There’s a seismic shift in the motorcycle world, coming courtesy of an industry giant: Harley-Davidson is introducing its line of electric motorcycle for adults. Momentous changes such as these rarely come without controversy, and this one’s no exception.
Harley-Davidson’s about-face may well alienate some of its long-time riders who expect a traditional approach to motorcycles. While the company has promised it will continue to deliver in the traditional touring motorcycle department, it certainly seems that the company is now relying on a new demographic to jumpstart sales.
Even though you’re used to riding a traditional, gas-powered motorcycle, you’re never too old (or arthritic) to try an electric bike. Who knows? You may find yourself actually liking the feeling of riding a cleaner, quieter hog...after all those years of revving up your hog.
Picture your traditional motorcycle with its gas-powered engine. Then, replace the fuel tank with batteries or fuel cells and exchange the engine for a smaller one...what you have now is an electric motorcycle for adults.
Most of these babies can travel 40 to 100 miles without needing to be recharged. Typically, the recharging takes 2 to 3 hours, which is going to take some adjusting to (an understatement, to be sure).
The engines, with no oil or exhaust fumes, are obviously cleaner. These bikes are quieter, tend to be easier and cheaper to maintain than your old hog, and may require a long extension cord, depending on whether you live in an apartment or house.
Harley-Davidson has started to release a range of electric motorcycles, including the LiveWire, Electric Balance Bikes, and E-Bicycles.
The company rolled out its frontrunner, the LiveWire, just recently. Looks-wise, the LiveWire gives Harley-Davidson a whole new attitude: This 549-pound machine looks slick and futuristic, although its boxy features still reflect that classic Harley-Davidson muscularity.
One of the best things about this electric motorcycle for adults is its ultra-fast recharge rate: It can power up to 80% in 40 minutes or up to 100% in about an hour. What’s more: Harley-Davidson is offering free charging for up to 500 kwh or 2 years (whichever point comes first).
The throttle response is instant and can take you from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. It also comes with 4 modes (Sport, Road, Rain and Range) and an additional 3 customizable modes you can program yourself. You’ll also find a Reflex Defensive Rider System as part of the package. I’ll mention a bit more about the LiveWire later on in the piece, so keep reading for my comparison of this model with another electric bike out there.
As I touched on before, the Electric Balance Bikes are also part of Harley-Davidson’s new lineup. The first of their kind, these bikes help you get your younguns trained so they’ll be ready to take on a real hog once they’re grown. Priced at about $700, they resemble a hefty pedal bike and can weigh from 17 to 19 pounds with a speed range of 7 to 11 mph. The company is releasing two models built for age groups from 3 to 5 and 5 to 7.
For the adult rider, Harley-Davidson is unveiling their new E-Bicycles. These look like souped-up pedal bikes, featuring a modern and light frame, but are actually super sleek motorbikes with footpegs instead of pedals.
Based in Scotts Valley, California, Zero Motorcycles has been making battery-powered motorcycles for around 13 years and could definitely give Harley-Davidson a run for their money. The CEO is tight-lipped about how many bikes the company is already selling, offering a vague “figure” of anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 units.
The biggest leg up Zero Motorcycles has in the realm of the electric motorcycle for adults is the price point. This company’s bikes start at $8885, while Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire can be purchased at a steeper price tag of $30,000 (somewhat comparable to Zero Motorcycle’s SR/F which is $19,450).
If you take a deeper dive into comparing the performance of the SR/F and LiveWire, other specs make the Zero Motorcycle superior to the LiveWire as well: The SR/F has a charge range of 161 (which can be extended to 201 miles, should the driver choose to upgrade), while the LiveWire has a 146-mile range. Other than that, the SR/F has a 110 hp motor with 140 lb-ft of torque, while the LiveWire has 105 hp and 86 lb-ft of torque.
Of course, when comparing the two, you can’t ignore the fact that Zero Motorcycles also has a track record: 8 of its electric motorcycles are on the road already, while Harley-Davidson is just releasing its first electric motorcycle for adults.
So is Harley-Davidson throwing caution to the wind by establishing this new line? There’s no doubt it’s a risky move: Harley-Davidson’s earnings and stock have been down for a few years now. Last year, sales were down by more than 13%, and the upcoming third-quarter sales (according to channel checks) look like they’re going to be down between 5 and 10%.
Some critics say releasing their first electric motorcycle isn’t enough to turn Harley-Davidson’s sales around: After all, the LiveWire costs $30,000, which obviously limits the buying pool for now. And word on the street is that Harley-Davidson’s other new, gas-driven machines aren’t that impressive because they’re just minor updates to models that are already around.
Only time will tell if this particular move will pay off or pummel Harley-Davidson in the long run.
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