A couple of weeks ago, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich came right out and said that the brand would be releasing a new electric motorcycle in the next 18 months. This was a bit of a shocker (pun intended) considering the release timeframes we had heard previously for a production electric Harley were 2021 and “eventually.”
Harley-Davidson technically already came out with an electric motorcycle in 2014 called the LiveWire, but that was just a prototype. The LiveWire had an electric motor powered by a 7kWh battery. It made 74 horsepower and 56 pound-feet of torque and it had a range of about 50 miles. Top speed was limited to 95 miles per hour, presumably to conserve battery, and it had a claimed 0-60 mph time of less than four seconds.
I wanted to know more about H-D’s plans for an electric future so I spoke with Harley-Davidson product portfolio manager Jeff Strunk at the IMS Chicago motorcycle show.
“We brought out a fleet of electric Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles to really understand what the public thought of it, what they wanted, and what they’re expectations would be,” said Strunk, referring to the LiveWire tour in 2014 and 2015 that spanned the U.S., Canada, and Europe. “Everything we do is very rooted in what the customer wants. With something that groundbreaking and different and new, it really required us to go out and ask people directly. They might not be able to imagine what this is or what it could be.”
This must have been especially challenging for a brand with a fanbase that’s very passionate about V-twin engines powered by gasoline. The engine characteristic is one of the most distinct aspects of Harley-Davidson and it was wise to do some homework to figure out what the riders would want out of an electric bike.
“We learned a lot from those customers in rides that we did all around the world. We took in a lot of feedback and we’re certainly utilizing that to make a great Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle. It is coming in 18 months and it’s gonna be really exciting,” said Strunk with confidence.
We talked a bit about performance and some of the advantages of electric over conventional gas engines which Harley-Davidson has been building for well over a century. “Some of the real benefits of electric include no clutch and no shifting,” said Strunk. Some of us enthusiasts might think of not shifting as a bad thing because, let’s face it, shifting is part of the fun. But Strunk sees it as a step towards bringing fresh blood into motorcycling. “That reduces a barrier for new riders. Sometimes that’s a little intimidating or requires learning. You just twist the throttle and go. The torque comes on right away and it’s the same torque all the way through.”
Whatever Harley-Davidson does come up with for its production electric motorcycle, it’s going to be rooted in what the riders want, according to Strunk. “Getting the product to match customer expectations; that’s what our engineers are working hard on right now and we’re super excited about it.”