According to Polaris CEO Scott Wine, the company may be returning to the electric motorcycle space.
And the new Polaris/Zero Motorcycles partnership announced earlier this week would be the way they do it.
The exclusive partnership between Zero Motorcycles and Polaris would see the latter draw on the former’s electric drivetrain expertise. The stated goal is to produce a series of off-road electric vehicles as well as electric snowmobiles, all under the Polaris brand umbrella.
Polaris anticipates the release of its first electric off-road vehicle produced from the new partnership by the end of next year. Ultimately, Polaris expects to have a new EV in each of its product categories by 2025.
An electric motorcycle wasn’t mentioned in the announcement initially, but now, Polaris CEO Scott Wine seems ready to entertain the idea.
As Wine explained in an interview with Yahoo Finance:
“Zero has proven that they know how to do this. They’ve had the best-selling electric motorcycles in the world. And certainly, we’ve had discussions about motorcycles. But we see such an opportunity right now in off-road vehicles and snow. We said let’s put that aside for a while.”
While Wine confirmed that the partnership would begin with electric off-road vehicles, he continued with a discussion of Polaris’ analysis of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle, which had its commercial release late last year but then ran into a hiccup with production.
Harley-Davidson briefly paused production of all LiveWire electric motorcycles before resuming after determining the issue had been solved.
Polaris owns Indian Motorcycles, which recently trademarked the name eFTR for an electric motorcycle.
However, their first electric model (seen below) turned out to be a pint-sized offering for children.
Discussing the Harley-Davidson LiveWire with Yahoo Finance, Wine further elaborated on Polaris’ potential to enter the market:
“But we just went through our long-range planning. And I can tell you that certainly, there was a good bit of dialogue about what electrification looks like in Indian. And then we’re thrilled that if that time comes that we’ve got the perfect partner to do it the right way.
What our friends in Milwaukee [Harley-Davidson’s headquarters] experienced is really the reason that we’ve stayed away from electric, because we didn’t see the opportunity to get the cost down and the range up and the performance level where it needed to be. And getting that triangle right, Zero’s figured it out. And we’re excited to partner with them.”
But we still shouldn’t expect to see a LiveWire-worthy rival from Polaris or Indian any time soon.
Wine is adamant that the Zero/Polaris partnership will first focus on off-road vehicles. And part of the reason is the experience that Polaris already has in the electric motorcycle industry from their time owning the electric motorcycle company Brammo.
As Wine further explained about Polaris’ potential re-entry into the electric motorcycle industry:
“We’ve got some experience. We owned Brammo for a while, so we understand how difficult it is in electric motorcycles specifically. And that’s why part of the reason we’re impressed, because Zero’s really started to figure some of those things out and decrease that range anxiety as they give them a little bit more time on the road.
But part of the reason that we’re starting with our off-road vehicles is because the customer use patterns, whether it’s multi-acre homeowners or farmers and ranchers that are going to be going out for the day, they fit within the range that we’re going to be able provide with these first vehicles. So we’re really excited about where we are. Certainly, the infrastructure, as you’ve seen in automotive, will continue to expand. And that will create more opportunities for us in our on-road business. But right now, we think in off-road vehicles and snow, we’ve got a great opportunity to create some value for our customers and shareholders.”
Would Polaris building an electric motorcycle be interesting? Absolutely.
But I’m not sure how keen Zero would be to add another on-road electric motorcycle from a major brand to the mix. Plus, other companies have had their eye on competing with the LiveWire and have yet to come close to that goal.
While Zero produces dual sport electric motorcycles and supermotos like the Zero DSR and Zero FX, those models aren’t likely to compete for customers with most of Polaris’ upcoming electric ATVs, snowmobiles, and other off-road electric motorcycles.
But an electric Indian? As awesome as that would be, surely Zero sees how that could cut into their own sales.
However, if it was worth it to them financially, I could see an electric Indian posing some interesting competition for the Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
But keep in mind that the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is already an amazing electric motorcycle. Sure, much of the motorcycle media like to pan it, but the only real criticism seems to be the price tag. (The second most common criticism is the range, but tests have shown that it stacks up nicely against most Zero bikes in terms of range performance.)
Is it the LiveWire expensive? Sure.
But is it also a well-engineering motorcycle with incredible performance? Absolutely.
We’ve tested it against Zero’s top-of-the-line offerings before, and the bikes are surprisingly similar in terms of performance and range. The LiveWire costs more, but also offers higher quality, so it’s a bit of a toss-up in terms of who has the better bike.
But if Zero could help produce a more cruiser-style electric Indian that would directly compete with a LiveWire at a reduced cost, that could certainly shake up the electric motorcycle industry even further.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below!
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