Harley-Davidson Promises New Electric Bike Won’t Disappoint

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It emits a metallic purr rather than a throaty roar, but Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle is expected to make a big statement for how the brand is transitioning to an era that is increasingly friendly to EVs and more suspect of old-fashioned power supplied by internal combustion of hydrocarbons.

Dubbed Project LiveWire, the brand is taking the new EV prototype across the US to give fans a chance to try out the new technology. The tour will kick off with a journey along Route 66, the fabled US highway in the western part of the country, visiting more than 30 Harley dealerships this year. Riders will be able to ride the Project LiveWire prototype and non-motorcyclists will be able to enjoy a simulation. The tour will extend to other parts of the United States, Canada and Europe next year, the company said.[more]

Harley-Davidson, of course, is emblematic of America’s long and unapologetic embrace of raw, noisy, gasoline-fueled horsepower, albeit even a fully-loaded Hog gets much better fuel economy than the average automobile. This might be the last motorcycle brand anyone would expect to embrace an electricity-powered motorcycle that—at least in the promotional video—stirs only visual excitement, not aural.

But as Matt Levatich, Harley-Davidson’s president and COO, stated in a press release, “America at its best has always been about reinvention,” and Harley “has reinvented itself many times in our history.”

Harley-Davidson said that the EV prototype resulted from consumer demand and offers “a visceral experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable new sound.” The sound is “a distinct part of the thrill,” said Mark-Hans Richer, Harley’s CMO. “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier.”

Retail plans for Harley’s first EV are still taking shape. But for now, Richer urged, think of Project LiveWire “more like the first electric guitar—not an electric car. It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric. Project LiveWire is a bold statement for us as a company and a brand.”

And Project Livewire isn’t alone. The company has been adapting its image lately to serve an “increasingly diverse society,” Levatich said. Evolutions in product development and manufacturing led to the brand’s introduction of its Project Rushmore touring bikes, its Street models and a push to be more inclusive to female riders and enthusiasts over the last year. 

• Connect with Dale on Twitter: @daledbuss

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