Harley-Davidson is the first major OEM to announce specific plans for an electrified addition to its traditional motorcycle lineup.
In July, American motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson (H-D) made a nearly unprecedented announcement about its future products. Part of a global investment strategy to help create a new generation of motorcyclists, the plans from H-D promised not only a novel and global mix of products in new segments (including adventure, street-fighter and small-displacement machines), but also a commitment to electrified motorcycles.
This includes the 2019 launch of its stunning LiveWire (which first debuted in concept form (above) in 2014), followed by two new middleweight e-models with “accessible power and price points,” and three new lightweight (think urban, scooter or e-bicycle-like – below) models by 2022.
Then in September, H-D announced it’s establishing an R&D center in Silicon Valley to help engineer this new electrified lineup, with the facility serving as a satellite of its Milwaukee-area product development center in Wauwatosa, WI. H-D claimed it planned to hire 25 people from the Bay Area with electrical, mechanical and software engineering skills and will open the new center in the fourth quarter of 2018.
H-D remains mum about its previous equity investment in Alta Motors and the work it had done with the now defunct Mission Motors on the LiveWire concept. With this announcement and creation of the Silicon Valley center, however, H-D apparently has committed to e-moto engineering.
“This new facility will serve as a satellite for the Willie C. Davidson Product Development center in Wauwatosa, which is where I'm located,” explained Sean Stanley, H-D’s chief engineer for EV platforms. “It will initially focus on EV research and development and it includes battery power electronics, e-machine design, development and advanced manufacturing.
“I will be working directly with the EV-systems team there, establishing an EV architecture and building blocks that can support many of the vehicles that we plan to bring to market. At the PDC in Wauwatosa, we'll take those building blocks — that the Silicon Valley center develops — through the product development cycle to prepare for commercially available vehicles.”
So far, H-D is the only major OEM to announce specific plans for an electrified addition to its traditional lineup, including next year’s LiveWire, which it’s positioning as a “premium, high-performance motorcycle with streetfighter style and attitude.”
As to what’s prompted the first major OEM – one legendary for its V-Twin engine architecture and characteristic thumping sound – to add electric offerings, Stanley noted that, “EV technology has a lot to offer in the area of new experiences and connections to the motorcycle and environment around you. Simplistic, twist and go riding [as] there's no shifting. Reducing the noise to focus more on the experience of riding. The instant torque, reduced maintenance. A bike that's easy to control for novice riders, all the way up to performance that intrigues experienced riders.”
And what about that sound? “A Harley-Davidson wouldn't be a Harley without a signature sound,” Stanley said. “We have and will continue to focus efforts in this area and deliver an authentic and unique sound.”