The Real Story Behind Harley-Davidson’s Electric Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire
Four-weeks ago the Motor Company shocked the world (no pun intended) by announcing its exploratory foray into electrics.  Headlines like “Hell Freezes Over Harley-Davidson Shows New Electric Motorcycle” captured the sentiment of the day.  No one could have imagined the 111-year old Motor Company, creator and champion of arguably the most beloved internal combustion powered motorcycles in history, would ever build anything else.  For a few Harley riders, the news was downright sacrilege.  After all, an electric motorcycle could never look, feel, or sound like a “real” Harley-Davidson…right? Unfortunately, in the midst of the buzz surrounding the announcement, the real story behind Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle was lost.

The world we live in today is vastly different from the world we lived in 10 years ago… or even five years ago.  Social norms are not the same.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, even the things people deeply value have changed.  To remain successful, companies and individuals must adapt.  If they don’t, they face extinction.  The Motor Company’s history, rich in tradition, makes their announcement even more heartening because it shows a true willingness to adapt.  At the end of the day, Harley-Davidson’s continued success relies on its ability to stay true to its heritage while building a bridge to the future.  Project LiveWire does just that…and therein lies the real story.

Range (miles)
Top Speed (mph)
Price $
 Quick Comparison of Current e-Motorcycle Specifications

No doubt, the Motor Company has a few hurdles to jump in terms of user acceptance and overall range but their efforts to build customer interest and acceptance with the Project LiveWire ExperienceTour and their collaboration with Mission Motors are steps in the right direction. As a bona-fide Harley-Davidson enthusiast and rider, I’m hopeful that other Harley riders will recognize this as a giant leap towards the future and support the Motor Company’s efforts to bring this electric motorcycle to market. Although it might not be feasible to ride 1000-miles in 24 hours on a LiveWire (or any other electric motorcycle) today, urban-suburban commuting is entirely within reason.  Given the current specs for existing production electric motorcycles, one can almost bet that the Motor Company has some surprises up their sleeve when it comes time for production.

Navigant Research - Top 10 e-Motorcycle/e-Scooter Players Today
(Photo from zeromotorcyles.com)
Fellow moto-blogger, Chris Cope, wrote that Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle represents a seismic shift in motorcycling.  I couldn’t agree more.  According to Navigant Research, the market is in the early stages of development and its key players are relatively new manufacturers with limited distribution channels.  Harley-Davidson has the name recognition, capital, and worldwide distribution channels needed to electrify a market projected to grow by 30% a year (in North America and Europe) for the next decade. With LiveWire, Harley-Davidson is poised to become THE dominant player in the electric motorcycle market.  Seismic shift, indeed!

  1. http://www.npr.org/2014/06/28/326434594/harley-hopes-an-electric-hog-will-appeal-to-young-urban-riders
  2. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/cars/2014/06/29/harley-davidson-considers-electric-motorcycle/11730139/
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2014/06/19/hell-freezes-over-harley-davidson-shows-new-electric-motorcycle/
  4. http://www.theverge.com/2014/6/24/5837642/riding-project-livewire-harley-davidson-first-electric-motorcycle
  5. http://www.jsonline.com/business/harley-davidson-electric-motorcycle-prototype-to-be-launched-b99294676z1-263792061.html
  6. http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/06/19/harley-davidson-unveils-first-electric-motorcycle/
  7. http://www.wired.com/2014/06/harley-davidson-livewire/ 
  8. http://mashable.com/2014/06/19/harley-davidson-electric-motorcycle/
  9. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/19/an-electric-motorcycle-for-harley-davidson-new-model-sounds-like-a-jet-on-an-aircraft-carrier/ 
  10. http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/what-harley-davidsons-first-electric-motorcycle-means-1592983608
  11. http://green.autoblog.com/2014/05/22/annual-e-motorcycle-e-scooter-sales-will-reach-6-million-by-202/#continued
  12. http://www.navigantresearch.com/research/electric-motorcycles-and-scooters
  13. http://www.navigantresearch.com/research/pike-pulse-report-electric-motorcycles-and-scooters
  14. http://www.afr.com/p/technology/harley_davidson_project_livewire_K2g1sKZlMs0VrxvT1bM3pM


Saddle-Up and Put a Little Sunshine in Your Life

The world we live in can be a scary place.  Open a newspaper, skim a newsfeed, or watch television for more than a few minutes and you’re bombarded with stories of just how terrible things really are…crime and conflict are rampant, death and decay are everywhere, no one is safe from evil doers.  It seems for every positive headline or story there are a hundred that are negative.  It makes you wonder how anyone ever makes it out of bed.  It’s just sad.  Surely, there’s a way out of this proverbial darkness?

It ain't a pony but it'll make you smile
I believe the answer lies in a story I heard as a teenager about two boys participating in a scientific study.  One boy was put into a room of beautiful, brand new toys and the other into a room full of horse manure.  The boy in the room full of toys immediately burst into tears, while the boy in the room full of manure jumped up and down excitedly and begged for a shovel.  When the researcher asked why he was crying, the boy in the room full of toys replied, “I know as soon as I touch something it’ll break and I’ll get in trouble.”  When the researcher ask the boy in the room full of manure why he wanted a shovel, the boy grinned from ear-to-ear and said, “With this much manure, there’s bound to be a pony in here somewhere and I’m going to find it!”

So, how do we carry on when the world around us is going to hell in a hand-basket?  The second boy had the answer.  We need to pull out our shovels and start shoveling.  We might not be able to control much but we can control our attitude and outlook.  We can choose to look for the pony.  I think most motorcycle riders do this instinctively.  As riders, we don’t dwell on the risks and dangers of riding. If we did, we’d likely be paralyzed by fear.  Instead, we focus on the positives…the overwhelming sense of freedom and sheer exhilaration we experience when tearing up the twisties or eating up the miles on a deserted stretch of highway.   We need to nurture this instinct and apply it to all aspects of our life.

Need an attitude adjustment?  Ride
Fortunately, we have an excellent tool to help us…our motorcycles.  Every time we roll back on the throttle we shovel away the darkness and negativity that surrounds us and we let a little sunshine in. When I’ve had a bad day, feel down, angry, or otherwise need an attitude adjustment I know I can saddle-up and ride.  Within minutes, my whole outlook has improved and all is good. Riding a motorcycle is excellent therapy.  It provides a new and brighter lens from which to view the world and gives us a fresh perspective on life.  It helps us find the pony buried in a room full of manure.

Will you look for the pony?  I sincerely hope that you LiveFree, Ride Hard, Be Happy and shovel, shovel, shovel.


Love'em or Hate'em Harley-Davidson Has Earned A Little Loyalty

Love’em or hate’em the Harley-Davidson Motor Company is the indisputable King of building lasting relationships with its customers.  As a Harley owner, I’m impressed with the Motor Company’s efforts to create a bond between the company and those of us who buy their motorcycles.  I’ll be the first to admit their primary motivation for creating this bond is to sell more product…but I don’t care.  It’s great that Harley-Davidson values our business enough to create and promote an environment where people from all walks of life can come together to share the freedom and passion of riding.  I don’t know of any other motorcycle company that even tries to do that.

Shade Tree Saloon
This past weekend I attended a customer appreciation event sponsored by my local dealer, Gruene Harley-Davidson. The dealership organized a ride to the Shade Tree Saloon & Grill, a local watering hole, in Spring Branch, Texas and bought everyone’s lunch.  There were 200+ people and 150+ bikes that participated.   As I moved through the crowd, I was amazed at how easily the conversation flowed.  No one cared whether you were blue-collar, white-collar, or no-collar.  What was important was that you enjoyed riding.   There was an unspoken sense of family.   It was a great event!

Besides giving away free food and drink, which can be found on almost any weekend at many Harley dealerships around the country, the Motor Company also promotes the Harley Owners Group (HOG) as a way to bring like-minded individuals together.  Whether you’re a new rider or one that’s ridden your entire life, HOG is a great way to meet folks who just want to ride and have fun.  HOG has been around for 31 years and boasts over 1,400 chapters with more than one-million members worldwide. Now, that’s a lot of motorcycle love.   If you own a Harley-Davidson, you should check out your local HOG Chapter (most Harley dealerships sponsor a chapter). As a member of the Gruene HOG Chapter, I’ve participated in countless group rides, eaten some great food, seen some terrific places, helped raise money for charity, and met some really cool people.

My involvement with HOG has been very positive.  While I enjoy riding by myself, riding with other Chapter members adds a new dynamic to the whole experience.  There’s something almost magical about riding in a crisp staggered formation with people you’ve grown to trust…and it’s nice knowing you’re not alone when you have trouble along the road.  Had the Harley-Davidson Motor Company not pushed and promoted HOG, I certainly would have missed some great times and may have never fully understood the camaraderie shared by those who ride.  That’s worth something.
Just a few of the many Bikes at Shade Tree

I know there are other motorcycle manufacturers out there and I’m not such a Harley disciple that I would never consider another brand. But…wait for it…I’ll always look at Harleys first because the Motor Company has earned a little loyalty.  As I stated in the beginning, I know of no other motorcycle manufacturer that invests as much in their customers as Harley-Davidson.  Maybe that’s what makes them an American icon.

I’d like to know if my experience is unique, so please share your experiences with me.  And if I’ve missed something in terms of other motorcycle manufacturers and how they treat their customers, by all means, please share your story because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you ride.  It only matters that you ride.