Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Milwaukee, WI, United States (4E) – Harley-Davidson is trading the full-throated roar of its iconic gasoline-driven motorcycles for the wheezy whine of an electric engine bike.
The firm, which has been plagued by weak sales, wants to get people, especially Americans, more interested in its HOGS by turning electric. Harley last week unveiled its “LiveWire electric motorcycle” at the famous EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. The move is part of Harley’s campaign to become a world leader in electric and hybrid motorcycles, and to attract a new kind of younger customer.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is Harley-Davidson’s first electric bike. It was displayed to the media in June 2014. It can reach 0-60 mph in under four seconds, which is faster than any internal combustion engine bike.
Harley CEO Keith Wandell said LiveWire is part of an effort to reach a more diverse group of riders, including “18 to 35-year-olds, women, African-Americans and Hispanic riders.” In January 2018, Harley said LiveWire had entered production and will hit the market in 18 months or by early 2019.
LiveWire is also a radical departure for Harley-Davidson, which is world famous for its big and heavy road bikes affectionately known as “hogs” bought mainly by middle-age white men. Harley-Davidson, however, has signaled it’s time for a change as the market for bikes continues to age, literally. Almost half of all its motorcycle riders are 50 or older.
This is where LiveWire, which is targeted at a younger and more diverse demographic, comes in.
LiveWire is a pretty powerful machine with 74 horsepower and 52 pound-feet of torque. In an electric bike, full torque is available as soon as you roll-on, regardless of vehicle speed/motor rpm. This advantage alone makes electrics punch a lot above their weight.
Electric motors offer peak torque immediately from standstill. this means all the motor’s power is immediately available, giving the bike extremely rapid acceleration. In contrast, internal combustion engines need to shift gears as a motorcycle increases speed, slowing acceleration.
The LiveWire’s top speed is governed at 95 mph. Its power comes from a 7 kWh storage cell and 55 kW, oil-cooled three-phase motor.
In recent years, Harley-Davidson has gone all-out to attract more riders, including younger ones. It unveiled a 10-year plan in 2017 to attract two million new riders by 2027 by focusing on electric bikes.
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