Harley-Davidson’s flagship electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, isn’t going to magically reverse Harley-Davidson’s slumping sales. It can’t singlehandedly save the company.
And it was never meant to.
But you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise after nearly every motorcycle publication ran a story this week claiming the LiveWire electric motorcycle was a failure and that it spelled the end for Harley-Davidson.
They all seem to be piggybacking on a recent Reuters report that claimed most pre-orders for the LiveWire were coming in from existing Harley-Davidson customers and older riders. And every moto-blogger looking to cash in on a few clicks took the bait and followed up with a cookie-cutter story about how it was a sign of the end if H-D wasn’t wooing millennial riders with its shiny new electric motorcycle.
Yet it seems everyone missed a couple of very important points.
First of all, the LiveWire was never meant to sell in high numbers, and especially not to young riders. It’s a premium electric motorcycle priced at $30k. There aren’t a lot of people that can afford a bike like that, especially not in the younger rider demographic that is critical to Harley-Davidson’s long term success. Rather, the bike was built to serve as a halo product – one that could demonstrate H-D’s ability to build electric vehicles.
And after test riding the LiveWire earlier this year on the Brooklyn Formula E race track, I can attest to what a great bike it is. You can check out my test ride video below, but the summary was something like “It’s an amazing bike, yet one that I’ll never be able to afford.”
And that’s ok because it leads directly to point number two: Harley-Davidson’s future, which depends on its ability to appeal to younger riders, rests not on the LiveWire but on a whole suite of lower cost, lighter electric motorcycles that Harley is already hard at work on.
As part of its new “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” plan, the company unveiled a total of five different electric motorbike concepts. According to the company, each was intended to reach the market by 2022 at the latest.
Among the new EV designs were a mid-weight electric motorcycle, an electric dirt bike, an electric moped/scooter, and an electric bicycle. The company specifically stated that these models were designed to offer lower price points and that some could even offer street-legal riding without a motorcycle license — a big appeal to younger riders.
And ladies and gentlemen, these will be these electric motorbikes that will decide whether Harley-Davidson will be successful in its attempt to win over younger riders. Not the premium, expensive LiveWire, as much fun as it may be.
And these millennial-friendly bikes aren’t just sketches, either. The company has since further fleshed out many of these concepts with some impressing looking offerings, electric or otherwise.
We’ve seen the Harley-Davidson electric scooter in the flesh multiple times and in multiple stages of development. While the first few renditions were admittedly pretty prototype-y, the H-D electric scooter is really starting to come into its own, design-wise.
There’s no saying what it will cost, but it follows a design style similar to minibikes from the ’80s, just like a recent trend in the electric bike industry. Electric mopeds like the similarly-styled Juiced Scorpion cost around $2,500. Harley’s bike will surely have more power and nicer components that will bump up the price, but we’re still talking about something much more agreeable to the wallets of riders in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking to get on a lightweight electric motorbike.
And then we saw Harley-Davidson show off its lightweight electric off-road bike that looks like more fun than a standard e-bike and more manageable (and maintainable) than a conventional dirt bike.
We even got to see a prototype of the bike in action during the Aspen X-Games. And I have to admit, it definitely looks like a lot of fun.
What will it cost? Who knows! But certainly not $30,000. OSET sells something similar in its OSET 24.0 electric trials bike and that model costs just $4,399.
Will Harley’s cost more? Surely. But it’s still likely to be on the affordable end when it comes to off-road recreational electric vehicles.
And Harley is going for full-size electric motorcycles too, albeit in the mid-weight (and hopefully mid-price) category.
Not everyone needs a 105 hp electric motorcycle like the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Sure, Harley-Davidson is used to the standard strategy of “when in doubt, more power is the answer”, yet that power gets expensive, especially for electric vehicles.
But Harley’s upcoming mid-weight electric motorcycle looks like it will be packing a somewhat smaller motor while still retaining a sporty stance and presumably equally sporty performance. And without the big motor, giant battery and other fancy bells and whistles found on the LiveWire, this smaller e-bike could be a lot more affordable for us commoners.
And Harley isn’t even sticking to motorcycles either. Not only did the company originally show off a single electric bicycle design last year, but they recently unveiled at least three new e-bikes that could be coming out as soon as next year.
And Harley-Davidson isn’t even stopping at electric bicycles for adults either.
They want to get your kids hooked while they’re still young. Last year H-D bought up an electric balance bike company and is now selling some pretty awesome little electric Harleys for toddlers.
The electric balance bikes run on something similar to an electric drill battery and I have it on good authority from an H-D sales rep that they are strong enough to carry full-sized adults around the showroom floor after hours.
So what’s in Harley-Davidson’s electric future?
Now, of course, electric balance bikes aren’t going to save Harley-Davidson by themselves. Neither is the LiveWire; Reuters was right about that part, at least.
None of these alone is enough. But together they show what everyone seems to be missing. That the LiveWire wasn’t H-D’s electric hail Mary pass. It was an opening salvo in what is to be a barrage of electric motorbikes designed to be more affordable and approachable to younger riders.
Be honest with yourself. If you consider yourself a rider, did you at least see something here that seems interesting or sparked your curiosity for a test ride? How about that mid-weight electric motorcycle or that rockin’ electric moped? Chances are you aren’t alone — there’s some real interest in these vehicles among the younger demographic.
And before you call me an H-D apologist, forget it. If the company can’t deliver on its promises for these electric vehicles then I’ll write them off faster than the company’s stock price is currently plunging.
But I think there’s time left on the clock for Harley. They say they’ll give us all of these EVs by 2022, and some of them even sooner.
And if they can do it, then I think there’s a fighting chance that the company can actually win over the younger demographic they’ve been salivating for.
But what do you think? Could Harley-Davidson’s wide range of upcoming EVs hit its mark? Or am I seeing the world through rose-colored riding goggles? Let me know in the comments below!
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