While Tesla is working to get electric cars widely accepted, could Harley-Davidson do the same for electric motorcycles?
On Monday, Harley-Davidson sets off on a 30-city U.S. tour to show off its concept electric motorcycle and get feedback from customers. The tour — with stops at Harley dealerships across the country — continues until the end of this year, and next year travels through Canada and Europe.
Called "Project LiveWire," Harley described the motorcycle as akin to the first electric guitar, rather than an electric car. "It's an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric; it's a bold statement for us as a company and a brand," explained Mark-Hans Richer, senior VP and chief marketing officer.
Harley said the bike "offers a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable sound that's a distinct part of the thrill. Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. It's designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market."
The motorcycle accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in just four seconds and can reach speeds of 92 mph, with an all-electric range of 130 miles.
Because all their products are designed based on what customers say matter to them most, it will be interesting to hear their reactions to a super-quiet electric motorcycle.
Harley has the market muscle to gain widespread interest in electric motorcycles and it wants to be a leader as part of its sustainability mission — in developing standards, charging infrastructure and the technology. They say they are less interested in short term sales than building long-term demand.
As part of the "fiscal cliff" deal by the U.S. Congress, there's a federal tax credit for people that buy electric motorcycles. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) got the credit extended to help the emerging electric motorcycle industry, which could create 16,000 jobs over five years.
A few companies make electric motorcycles right now: Brammo, which is in some 80 dealers, Arcimoto and Zero Motorcycles. The market for electric bicycles is strong and growing worldwide, especially in China where most are sold.