You have to give Harley-Davidson some credit. With a long history of building internal combustion engine cruisers, the MoCo took the risk to design an electric motorcycle. Harley calls the machine the LiveWire. But somewhere along the line, their execution of the idea failed.
Electric motorcycle sticker shock
One of the key issues is the LiveWire’s very lofty price tag of approximately $30,000. At that price, the potential millennial and GenZ buyers that Harley is courting, cannot, or will not pay Harley’s asking price.
Some also say that Harley made a misstep by delivering a full-size, powerful “halo product” instead of something smaller and cheaper which new riders could easily ride.
It seems that Harley did have a vision for a lineup of smaller and lighter electric bikes in its plan. But that recently changed with CEO Jochen Zeitz’s direction to move the company back towards its core customers and away from attracting new ones.
Whether Harley’s new strategy will pay off is the subject of hot debate. But if Harley had continued down the smaller, lighter, and less expensive electric machines, would they have succeeded? Should they have stayed its original course? Time will tell.
There’s one industrial designer that thinks Harley should have stayed the smaller and lighter course. Tanner Van De Veer’s industrial design thesis provides an example of what Harley might have done for an electric motorcycle. He calls his bike, the Revival.
Van De Veer Revival electric motorcycle
Smaller, lighter, and more approachable than the LiveWire, is Van De Veer’s Revival the bike that Harley should have built? At first blush, the machine seems to have several of the elements that Harley bobbers are known for. Low, minimalist, and edgy looking, the design screams retro rebellion.
Somehow the design also harkens back to the days of board track racers. Bikes that were built for speed and without brakes, were fraught with danger. It’s that history of speed and danger that can provide a mystique that many people desire.
According to designboom, Van De Veers says his Revival is equal parts vintage and punk. And looking at the machine, many would likely agree.
Van De Veer’s Revival is smaller, thinner, and lower than either the LiveWire or Harley’s entry-level bike, the Sportster. This makes the machine more approachable to new riders. And the bike sports enough classic and aggressive features to potentially make it attractive to some of the current Harley brethren.
Since it’s an electric motorcycle, there is no clutch or gears to deal with. As such, one of the “barriers” to entry is eliminated. The learning curve associated with riding motorcycles is significantly reduced.
Electric motorcycle usability
Not just content to design the bike, Tanner also envisioned how the bike could be charged. He thinks that Harley could provide power centers. This isn’t unreasonable since Harley already has many dealers who have invested in charging stations so that riders could ride to a dealership and charge their bikes once they arrive.
Van De Veer’s design theory goes one step further, however. His Revival design incorporates a swappable battery pack. Similar to but not the same as Harley’s current charging stations, a rider could pull up to a Harley dealership and quickly remove and swap a depleted battery for a fully charged one.
Under his scenario, riders could either subscribe to a battery plan or pay a fee for each battery swapped. The fee for swap is similar to the way many Americans are currently paying for propane bottles for their outdoor grills.
Less investment and more revenue?
This plan also provides a few additional benefits. First, dealers would not have to invest in expensive charging stations. They could also get a revenue stream for each battery swapped. Second, riders could simply pull in, swap their batteries, and be on their way in minutes. There would be no requirement to wait while the bike charges. Third, riders would not be forced to wait their turn if someone else’s machine was already being charged on the dealer’s charging station.
There is a significant caveat to all of this. Van De Veer’s Revival is only a design thesis. There are no prototypes. There isn’t even a concept machine. And, designing and manufacturing are two very different things.
While something may look excellent on a computer screen, the reality may be that producing the product may be cost-prohibitive. So if Harley wanted to go with a similar design, the realities of production and manufacturing costs may all but eliminate the ability to produce the machine.
Getting out of the box again?
But, at one time Harley was thinking out of the box and willing to spend money. Perhaps they should once again try to be different, but retain more of their Harley mythos. Maybe they should go with a design similar to what they have built in the past, not a machine that looks similar to so many UJMs.
Many think that potential new millennial and GenZ riders want an easy to ride bike that can act as an urban commuter on weekdays and still provide some weekend entertainment. Van De Veer’s machine does seem to have those capabilities. Perhaps Harley should reach out to Van De Veer.
Don’t send him a cease and desist letter for using a Harley moniker. Talk to him, perhaps bring him on board. It’s not too late. Whether Harley (or any of us) likes it or not, mobility is going electric. It’s better to be in the loop than standing outside wondering what happened.
What do you think?
So what do you think? Should Harley take a second look at electric motorcycles? Let us know in the comments below.