Born to be mild: Harley Davidson unveils its environmentally friendly bike of the future... but critics say it's quieter than a lawnmower

 

  • The Wisconsin-based company has unveiled it first electric bike
  • Harley fans are cynical about the low-noise, low-pollution hog
  • It is seen as a bold move, as the company is known for its big touring bikes
  • But they are now hoping to become a leader in developing electric vehicles
  • LiveWire bike can go 0-60mph in 4 seconds and has a range of 50 miles
  • Engineers are hoping the bike will be able to travel 100 miles before it needs recharging 
  • The electric bike is supposedly quieter than a lawnmower 

 

The iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has said it is dedicated to having electric powered motorbikes on the road within the next five years.

The company had been touting its LiveWire e-powered concept bike for years, but only within the last couple weeks has the firm committed to a timeline on production of the pioneering vehicle. 

'Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customers within the next five years,' writes Harley Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings in the Milwaukee Business Journal. 

 

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Harley Davidson's first ever electric motorcycle "Project LiveWire" will hit the road by 2021

Harley Davidson's first ever electric motorcycle 'Project LiveWire' will hit the road by 2021

This is a prototype of the Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle called the 'Live Wire' on display at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California in 2015

This is a prototype of the Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle called the 'Live Wire' on display at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California in 2015

The five-year timeline is a sensible one as it general takes five years for new bikes to go through design and engineering stages, to being fully roadworthy. 

Until June, many believed the electric motorcycle idea would simply remain nothing more than a publicity stunt, but now the company says it should have electric wheels on America's roads by 2021.

The company is working to increase the bike's current range between battery recharges from its current point of 50 miles to at least 100 miles.

The aluminum-bodied prototypes emit a low-pitched whine, quieter than a typical lawn mower, rather than the traditional Harley rumble. 

The streets of 2021 could  be filled with the quiet, gentle hum of plug-in cars and buses ferrying people to and fro, the industrious hum interrupted only by the occasional Harley-Davidson

The streets of 2021 will be filled with the quiet, gentle hum of plug-in cars and buses ferrying people to and fro, the industrious hum interrupted only by the occasional Harley-Davidson

 

 

 
Electron heads: Bikers ride Project LiveWire motorcycles, the first electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle, across the Manhattan Bridge in New York City in 2014

Electron heads: Bikers ride Project LiveWire motorcycles, the first electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle, across the Manhattan Bridge in New York City in 2014

 

 
Not so fast: Riders ride across the bridge with their electric-powered hogs, which can reach 92mph

Not so fast: Riders ride across the bridge with their electric-powered hogs, which can reach 92mph

 

 

Sporting a 74 hp electric motor generating 52 lb-ft of torque, the bike tops out around 92 mph, has a range of 53 miles, and its lithium-ion battery pack can be recharged in 3.5 hours. 

The bikes are a big part of the company's effort to engage young adults and reduce reliance on aging baby boomers. 

The three dozen LiveWire prototypes produced by Harley, and tested by 6,800 people at dealer events around the U.S., have a range of roughly 50 miles between battery recharges, depending on driving speed and conditions.

Harley and others say they believe electric motorcycles will appeal to young, urban adults concerned about pollution from gasoline-powered versions and eager for a lightweight machine that can thread through traffic.  

 

What will the Angels say? The e-Harleys don't so much roar as purr, which fans say might put them off

What will the Angels say? The e-Harleys don't so much roar as purr, which fans say might put them off

 

 
Mark-Hans Richer, Harley Davidson's chief marketing officer, rides a Livewire motorcycle

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley Davidson's chief marketing officer, rides a Livewire motorcycle

 

 

After compiling data from the pilot project with about 40 Livewire prototypes, the company launched the development of its production version motorcycle, which should feature 'at least double the range' of the prototype. 

The signature sound of a Harley-Davidson's V-twin engine is so key to the motorcycle's appeal that the company actually tried to trademark its' bikes' exhaust note. So a move to a silent electric motor is a big, risky step for Harley,

At a launch event in New York City in 2014, riders took iconic motorcycle brand's experimental machine purring across the Manhattan Bridge and through the streets of the city centre.  

 

Looks the part: Mr Richer strikes a typical Harley pose outside the New York dealership

Looks the part: Mr Richer strikes a typical Harley pose outside the New York dealership

 

 
Mod cons: A close-up view of the Livewire's handlebars shows a computer console

Mod cons: A close-up view of the Livewire's handlebars shows a computer console

 

 

But across the country in Los Angeles, Harley fans complained that the quiet new electric models had dispensed with part of the brand's main and enduring appeal.

'When I ride a motorcycle, it's that engine vibration, the sound, the kind of visceral experience you get that you can't get with an electric motorcycle,' said a customer at Harley's dealership in LA's Canoga Park suburb.

'If I'm going to buy an electric motorcycle, I might as well buy a scooter or something like that,' he told CNBC, which noted that many Harley buyers tune up their bikes to make them louder.

Like other electric vehicles, the engine on Harley Davidson's Livewire prototype is silent, although the meshing of gears reportedly makes a hum like a jet aeroplane taking off, quietly.

With its rather modest 74 horsepower and a top speed of 92 miles per hour, it's also not likely to appeal to the speed demon market - despite its claimed acceleration to 60mph in four seconds. 

Hogs of the future? Livewires are lined up outside the New York dealership, but don't expect to get your hands on one until 2021 at the earliest

Hogs of the future? Livewires are lined up outside the New York dealership, but don't expect to get your hands on one until 2021 at the earliest

 

 
 
Harley-Davidson unveiled it electric motorcycle in 2014
 
 
 
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Showpiece: A Livewire on display inside the Harley Davidson store in New York City

Showpiece: A Livewire on display inside the Harley Davidson store in New York City

 

 

 

 
Caged beast: A Livewire is theatrically lit on display at the Harley Davidson store in New York City

Caged beast: A Livewire is theatrically lit on display at the Harley Davidson store in New York City

 

 

 

 
Engine block: Gone is the iconic bulbous chrome petrol tank for which the Harley is so well known

Engine block: Gone is the iconic bulbous chrome petrol tank for which the Harley is so well known

 

 

 

Some see the venture as a risk for Harley because there's currently almost no market for full-size electric motorcycles.

The millions of two-wheeled electric vehicles sold each year are almost exclusively scooters and low-powered bikes that appeal to Chinese commuters.

In addition the company has little experience in such an emerging technology.

But one analyst said investment by a major manufacturer could help create demand, and Harley Davidson president Matt Levatich emphasized in an interview with The Associated Press that Harley is interested in the long-term potential, regardless of immediate demand.

'We think that the trends in both EV [Electric Vehicle] technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders,' Levatich said.

'So, nobody can predict right now how big that industry will be or how significant it will be.'

At the same time, Mr Levatich and others involved in creating the bike predicted it would sell based on performance, not environmental awareness.  

 
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Harley-Davidson has unveiled its new electric motorcycle at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Harley-Davidson has unveiled its new electric motorcycle at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

With no need to shift gears, the bike can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometres) per hour in about four seconds.

The engine is silent, but the meshing of gears apparently emits a hum like a jet airplane taking off.

'Some people may get on it thinking, 'golf cart,'' lead engineer Jeff Richlen said.

'And they get off thinking, 'rocket ship.''

 

 
Take a first glimpse at Harley Davidson's new ELECTRIC bike
 
 
 
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Employee Ben Lund demonstrates Harley's new electric motorcycle at Harley's research facility in Wisconsin

Employee Ben Lund demonstrates Harley's new electric motorcycle at Harley's research facility in Wisconsin

 
e-asy riders: Bikers ride their Harleys as they attend the Hamburg Harley Days parade (file pic)

e-asy riders: Bikers ride their Harleys as they attend the Hamburg Harley Days parade (file pic)

This photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle. With no need to shift gears, the bike can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometres) per hour in about 4 seconds

This photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle. With no need to shift gears, the bike can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometres) per hour in about 4 seconds

 
The engine is silent, but the meshing of gears emits a hum like a jet airplane taking off 

The engine is silent, but the meshing of gears emits a hum like a jet airplane taking off 

 
A lightweight aluminium frame surrounds the battery to keep the weight of the bike down and enable it to reach high speeds and have a decent range before needing to be charged

A lightweight aluminium frame surrounds the battery to keep the weight of the bike down and enable it to reach high speeds and have a decent range before needing to be charged

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HARLEY-DAVIDSON

Harley-Davidson Motor Company is the largest manufacturer of heavyweight motorcycles in the world.

William S. Harley and William A. Davidson founded Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903.

The first documented appearance of a Harley was in a Milwaukee motorcycle race at State Fair Park in 1904 (pictured right).

 

 

 

 
Old Harley bike pictured in 1904

 

A year later, Carl H. Land of Chicago, the first Harley dealer, sold three bikes out of the initial line and by 1907 production had increased to 150 motorcycles.

During this time, the firm also sold motorcycles to police departments and ramped production to 450 motorcycles by 1908.

During World War I, Harley provided 15,000 motorcycles to the U.S. marking the first time that the motorcycle had been adopted for combat service.

By 1920, Harley was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world with more than 28,000 motorcycles sold in 67 countries that year.

From 1929 to 1933, sales of Harleys fell from 21,000 to 3,700, but this was reversed when more than 90,000 motorcycles were produced for the U.S and Allied Nations during World War II.

The brand's reputation was damaged in 1952 when Harley was charged with restrictive practices after requesting the U.S Tariff Commission place a 40 per cent tax on imported motorcycles.

From the 1950's to the 1970's Harleys were featured in Hollywood films as motorcycles ridden by biker gangs and featured in 1969 bike classic Easy Rider (pictured below)

 
American actor Peter Fonda with actor, director and screenwriter Dennis Hopper on the set of his movie Easy Rider in 1969

 

Harley later became synonymous with the Hells Angels biker gang, too.

American Machinery and Foundry bought Harley-Davidson in 1969, but Harleys became more expensive but of poorer quality.

 
 

 

Sales dropped so significantly that the company almost went bankrupt, but in 1981, American Machinery and Foundry sold Harley-Davidson to a group of thirteen investors for £47 million ($80 million).

In 1983, Harley established the Harley Owners Group (HOG), a nickname that has been given to Harleys from the 1920s, when a team of farm boys used an actual pig as their mascot during motorcycle races.

In 2000, Ford began making a Harley-Davidson edition of its popular F-150 pickup truck.

In 2008, the Harley-Davidson Museum opened in the Menomonee River Valley.

According to Interbrand, the value of the Harley-Davidson brand decreased by 43 per cent in 2009, linked to a significant drop in the company's profits over the previous two quarters.

Except for the modern VRSC and Street model families, current Harley-Davidson motorcycles have stayed true to the classic Harley designs.

This is why the move to an electric model signifies a shift away from its heritage.

Harley-Davidson's attempts to establish itself in the light motorcycle market haven't been as successful and have largely been abandoned since the 1978 sale of its Italian Aermacchi subsidiary, the company re-entered the middleweight market in 2014 with its Street series of motorcycles.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3682901/Born-mild-Harley-Davidson-plans-sell-electric-motorcycles-FIVE-years-fans-claim-environmentally-friendly-Hog-quiet.html#ixzz4EDUn6GYi 
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