Harley-Davidson, it appears, is set to unveil an electric motorcycle within hours. The teaser video shows a motorcycle that blurs by past a tarmac road and an old Route 66 sign. The interesting thing is the sound which sounds sort of like an ultra-quiet jet engine a lot more than like a very loud electric motor. Officially, Harley-Davidson says:
Join us for the ride
"There are milestones that change history – those pivotal moments where the future is defined. This is one of them. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson® has reinvented itself many times in our 111 years. This is the next chapter of our journey. Whether you’re a rider or not, we’re inviting you to take part in the experience, and be there for this historic ride forward."
The speculation that Harley has electric bike plans started when shots of a lady riding what looks like an unfamiliar but fully street-legal (as in mirrors, headlamps, reflectors and all) Harley-Davidson motorcycle appeared. Reports say the rider is actually a stunt double for actor Scarlett Johansson, the actress who plays the character of Natasha in the movie franchise Avengers. In fact, the photo being circulated appears to have originated at the set of the latest Avengers movie. The movie Avengers: Age of Ultron is being shot partly in Seoul, South Korea where the motorcycle was spotted.
Further speculation is that if the Harley was a movie one-off, especially one for a superhero franchise, then it should probably have looked a lot more futuristic whereas the shot with the stunt rider is about as normal a Harley in aggregate and parts terms as possible. Harley-Davidson, of course, has tie-ins with Marvel where another movie, with Captain America featured the new Street 750 that is manufactured at Harley’s Indian plant in Bawal, Haryana.
But first let us look at the motorcycle. The motocycle in the images circulating wears the Harley name on the tank and has a matte-grey frame that hosts a pretty slick looking battery and power unit. Harley-Davidson had registered the name Livewire in the US as well as in Europe in November 2012 and now that name has appeared on the right side of the bike from the movie set. There is a lot of interesting detail visible although we have to say some these parts look either like they’re movie one-offs or if real, the motorcycle isn’t going to be anything other than premium.
If you believe that Harley is going to announce a line of electric bikes today then we would say that this is the second time within months that Harley-Davidson has shown a willingess to make radical, tradition-breaking moves. The Street 750 and 500 had a lot of unprecedented things in their story – not least the fact that they were manufactured outside the USA. Going electric summarily eliminates both the potato-potato sound as well as the V-twin hearts that have been Harley icons for as long as anyone can remember.
The USA does have a growing electric motorcycle market with names like Brammo and Zero quite popular and more recently, the Lightning LS-218 became the world’s fastest production motorcycle with a top speed of 348kmph. The LS-218 is electric powered. A major manufacturer like Harley-Davidson moving into this arena with realistic, deployable technology and products is sure to expand the market and everyone in that game will benefit. Anyone outside the game will be forced to consider playing.
However, we suspect India is still at a far remove from the electric premium motorcycle game though both Harley-Davidson India and the Indian premium customer have both shown the ability to switch directions and patterns rapidly.
The timing of the pictures is a bit odd given how many Marvel superhero movies are out and in the pipeline and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie is due for release in March next year. So the less dramatic announcement would be that Harley created this fully-functioning electric prototype for the movie and that has opened the door for Harley-Davidson to look at alternative propulsion ideas for their future motorcycles.
Which of the two is it? We should know for sure in a matter of hours. In the meantime, leave a comment below and let us know what you think this electric Harley-Davidson is going to turn out to be.