Italian Electric Takes Superbike High Road; Harley Quiets Down & Looks For New Riders
It is official. The age of the electric vehicle is here. And it’s now available with two wheels. You need look no further than Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Harley-Davidson unveiled the LiveWire, its first electric motorcycle.
For further validation of the trend, step over to the docks in San Francisco, where an Italian high-tech firm is showing off its latest creation, a 240 km/hr (150 mph) superbike appropriately name Ego that’s also electric.
These are just two high-profile examples, which have yet to arrive on the market (Harley-Davidson is just testing its electric concept on the public while the Energica Motor Company is taking orders for the Ego for delivery in 2015). Three current companies are actively marketing electric bikes – Brammo of Oregon and Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motorcycles of California. Their bikes have attracted a small but devoted following, albeit at a lower end of the market than either of these two newcomers.
The two newbies are taking decidedly different approaches, both building on what they see as their core competencies and both targeting a very specific segment of the market.
Energica Fields a True Italian Superbike
The Energica folks enter the arena with a clear goal – they want to deliver the “Tesla of motorcycles” based on some of the technology they have developed for aerospace and motorsports. Headquartered in Modena, Italy
(home to more than a few supercars), Energica and its parent organization, the CRP Group have built a business supplying parts to Formula 1 racers among others. The company’s expertise in 3D printing was used to build the prototypes of the Ego and will be employed to create some of the limited edition versions that will be the first produced. It will feature printed Windform materials with F1 Zircotec ceramic and metallic coatings. Rounded out the bike is a carbon fiber fairing, 100 KW oil-cooled permanent magnet AC motor, Öhlins front
fork and rear mono shock absorber, Brembo brakes with driver-adjustable regeneration and Bosch ABS as well as forged aluminum wheels.
The Ego45 Limited Edition (for 45 units total production) is stunning and features what the company calls a “strong whistle” noise to ensure that should you hit triple digits you have a sound sensation to go along with the wind whistling past your helmet. Positioned as a superbike, the Ego has a price tag that’s appropriate. It starts at $34,000 and can double with custom features in the limited edition models.
Sales Expected To Grow
Livia Cevolini, CRP COO and granddaughter of the company’s founder, told Clean Fleet Report that the company expected to start deliveries next year and hoped to hit sales of 500 per year worldwide, then more than doubling as a second model is added. She said she also expects major volume manufacturers like Honda to enter the electric motorcycle market as it
The bike has a host of technology beyond its electric powertrain, including an integrated Bluetooth capability that Cevolini says will allow the rider to “talk to your bike” and download the path, torque and driving experience and share it on social networks. The bikes carries an 11.7 kWh lithium-ion battery that is capable of a 3 1/2-hour recharge on a Level II machine or a half-hour pump-up with a DC fast-charger.
Harley Takes a New Road
Harley-Davidson took a more deliberate approach to its electric bike. The 111-year-old company is famous for its crudely traditional, loud and large motorcycles. It unabashedly embraces the “old white guys” that make up its core customers. As the company struggles with declining market share and an aging customer base, it has turned to a project known as Rushmore to find new products and get them to market quickly. The initiative produced the LiveWire, which tries to take the Harley DNA and infuse it into an electric motorcycle.
LiveWire is a bit more sedate than the Energica bike. Its top speed is less than 100 mph and it’s a bit slower than the Ego 0-60 (the Italian bike claims under three seconds), but it does have an undeniable Harley-Davidson
presence. With red highlights on a sinister black overall frame, the electric motorcycle looks like it should go like hell, even if all you hear at speed is a whine.
Harley is taking the LiveWire around to dealers and customers to get first-hand input before committing to production. The bike’s marketing boss, Mark-Hans Richer told TIME Magazine: “If it’s green, it’s badass green. It has character.” Pricing for the LiveWire when it gets to market is expected to be quite a bit less than the Energica bikes, though still a premium of 10 to 20 percent compared to Harley’s regular bikes, probably well above $20,000.
With a range of about 100 miles, it’s unlikely LiveWire will fit the open-road ambitions of some Harley riders. But the company hopes to attract a whole new group of younger, more urban-oriented buyers once the bike hits the market.
Two Goes the Way of Four
It looks like the motorcycle world is following the car market toward electrification. There have been e-bikes for some time, but most of them are fully utilitarian and nowhere near the level of sophistication (and cost) that these electric motorcycles have. Some small companies have led the way and it now appears that some high-end and big name players are getting into the game. The analogy to Tesla and Chevy with its Volt is apt, so we’ll just have to see what kind of shift the two-wheel market will take.