Erik Buell is go-fast guy and a living legend in the world of performance motorcycles, and ten years after his association with Harley-Davidson came to a sudden, unexpected end, Buell is back with a new bike venture, Fuell, that strangely seems to shadow Harley once again.
Fuell recently introduced two bikes, one of which is actually a bicycle, called the Fluid, albeit an electric one. The other machine, called the Flow, is an urban-focused electric motorcycle. Both bikes will be available in two trims with different power outputs.
First, some context: Buell, 68, has been a motorcycle racer and outside-the-box engineer for decades, building bikes so well (and so unusual) that Harley-Davidson first invested in and then outright bought his outfit, Buell Motorcycle Company.
Buell had initially worked as an engineer for Harley-Davidson beginning in 1979 and after leaving the company, remained connected to personnel inside the company while pursuing his own ventures, which consisted of crafting highly-upgraded Harley-powered sporting machines. Impressed, H-D brass came calling in 1993, hoping Buell’s eccentric creations would give them entry into the Asian and European-dominated performance and sportbike markets while retaining Harley’s signature V-Twin heartbeat.
Back in the Harley fold and given free license (and funding) to innovate, Buell designed a series of highly innovative machines with features like massive frames that also held fuel, unusual rim-mounted brakes, and exhaust systems that exited underneath instead of to the side of the motorcycle, all in the quest to cut weight, centralize mass and improve handling. He also coaxed huge amounts of power out of what were essentially glorified air-cooled cruiser engines until he could design and implement his own liquid-cooled, high-performance motor. The Buell bikes, while quirky, were industrial design showcases and were sold at Harley dealerships. They were well-received by riders and reviewers but were undeniably niche.
Then, in late 2009, Harley unceremoniously pulled the plug on the Buell experiment as the motorcycle industry was hammered by the Great Recession. A month after the split from H-D, Buell spooled up Erik Buell Racing (better known just as EBR) and began building the 1190R series, $46,000 street-legal, lightweight track weapons that put out 185 horsepower. He also partnered with India-based transportation maker Hero, which was beginning to look into producing electric bikes. Unfortunately, the partnership fizzled and EBR went into receivership in 2015 after producing a limited number of bikes.
Resurgent once again with Fuell, Buell has now teamed with an experienced and well-connected leader, François-Xavier Terny, who will serve as CEO of the concern. Also in the mix is fellow engineer and businessman Frédéric Vasseur, who hails from F1 and the new Formula E electric racing universe. The trio gives Fuell a solid base in engineering, management and funding.
While both new Fuell bikes have clearly broken cover, final specs will likely be revealed at an official announcement on April 23rd, but much is already known. The basic version of the Fluid should hit the market at $3,295 and the larger Flow will be $10,995. Each machine will be available in two power output trims. The base Fluid ebike will have a 250-watt crank-centered electric motor, while the “S” version bumps up to a 500-watt motor. Wide frame spars will hold two batteries totaling 1kWh of juice, enough to roll the Fluid 125 miles, likely with pedal assist.
The Fluid has a clean, mountain-bikeish “normal” profile that makes it hard to tell its even an electrically powered conveyance. Top speeds in the flat should be about 20 and 28 miles an hour respectively, in line with most current electric pedal-assist bikes and within most regional ebike speed regulations.
The Flow electric motorcycle is clearly something different, with a bulbous, rounded body and the motor located within the back wheel, an unusual choice for an electric motorcycle. Buell says that the tech in the back wheel is unlike anything else on the market today but stopped short on specifics.
Buell told Forbes that he considers himself a futurist and he’s been interested in electric transportation for years, including all the way back to his time at Harley-Davidson during the Buell partnership. And while Buell is known as a speed merchant, the Flow machine is clearly aimed at commuters, with motor options making either a tick less than 15 horsepower, or a full 47 ponies in S trim.
Those numbers indicate the base Flow will be able to outrun most scooters but will fall short of achieving highway speeds. The S model should be capable of hanging with freeway traffic for short distances but Buell said his focus for these bikes is accessibility, enabling affordable mobility and ease of use over raw speed.
Pricing will start at $10,995 for the base Flow, and the bike also features a copious amount of onboard storage since there’s no need for a gas tank. Range and other specifications have not yet been announced. The Fluid ebike should debut later this year with the Flow motorcycle hitting the streets in 2021.
As electric vehicles including cars, bicycles and motorcycles begin to increase in popularity, Buell’s timing with Fuell could be good. The reveal from Fuell comes shortly after Harley-Davidson officially put their Livewire electric bike effort into production, and perhaps not coincidentally, prototypes and concept designs for more Livewire machines includes a bicycle-style creation and even a retro-ish scooter idea. Whether those machines will ever reach production hasn’t been confirmed by Harley-Davidson.
Indeed, Motorcyclist online claims Buell was also part of the initial electric motorcycle brainstorming trust at Harley-Davidson before they parted ways. Buell confirmed as much to Forbes. It seems Harley and Buell can’t escape each other’s gravity.