Originally announced in 2014, five years later Harley Davidson has confirmed that they will be releasing the new LiveWire all-electric motorcycle.
Are the days of loud pipes save lives coming to an end? We think not, there are many reasons we are skeptical about this announcement from H-D is there are many questions left unanswered. We are gonna break down the good, the bad and the ugly of Harley's 2019 "LiveWire" motorcycle.
We can expect a lot of backlash from the original breed of Harley customers. But with all the haters there is a small pot of people who will support this motorcycle. And we can expect these early adopters to be young males, as we saw with companies like Tesla. Still, H-D cannot rely on the support of early adopters to make this electric cruiser a success in the market.
The LiveWire represents a completely new market for Harley-Davidson. The no-clutch “twist-and-go” bike is planned as the first in a new portfolio of electric bikes, with additional smaller, lighter models slated to debut through 2022.
What I foresee is an entire ecosystem developed by H-D to support these new EV-bikes. What this ecosystem will compose of is training their dealers to service and repair these bikes. Creating a culture around electric bikes that invites all kinds of riders (not saying Harley is going green). Creating new parts and accessories to support this bike.
Maybe even an electric division inside the flat track community could be a possibility. Riders with arthritis that will love the LiveWire for the fact that bike will probably have little to no motor vibrations. In urban areas riders that aren't putting over 50 miles a day will probably also consider this cruiser viable purchase.
The original LiveWire concept bike had an electric range of just 60 miles. That would put the new Harley electric motorcycle well below some other EV-motorcycles like the Zero DRS from Zero Motorcycles, which could be Harley Davidson’s largest competitor in the electric vehicle market.
According to Harley Davidson’s Chief Operating Officer Michelle Kumbier:
“We’re going big in EV with a family of products that will range in size, power, as well as price. When you look at EV you know this is a whole new customer base that we are bringing in.”
Harley Davidson also plans to cover the lightweight electric motorcycle market as well, offering three different EVs designed to cater to the same market currently dominated by electric scooters, mopeds, and higher-end electric bicycles.
These three vehicles include a utility scooter, something that looks more or less like a dirt bike, and perhaps most surprisingly for the bar-and-shield motorcycle company, an electric-assist bicycle.
The development of these five new EV platforms won’t be cheap for H-D, they plan to spend around $150-$180M on electric vehicle development through 2022, which will amount to around of one-third of their total operating investments. The bottom line is they are hoping will target a younger, more urban audience – a market with which the brand desperately needs to succeed.
The question on everyone's mind. Why is H-D going to be releasing something that is totally against everything they stand for? (what do they actually stand for anyway?). Why is H-D wasting time on this BS when really I just wanted them to come out with XYZ other product?
There are many answers to these why questions that will have to take in consideration. The most obvious thing that comes to mind is innovation and market share. H-D isn't a dumb company, even though some of us swear that they are playing dumb by not listening to their customer's feedback when it comes to the new products that they are releasing. (Yes Dyna boys I'm talking about all of you).
But they know what they are doing. They know that a lot of their customers from the last 50 years aren't gonna be buying a lot of these new motorcycles they are bringing to production. I don't think that's their main objective, customer loyalty is something that is part of H-D culture. They aren't worried about losing customers they are worried about not coming out with products that will attract new customers. This is what bikes like the Pan America and the LiveWire are all about. Plus for all their customers that want that old school v-twin, the market has a lot of these motorcycles still around, and they aren't going to go anywhere or stop manufacturing these bikes we all love. (I'm talking about the USA here, sorry Japan.)
The other thing we need to consider is innovation. The success of ALTA Motors and Zero Motorcycles is undeniable. If you are not familiar with Alta Motor Company they started in 2010 and today are the leading manufacturer of electric motocross bikes. They are making waves in the MX market with just a couple models under their arm. In a sport that has been exclusively dominated by gas-powered engines, Alta Motors proved its electric motorcycles could rival the bikes produced by OEM industry leaders. And today they are the leading OEM in the electric motorcycle market. Harley is the lead investor in ALTA Motors corporate funding round.
It's safe to assume H-D is betting high on their LiveWire to bring the exponential growth the company so desperately needs. Maybe they believe their take on electric motors will have a huge impact on the ever-growing flat-track racing community the same way that Alta Motors has had on the MX community. Just this year we started to see a higher interest in electric motors. The first electric motorcycle competed in this year's Summer X-Games. All thanks to Nate Adams and Alta Motors.
"Although Adams finished eighth in the finals, he sees a strong future for the Alta brand in the extreme sports space. “Two of my competitors said they are planning to buy Redshift MXRs in the near future due to having noise issues at their private practice facility. The word is spreading fast. And like I tell everyone that asks me, the Alta Motors bikes are here to stay. Get some!”
We can only imagine how H-D feels about their newest competition on the block isn't a Chinese or European OEM. And really it's a USA California based electric motor OEM.
It's probably easier to answer who isn't gonna buy this bike. Will the electric cruiser open the door for new motorcycle market consumers? We like to think so, but who are those consumers? Millennials, or generation Z, definitely not the baby boomers, maybe it's for a more international market. The LiveWire opens the door for newer, younger riders to enter the motorcycle market like never before. On a Harley... it's very rare to see a youngster on Harley. Probably cause most young cats see the price points of Japanese motorcycles as more accessible than even most used H-D motorcycles.
Also, let's be honest, a stock Harley that isn't dealer direct is not something most young people don't want to deal with. It wasn't until more recent years that more aftermarket parts have been available so servicing your old-school Harley seems like a good project to take on, but this is more of a baby boomer and generation X trend. The truth is we don't know who is gonna buy the electric cruiser, but we do know there is a market demand for a bike of this caliber.
The fact that Harley Davidson is going all-in on electric vehicles is quite encouraging, if not perhaps somewhat predictable. The company has known that the writing was on the wall for years now regarding their aging gas bike ridership, and CEO Matt Levatich has not been shy about admitting that the company plans to aggressively shift its mindset towards a new generation of younger, urban riders.
We really like the way that the guys from RevZilla talk about the future of Harley Davidson. Check it out!