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H-D LiveWire

H-D LiveWire

Charged up, amped out and delivers a jolt…

Just a few of the colorful words used to describe the Harley-Davidson LiveWire which has received so much free and fawning press coverage about the prototype electric motorcycle that you’d think they invented electricity.

I get it.  The motor company builds good products, but does it really deserve wave after wave of gushing prose in every news article?  I blogged previously about the announcement HERE.

Let’s keep it real.  Is LiveWire any better than the other electric motorcycles on the market?  What are the rider advantages of LiveWire vs. other electric rides?  Are there drawbacks of an increasing reliance on electricity for transportation?  No one is reporting on anything other than regurgitating the marketing talking points.

Has the press failed to notice that there are many electric bikes already in use by riders and a growing number of police departments across the country?  From New York to Oregon, and around the world, including in Bogota, Colombia and Hong Kong.  The police versions of the “Empulse LE” by Brammo, Inc., based in Ashland, Ore., and the “DS” by Zero Motorcycles immediately come to mind.

But it gets worse.  The Harley-Davidson president, Matt Levatich tells the world during the LiveWire press tour that Harley’s are longer just for old guys…  Huh?

He must have been basking in a special Milwaukee sun-imitating light that failed to fend off seasonal affective disorder with that alluringly sales quote.

It happened at the Lower Manhattan Harley dealer during the recent LiveWire electric motorcycle test rides.  Mr. Levatich tells the press that Harley would not be forgetting its core customers who want old-fashioned motorcycles.  “We’re absolutely not abandoning any of that,” he stated.  “We’re going to continue to invest in the great traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles…

As a current core customer, I guess I’m one of the riders only interested in “old-fashioned” motorcycles?  Hey Harley, hashtag this…  #YoureDoingItWrong.

Wow, nothing like slighting the mature motorcycle rider base, the base that has been paying the company bills with a back-handed comment that is clearly all about reaching out to Gen-X’ers and Millennials.  There’s a thin line between appealing to Millennials and pandering.

Yeah, I get wanting to open new doors to people that are outside of the motorcycle sport and only know the brand for its t-shirts.  But, that “old-fashioned” reference is as if Harley has come to terms with an electric future, which excludes their current customers, so let’s spit out aging and old-fashioned insults at them.

If Harley-Davidson LiveWire is “only looking at rider feedback at the moment” then why all the publicity?  You might recall that prior to Project RUSHMORE rolling out on the touring bikes there wasn’t a peep until it launched.  The motor company has by design crafted a publicity stunt and worked at driving social media outreach.  It’s a marketing campaign pure and simple.  And thanks to Harley, Zero had their biggest single day of Internet traffic in the history of the company on the day Harley made its announcement, according to Scott Harden, VP of global marketing for Zero Motorcycles.

Shouldn’t Harley-Davidson be talking to the “right” riders?  And H.O.G. grey-beards aren’t exactly the wrong people to be getting input from, but relying on this user base for feedback on this new GenX or “Millennial” motorcycle is unlikely the most salient feedback from the “right” people.  Shouldn’t they look for those Portlandia-esque grown men on BMX bikes who are ‘riding’ to weekend pubcrawls and who make their living in a variety of ways — some legally and others by any means within their particular skill set?

The fact is that future customers could be from newly wealthy Chinese looking for style, city-dwelling Millennials who need utility and affordability or retirees who want a trike that doesn’t embarrass them.

Whether electrics take off is anyone’s guess and your welcome to label me a gas station-centric oldster.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Project LiveWire - Electric Motorcycle By H-D

Project LiveWire – Electric Motorcycle By H-D

It was a popular movie in 1976 based on the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson.

The movie depicts a dystopic ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who “run” from society’s lethal demand.

The loose analogy is that Harley-Davidson sees a future society in which fossil fuel motorcycles will be eliminated by society’s demand and the Harley-Davidson “Sandman” is charged with enforcing the rule.   Killing off fossil fuel motorcycles!

Farfetched?  Well, the motor company rolled out and announced it has developed its first electric motorcycle (video HERE).

Called “Project LiveWire,” it’s a rolling test bed not for technology, but to gauge customer reaction.  According to Harley-Davidson, the LiveWire’s AC Induction motor makes 74bhp and 52lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to give it a 0-60 time of less than four seconds, but a disappointing 92mph top speed. Even less encouraging is the range, which stands at just 53 miles.  No other specs are available at this time.

To be clear, the bike isn’t for sale, it’s not in production and executives stated there is no current plan to put it into production.  Yet the company is creating a lot of social media buzz and starting to promote it nationally.

It’s a good looking motorcycle and takes a number of design cues from existing Electric motorcycle manufactures (Evolve; Zero; Lightning; Mission).

In the movie they had never seen an old person before and were quite fascinated by him.  Could it be we’ll think the same of fossil fuel Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the not too distant future?

Is that blinking red light on your dash the lifeclock of your fossil fuel motorcycle?

UPDATE: June 20, 2014 – A fan of the book and movie I was thrilled to receive a ping back on this blog post from none other than the author of Logan’s Run,  Mr. Nolan.  I didn’t know he lived here in the Northwest (Vancouver, WA) and found this terrific profile from the Columbian paper.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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