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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.

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1973_vetteI have a weakness for muscle cars.  

A Ford Hybrid Escape just doesn’t do it for me.  Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of time wrenching a ’67 Camero, but these days it’s been on a mid-sixties Vette.  Given my experiences and looking over parts receipts I can expertly state that vintage auto’s are primarily a money sink hole.  None the less, it’s my sink hole and it’s how I elect to spend my hard earned $$.

But, along comes the BART riding ideals of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who views the world through some hybrid reality-distortion field, imagining it as some sort of amazing green technology and will not rest until she has saved the planet for all of us!! 

It’s a misguided attempt to spur new car sales and help create jobs by the Washington lawmakers.  They have determined “we” need a nationwide automobile scrap program which would give U.S. tax dollars to consumers who turn-in older cars to have them crushed.  On the surface it sounds like a reasonable idea, but the unattended consequences of the bill will threaten vintage enthusiasts nationwide with the loss of valuable parts and part-cars for repair, restoration, and customization projects. The programs also risk destroying classic, historic and special-interest vehicles that are part of our American heritage.  Once passed how long do you think it will be before they amend the law to include vintage motorcycles?

Pelosi introduced a bill as part of the Economic Stimulus Plan and is looking for President Obama to sign it into law.  If you oppose the use of U.S. Taxpayer $$ for “Cash for Clunkers” then I suggest that you contact House Speaker Nancy Pelosi IMMEDIATELY.  You can call: (202)225-0100 or send an email HERE. To help guide any conversation below are a few talking points:

  1. I am [calling/writing] because I oppose the use of U.S. taxpayer $$ and urge lawmakers not to include a “Cash for Clunkers” provision in the economic stimulus bill. Owners who turn in vehicles for crushing would receive a “minimal” payment to purchase a new car. This is a misguided attempt to spur car sales and claim that the country’s air quality or fleet fuel mileage is being improved.
  2. “Cash for Clunkers” programs threaten enthusiasts nationwide with the loss of valuable parts and parts-cars for repair, restoration, and customization projects. The programs also risk destroying classic, historic and special-interest vehicles in our American heritage.
  3. Cars turned in for scrap often barely run, or are rarely-driven second or third vehicles that have a minimal impact on overall fuel economy or emissions.
  4. “Cash for Clunkers” programs will reduce the availability of affordable transportation and repair parts used by low-income drivers. It will also compete with the Salvation Army, the Purple Heart and other charities that rely on vehicle donations to raise money.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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