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Harley-Davidson trades leather and beards for green and clean; premiers prototype of an electric bike, in keeping with the times

Harley-Davidson trades leather and beards for green and clean

Ben Geier

JUNE 23, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

When you think Harley-Davidson, you probably think about leather, beards, and loud engines. Now, though, you can picture a fully electric bike with a digital display.

The iconic American motorcycle manufacturer held an event in New York City Monday afternoon showing off Project LiveWire, a prototype of the company’s first electric motorcycle.

The new bikes look mostly like a traditional motorcycle, with a few notable exceptions. There is a digital display in between the handlebars where speed and efficiency are displayed. Also, there is no clutch on the left handlebar, since there are no gears. The bike can go from zero to 60 in about 4 seconds, and can reach up to 92 m.p.h. It does not have the traditional loud Harley rev-up sound, though there is a slight hum from the electric engine starting.

Harley President Matt Levatich said it would be a few years before the bikes were ready to be manufactured and put on sale. In the meantime, it is still tweaking the design and listening to its customers.

“We don’t have specific date,” he said. “We need time to incorporate that feedback.

It was a uniquely diverse crowd gathered at the Harley-Davidson  HOG 0.00%  dealership in Lower Manhattan — a near equal mix of buttoned-up journalists lumbering onto the LiveWire simulator (think a motorcycle stuck in place that can be “revved up” without actually going anywhere) and Harley-Davidson Riders Club Members, many of whom sported well-worn patched vests and beards that would give Rasputin a run for his money.

One of those riders, Juan Marmol, said that the new bike ran great, though he was concerned about the relative short range of the bike on a single charge of its battery. The bike can only travel around 55 miles after a three hour charge.

“It was awesome,” he said. “The biggest downfall to it right now based on what their telling us is the charge time.”

For hardcore Harley riders who sometimes go up to 400 miles a day, the current battery just wouldn’t work, Marmol said. But he did think that the new bike could change Harley-Davidson’s image and maybe bring some new people into the hog-riding family.

“I believe this will change kind of the mindset that Harley’s are for old guys,” he said.

Levatich agreed, also noting that Harley would not be forgetting its core customers who want old-fashioned motorcycles. “We’re absolutely not abandoning any of that,” he said. “We’re going to continue to invest in great traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles. LiveWire has nothing to do with that. It’s all of that, plus opening the doors to some people that are maybe on the outside of the sport, on the outside of the brand.”

Of course, Harley-Davidson isn’t the only motor cycle maker exploring electric bikes. In fact, Other companies such as Mission Motors have already put their models on sale.

Harley-Davidson’s roadshow will travel across the United States this year and next in addition to going to Canada and Europe. The LiveWire Experience Tour continues next week in Milwaukee, Wis.

 

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About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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