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Posts Tagged ‘Electric Motorcycle’

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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Vectrix Electric Scooter - Police Edition

I’ve been in Las Vegas for the better part of January doing a work gig where 3DTV, Audio/Video equipment and musicians saturate the Consumer Electronic Show.  It’s the largest trade show in the world and is quite the rat race as people grind it out over days of endless announcements and product demonstrations.

It was all there.  From 50 Cent’s launch of his new branded “Sleek” headphones to Lady Gaga’s new high-tech sunglasses that double as a camera.  Even Harley-Davidson got in on the evangelization with a testimonial of Intel’s AIM Suite – a product that anonymously monitors viewer metrics such as age, gender, and attention span in a retail setting.  Ms. White of H-D Canada gave it a glowing report.

While running around with the other 140,000 people attending CES plus the additional 27,000 photo snapping people attending the Adult Entertainment eXpo I was nearly run over by law enforcement on a motorcycle.  An electric motorcycle in fact.  It turns out that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department recently unveiled the no gas, no noise electric motorcycles at its Convention Center Area Command. These motorcycles were donated by the Consumer Electronics Association and are nearly silent with a top speed of 62 mph.

Lady Gaga - Camera/Sunglasses

The scooters are manufactured by Vectix Corporation who advertise them as the world’s first pure-performance electric maxi-scooter.  On their web site there are testimonials from Police officers who have pushed them to 65+ mph. Clearly not for high-speed chases, but they are being used on “The Strip”, and the convention center – both location some of the most congested areas in the entire state.

 

Vectix Corporation is a well financed and international effort with production facilities in Poland.  They’ve received start-up help from Lockheed Martin, Alcoa and Parker-Hannifin.

There’s a perception that Police scooters make people feel closer to the police by taking away the barrier created by a squad car.  I’m not so sure about how it changes the approachability, but can provide my experience as a person with no criminal intentions… I wasn’t looking for a “stealth officer” on two wheels and the no noise device startled me when I didn’t hear it coming.

Photo courtesy of CEA, Lady Gaga and Vectrix Corporation.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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2010 MotoCzysz E1pc

Congrats to the Portland, Oregon team at Motoczysz (pronounced moto “sizz”) for their recent victory at the Isle of Man TT!

The world’s most advanced electric motorcycle, the 2010 MotoCzysz E1pc won the TT Zero electric race by lapping the Isle of Man at a record 96.820 MPH, just shy of the 100 MPH goal the team was aiming for.  The motorcycle has five individual battery packs on each side which contain 1.25 kWh of energy apiece (10 times the battery capacity of a Toyota Prius), weigh 19.5 Lbs and can be removed and replaced in seconds.  For reference the MPH lap record set by the fastest gas-powered superbikes is 131.5MPH.

The Motoczysz win makes history.  Not only for electric motorcycles, but it’s the first time an American-made bike has won a race at the Isle of Man since Indian debuted a two-speed gearbox in 1911 and only the second time an American rider has finished first there.   Popular Science has an excellent article on the back story HERE.

There is an incredible amount of science and technology that has gone into the design and manufacture of this electric motorcycle.  When will the ingenious inventors and garage tinkers at H-D get involved in this technology?

Photo courtesy of Motoczysz and Amadeus Photography.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Santosh Electric Pocket Bike

A pocket bike is a miniature motorcycle.  Often referred to as MiniGPX or “mini-moto” and first made popular as ‘pit-bikes’ for drag racers to travel around in the pits during races in the late ‘50s.

These days pocket bikes are available in both gasoline and electric versions with engine’s ranging from 40cc to 50cc.  A typical mini-moto is about ¼ the size of a standard racing motorcycle and there are Pocketbike races across the country on tracks used for kart racing.  There is the Northwest YSR-50 enthusiast HERE or YSR Racing HERE.

Now we have the world’s smallest electric pocket bike.  Apparently the builder felt that the current generation of electric pocket bikes were just too big so they recently introduced Santosh pocket bike is literally quite small.   The bike is just 12 inches high and 18 inches long. The way Santosh pulled off this compressed miracle was to make the battery pack wearable, rather than mounted on the bike which is capable of running at speeds of almost 10mph.

Talk about a little guy speed junkie!  Check out the video if you want to know more.

Photo courtesy of Santosh bikes.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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eROCKIT Electric Motorcycle

eROCKIT Electric Motorcycle

Building a better mouse trap.

It’s about engineering.  It can be a daunting task, especially after 105 years in the market with the leading heavy cruiser segment share locked up.  It seems impossible to surpass.  With success like that why would anyone at Harley-Davidson do anything different or even consider trying to break a proven success?

But, that’s exactly the point, right?   Remember what happened to the record companies?  They cruised along, making buckets of $$ selling overpriced CD’s with one good song and Napster came along and ruined the business model.  What was the response?  They tried to keep the future from happening by suing those who wanted to live in the future, then blaming the artists, then demanding 360 degree of rights for almost nothing rather than jump ahead of the curve, retool part of their business and innovate for what didn’t exist today, but clearly would in the future.  Does Harley have visionaries who see the electric transportation future? Or are they doing a “Detroit”…  denying what’s possible and booking the profits… extracting cash, but failing to reinvest it… only changing when forced to by the government or when consumers go elsewhere?

Toyota has been showing the world it has engineering prowess.  It has a proven piece of hybrid propulsion technology that set the de-facto standard of the world when the hybrid Prius debut in Japan in 1997.  Honda was second with the Insight, but Toyota is perceived as the world’s hybrid leader — and estimates it has saved consumers more than 135 million gallons of gasoline worldwide via its technology.

Brammo Enertia Motorcycle

Brammo Enertia Motorcycle

With Harley-Davidson’s engineering I’m not referring to a different headlamp configuration, paint scheme, or removing a few pounds from the overall weight to improve fuel consumption or save $$ in raw material costs.  Difficult as each of those may be, it’s not a better mousetrap and will do nothing to set them apart from traditional players.  The present always rests on the foundation of the past, and when it has taken shape, it incorporates the essence of the future. Where is Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle future? Do they have the intellectual and engineering capabilities to get ahead of the customer and entice them when they finally catch up?  Providing more not less.  Sure the motorcycle business is altogether different than automobiles with shorter development cycle times and the visceral passion shown by customers who literally feel exactly what the motorcycle is doing.  But, is Harley stretching their design ethos to showcase their engineering skills and expand into new segments?  They are either dark with a double top-secret projects or in denial.  My hope is they take motorcycle design in a new direction and show people there is something unique about the engineering of their bikes and demonstrate that electric motorcycles have a place in their line-up.

There is a lot going on in this space ranging from electric assist bikes ($1-$5K) to the fully functioning electric motorcycles ($15K).  There is the 30-employee Zero Motorcycle company that builds a 140 pound dirt bike called the Zero X that uses clustered lithium ion batteries which fully charge in 2 hours.  Then there is the 12-man eROCKIT (.pdf) company building a variety of bikes, mixing the aesthetics of a motorcycle with a battery motor and adding bicycle pedals to come up with a totally unique two-wheeled vehicle.  There is Electric Motorsports and their model called the GPR-S that sells for approximately $10K.  There is the world’s fastest (0-60 in 0.9 secs; 7 seconds in the ¼ mile) electric motorcycle which has been showcased at the National Electric Drag Racing Assoc.  In Oregon, there is the Ashland-based Brammo Enertia Motorcycle manufacture which is selling motorcycles via Best Buy while the state is working on a bulk purchase agreement for EV charging stations open to private industry as well as local governments.  And in Hillsboro they announced the planned installation of 16 charging stations.

Clearly electric motorcycles are coming of age and not only for the fuel economics as there are military stealth implications.  So, what is Harley’s position on electric motorcycles?  Is the Harley sound of silence the inevitable sound of the future?

Photos courtesy of Brammo and eRockit.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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