Harley-Davidson is one of the most iconic American brands: few things are quite as distinctive as the throb of a Harley pulling up to a bar, and the thrum of horsepower under the seat. That’s why the latest innovation from 110-year-old company is so controversial, because both of those experiences disappear when your motorcycle is electric. That’s right: your next biker gang might whisper by on electric engines. Everything about this bike is not your typical Harley, but the company views it as the wave of the future.
It’s not surprising to see Harley-Davidson investing in the development of electric engines. The company has long been an innovator in motorcycle design, and this entirely re-worked motorcycle is just the latest iteration of the company’s forward-thinking culture and design aesthetic. Harley is normally in tune with the sensibilities of its customers, but what about this time?
Not everyone is convinced. Some riders want the sensation and sound of a traditional gas engine, while others have raised safety concerns. Motorcyclists are already at increased risk of accidents because drivers often don’t notice them, or don’t pay attention to them on the road. A silent bike would be even easier to miss, which could become a serious hazard. Bikers may also want to push their bikes faster and further than they’re capable of going on a single charge, as one of the best parts of owning a motorcycle is the road trip.
However, Harley’s demographics are changing. While the brand has a loyal following among middle-aged and older men, it’s also capturing a significant percentage of the market share among young adults of all genders. This motorcycle — ecycle, really, but that doesn’t have the same ring — is designed to appeal to this demographic, creating a whole new generation of consumers who will fall in love with Harley and associate it with some of the best times in their lives. The decision signals what may be a wise move for the brand, which has been struggling to keep up with changing sensibilities in the younger generation.
Project LiveWire, as its called, will be winding its way down Route 66 (of course), touring 30 Harley dealerships across the country. Guests will be invited to test drive the prototype, with engineers, public relations and designers collecting feedback to determine how people feel about Harley’s new look — and sound.
Want to see the hog for yourself? You can see if it’s coming to a dealership near you. Even if you don’t have an invitation for a demonstration ride, you can get a good look, and try out a simulated experience. It might just totally change the way you think about motorcycles.
If you’re not a rider yet, consider the ecological advantages of a motorcycle, even a traditional one, over a car! Should you decide to take the plunge, we recommend taking one of the motorcycle safety courses offered by local law enforcement or motorcycle clubs before you apply for your license, so you’ll be prepared for the open road.
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn.