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Electric motorcycles are the future: 'American Chopper' star

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·4 mins read

Harley Davidson’s first electric motorcycle dubbed the Livewire is viewed by many in the motorcycle industry as a dud.

But that doesn’t mean electric motorcycles are consigned to being dead on arrival simply because the industry Goliath fell flat on its face. In fact, with so much focus on how to prevent climate change — and considering advancements in battery technology — it’s likely electric motorcycles begin to flood the market over the next decade.

“It has a lot of great benefits. The biggest thing with that is technology has now caught up to the idea which is great. So these things go further and faster and they work better and don’t break down. Even some of the cheaper bikes out there are holding up and doing what they are supposed to do which is get you basically from point A to point B without leaving you stranded. And the emissions, there are none,” explained “American Chopper” star and CEO of Paul Jr Designs Paul Teutul Jr. on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Harley’s Livewire debuted in October 2019 after at least five years in development under former CEO Matthew Levatich. It was a key part of Harley’s plan to release 100 new “high impact” bikes by 2027 in an effort to attract new riders — several of the bikes were electric and smaller, targeting urban millennials. The folks at Harley were also keen on fending off surging upstart electric bike maker Zero Motorcycles.

Livewire boasted impressive specs out of the gate as Harley tried to set the bar for the industry, including 105 horsepower, but also a hefty price tag of nearly $30,000 and limited range. Both of those negatives hampered early demand for the product. Consumers didn’t have much time to order the bike, however. Harley quickly halted production and delivery of the Livewire citing an undisclosed build issue.

The bike has since returned to being available at roughly $30,000. Harley told Yahoo Finance it remains committed to the Livewire.

To be sure, Teutul’s comments may come as a surprise to the cycling faithful.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 23:  Grand Marshal Paul Teutul, Jr. prior to giving the command to the drivers to start their engines for the 21st running of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series TruNorth Global 250 race on March 23, 2019 at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA.  (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 23: Grand Marshal Paul Teutul, Jr. prior to giving the command to the drivers to start their engines for the 21st running of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series TruNorth Global 250 race on March 23, 2019 at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For years, Teutul and his father Paul Sr. have made exquisite, loud, gas-powered custom bikes that have changed the game. But now operating his own shop for the past decade and viewed as a progressive thinker on bike design, Teutul Jr. acknowledges electric bikes will likely be a bigger part of the industry’s future.

“For me, I am a designer more than anything. So I love the idea of putting an electric power-plant in there. At the same time, you’re never going to fully replace gas as far as these big twin motors and the sound that they provide and the feeling of that motor vibrating. Harley has such a distinct sound and such a distinct feel, I could see why it would be a little difficult for them to break into a market that removes half of what people are buying their bikes for. Now some of the other bikes out on the market are already quiet bikes where people are not looking for that sound necessarily, they are just looking for maybe a cleaner way to get around. I think it’s the future, and I think it’s coming on strong. I think maybe eventually we won’t be using gasoline anymore,” Teutul added.

Struggling Harley — now seeing costs slashed under new CEO Jochen Zeitz amid weak sales —should consider bringing Teutul Jr. on as a board advisor. Surely if Shaquille O’Neal could help revive Papa John’s as a board member (and he has), certainly Teutul Jr. could give Harley some needed insight on how to position for the future...an electric-powered future, no less.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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