobile buyers.
Last August, Bloomberg previewed the solution:
In the next few years, Harley will release more than a dozen motorcycles, many of them small, lightweight, even electric. The new Harleys are intended to reverse years of declining sales and appeal to a new rider: young, urban, and not necessarily American. Harley wants international riders to be half its business in the next 10 years.
They are not kidding. Here’s Levatich again:
Our vision for the future is all encompassing. For all ages, from urban professional to exurban retiree, and from commute-minded to thrill-seeking, we are creating the products and opportunities for existing and aspiring riders to feel the transformative power of the two-wheeled riding experience.
As another hint that Harley-Davidson is looking to the all-electric future, last March the company teamed up with the startup Alta Motors. That venture fell apart when Alta disappeared, but in September Harley-Davidson opened a new R&D center in San Francisco.
Want a LiveWire? Find a dealer and pre-order LiveWire at h-d.com/LiveWire.
Meanwhile, considering all the back-and-forth over trade wars and tariffs during Trump’s tenure in the White House, you may be wondering where Harley plans to manufacture the LiveWire. That’s a good question! CleanTechnica is reaching out to the company for more details, so stay tuned.
Follow me on Twitter.
Photo (screenshot, cropped): Via Harley-Davidson.