Harley-Davidson has introduced its first electric motorcycle, a sleek, futuristic bike that sounds like a jet airplane taking off and can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds.
The bike isn't in production yet. Instead, the public will get its first look at handmade demonstration models at an invitation-only event Monday in New York. The company will then take the models on the road for riders to try and provide feedback. Harley will use the information to refine the bike, which might not hit the market for several more years.
The venture is 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. But those focused on electric vehicle development say Harley has the marketing power to create demand, and its efforts to lower costs, build charging stations and improve technology will help everyone involved.
"It does validate what we've been doing; it adds additional credibility to it. It is certainly going to draw more people's attention to electric motorcycles. The marketing horsepower of Harley-Davidson is going to be able to do things for us that we can't do on our own," said Scot Harden, vice president of global marketing at Zero Motorcycles, the top seller of full-size, high-powered electric bikes.
Zero expects to sell 2,400 electric motorcycles this year, a drop in the bucket compared with the more than 260,000 conventional motorcycles sold last year by Harley.
The new LiveWire won't make Harley's distinctive "potato-potato-potato" chug. Its engine is silent, and the turbine-like hum comes from the meshing of gears. Electric motors also eliminate the need to shift gears and provide rapid acceleration and better handling. LiveWire's design places the engine at the bottom of the bike.
Reporting by M.L. Johnson, Associated Press.