The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much).
The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed.
All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future.
Smaller Street Bikes
The bike at the top of this story makes an obvious play to Harley-Davidson’s flat track racing history, and it envisions a motorcycle that I have long-thought Milwaukee should make: a street tracker.
An electric street tracker ups the ante, and it is notable that the design uses an easily recognized electric drive system from Alta Motors.
Harley-Davidson recently invested in this electric motorcycle brand, and the San Francisco startup is said to be working to help bring electric motorcycles to market for Harley.
Alta Motors has its own electric street track concept, the Alta Redshift ST, and it is of note that Harley-Davidson is riffing that same idea. Maybe that concept from Alta was really just a backdoor pitch to the orange and black crowd? We may never know.
The real value of this electric street tracker though is its size and weight. Surely to be sub-300 pounds, it would be a perfect city bike or hooligan machine from the Harley-Davidson brand, and a radical departure from a lineup that often towers over twice that rolling mass.
A bicycle might not sound very Harley-Davidson, though it is exactly where the company gets its origins. Like many of the early brands, Harley-Davidson started its business by wedging motors onto early bicycle frames. Bicycles became motorcycles, and the rest is history.
Bicycle sales are booming right now though, especially in Europe, and it is pedal-assist e-bikes that are driving that trend.
All transportation companies are focused on this “last mile” approach to transportation – the vehicles we use for short trips, or as supplements to public transit.
E-bikes have nailed the sweet spot of being affordable, powerful, and easy to manage, and the market is responding. Where are motorcycle sales going? E-bikes is likely the answer.
Yamaha is already an early adopter in this space, along with a bevy of established bicycle brands. Seeing Harley-Davidson move here makes sense, especially when you consider an e-bike as part of larger electric plan.
Something in the Middle
Here is where the magic happens. In-between a small street bike and a pedal-assist e-bike is this nebulous powered-bicycle space. It rides like a normal motorcycle, with footpegs and a throttle, but power is limited, as is size and weight.
This in-between class is where the motorcycle industry hopes to make new motorcyclists, and in many jurisdictions the licensing will be similar to a moped – which means that there is no license required.
We have already seen indications from KTM and MV Agusta about their plans to enter this space (technically, MV Agusta is entering via the Cagiva brand), so it doesn’t surprise that Harley-Davidson is following suit.
This is the Harley-Davidson model that could disrupt the US motorcycle industry the most. Take note. Ready yourselves. It will be here by 2022, if not sooner.
Don’t Call It a Scooter
Of course, an electric scooter is low-hanging fruit for any brand looking to do electric. The vehicle expectations and usage easily match where the EV technology is in terms of speed and range. BMW and Honda are already in this space, and we can expect others to follow.
This design reminds me a lot of Brammo’s anti-scooter, which was supposed to be an electric scooter that would rival the Honda Ruckus. Practical, ugly, and electric, this concept here by Harley-Davidson fits the bill on all three accounts. Note the under-seat luggage area.
And of Course, Livewire
The Harley-Davidson Livewire will sit at the top of the Bar & Shield brand’s electric lineup. Looking down the range though, there is a pathway all the way to the top, starting with a bicycle and ending with a powerful Harley-Davidson cruiser.
This is the pathway that the Harley-Davidson brand has long lacked. America’s motorcycle company finally has a plan in place on how it is going to take a new non-rider and turn them into a full-fledged motorcyclist, and surprisingly it is all being done on an electric platform.
This fits into Harley-Davidson’s larger goal of building more new riders into the industry, and capturing more marketshare here in the USA, and abroad.
I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.