Harley Davidson is facing a dilemma. As the average age of its riders is going up, sales of its traditional V Twin motorcycles are going down. People buying Harleys today are more apt to have a Buick home in the garage than a sports car. Will an electric motorcycle broaden the brand’s appeal?
Harley knows it has to do something to offset its shrinking customer base. It says it will introduce 100 new models in the next ten years as it tries to find a recipe to appeal to younger riders. At least one of those new Harley Davidsons will be electric.
Speaking to journalists recently in Sydney, Australia, Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and great grandson of company founder William A Davidson, confirmed that an electric motorcycle is part of the company’s long term plan.
“We’re excited about our future,” he said. “We actually showed a prototype of the electric Livewire [a few years ago] and that project is alive and well. We don’t know yet when we’re going to introduce it but it is progressing well and we will eventually introduce it. “It is an amazing motorcycle,” he went on to say. “While it doesn’t have a 45-degree, push rod twin cylinder engine it has the performance expected from a Harley Davidson, even it won’t sound the same,” he said.
“I can tell you the philosophy we have applied to our V-twins is the same we are applying to the electric motorcycle in terms of sound, performance and feel, which are just as important with the electric bike as they are with our more traditional bikes. Our typical sound is unique; it is that potato-potato-potato. And we know that because of our uniqueness with the V twins, we want to make something equally as unique with the electric [bike].”
“And so we’ve actually created a unique sound through various technologies. We have studied our competitors and we understand what they are up to and we did not want a normal sounding electric motorcycle. We wanted something that plays into that look and sound formula. It is something really cool. I often refer to it as sounding like a jet fighter.”
Asked if there would be a range of electric motorcycles coming from Harley Davidson, Bill Davidson said, “that’s information I can’t really talk about at this stage”. He also said he doesn’t see self driving technology being applied to motorcycles any time soon. “I think the more automatic cars become, motorcycling will become more appealing. I see it as a huge opportunity.”
“Society has become driven by so many factors and we are all now in touch 24/7 as we’re surrounded by electronics, and I think riding a motorcycle lets you break free of that and enjoy nature and have fun.” Amen.