Harley Davidson’s Electric Motorcycle is Off to a Slow Start
Harley Davidson has been building American motorcycles forever. They introduced their first V-twin back in 1909. It was 49.5 cubic inches and produced a whopping seven horsepower. Over the years the motor has gotten substantially bigger, at 88, 110, 117 and 120 cubic inches. Bigger, faster, more chrome and options. Harley set the bar with their cruiser bikes and has enjoyed phenomenal success, for the most part (let's not talk about the sketchy AMF years between 1969 and 1980).
But Harley has been experiencing a downward sales trend. For many years, Harley buyers have been predominantly baby boomers. Boomers are aging and fewer younger folks are buying HD. With sales numbers in the last decade peaking in 2014, Harley has been scrambling to keep the next generation of motorcycle riders interested in their brand.
One issue has been innovative technology. There are many motorcycles that are faster, better handling, more comfortable and more affordable than the mighty HD. And there are other companies making electric motorcycles, like Zero. Generation X and down are not necessarily enthralled with the image of leather-clad beer bellies and loud, overpriced, inefficient motorcycles. Plus, when the MSRP on most of the Harley lineup costs about the same as a new car, it kind of limits your market.
I give Harley props for actually being an innovator in the e-bike game. They first announced the Livewire electric motorcycle in 2014. Test ride reviews have been generally positive. However, interest from many dealerships has been lackluster. According to Reuters, some dealers have opted to not even order the bike for what they feel is a lack of interest.
Another issue for electronic motorcycles is the limited range. The Harley Livewire will only give you a range of about 140 miles around town & 96 combined city/highway. It then requires a 60-minute charge at a dealership fast-charging station, or an overnight charge at home. An electric motorcycle may be a viable option for an urban commuter, but Montana is a big state and I'm gonna' need more range than 140 miles. Time will tell which company will become a leader in the e-bike segment. At $30K a pop, I'm not sure it will be HD.