Here at MO, we like to think of ourselves as early adopters of electric propulsion for motorcycles. We’ve published several road tests of e-bikes, even as far back as 1998 with the EMB Lectra Electric Motorcycle. Admittedly, that bike was more a toy than motorcycle, but even then, we understood it was a glimpse into the future. Fast forward 16 years to our most recent e-bike test, where we pit a Zero FX against a Suzuki DR-Z400SM and the e-bike actually beats its gasoline-powered counterpart. Talk about progress.
Electric motorcycles have come a long way, and while there are many sympathizers (evangelists?) for the cause, still, the general reaction we get from these stories (judging by the comments you, our readers, leave) is one of negativity, denial, and, well, sometimes downright hatred.
However, I noticed a funny thing when we published the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire scoop, Dennis Chung and I collaborated on. Generally speaking, the response to The Motor Company embracing the future and adopting electrics has been surprisingly positive. Some of the responses I’ve seen are of people who might have been on the fence about electrics, or even motorcycling in general, who appear to have latched on to the Livewire as their entryway into ditching gas or getting on two wheels in the first place. Finally, a major manufacturer has designed a motorcycle that looks futuristic and sharp, and it just happens to run on batteries instead of dead dinosaurs. The Livewire appeals to a whole new group of riders, a group unlikely to have considered the brand in the past.
This was exactly the plan. The biggest group of detractors, naysayers, and overall haters of Project Livewire – as far as I could tell from social media – have been diehard gas-powered enthusiasts and H-D traditionalists, all of whom love the rumble of a V-Twin engine. Thing is, Harley’s core products aren’t going anywhere. What is going somewhere is Harley’s core customer base. You know where they’re going? Closer towards the grave. Father time hasn’t lost a battle yet, and every motorcycle manufacturer is well aware it needs to attract the younger generation if it plans to stay alive – now even more so than ever, in this internet, social media, video game, and otherwise electronically-connected world we live in.
Electric motorcycles have their limitations – range, charge time and price chief among them – which seem to be the main thing keeping potential buyers at bay. All are understandable concerns, but who better to solve these issues than Harley-Davidson? With the kind of resources available to them, the potential for dramatically increased range without spending too much time plugged in is there.
Ultimately, if Livewire succeeds, other OEMs will be forced to jump in the race, accelerating e-bike advancement at a rate unheard of in the internal combustion age, thereby driving down cost. The beauty of this is that, no matter the potential success of e-bikes, our beloved gas bikes aren’t going anywhere. At least not for the foreseeable future. This could create an amazing amount of diversity in the market, which ultimately means more motorcycles on the roads. That’s a win, if you ask me.