One infrequently talked-about industry that has been gaining definitive traction in recent years is the electric motorcycle market. Although high-power electric motorcycles have failed to catch on thus far, there is a broad market in the United States for low-power urban electric scooters. In fact, more than 1.8 million were sold in the country in 2016. Even larger is the market for electric bicycles, which typically require the rider to input energy but that augment the user’s work through electric propulsion.
Harley-Davidson, the company that has made its name as the producer of roaring, powerful V-Twin motorcycles that have become icons of muscular American independence, is now seeking to branch out into the world of both electric motorcycles and electric bicycles. What’s clear is that the company already has the knowledge and some infrastructure to create top-quality electric two-wheeled vehicles; the company currently produces more than 1,000 high-power electric motorcycles each year.
What’s not clear is if a brand that has earned its stripes as a loud and brutish exemplar of raw American power can make a segue into a market that is more about being environmentally friendly and saving energy costs.
Following future dollars
But what Harley is doing, at the end of the day, is simply recognizing the reality of where the market is heading. Sales of electronic bicycles have exploded over the last decade, with millions of units per year being sold in the United States alone. But it is throughout the world where the real potential lies. As cheap means of transportation, electronic bikes have the potential to become the predominant form of personal transportation throughout the world, especially as electric motor and battery technology continues to improve, allowing both high speeds and extremely long ranges.
Harley is already gearing up its operations. The company plans on spending more than $200 million over the next ten years on research, development and manufacturing of electronic bikes and motorcycles. The company is developing products ranging all the way from flagship 200-horsepower electric superbikes all the way down to rider-assisted bicycles. The company believes that the trends towards lower-cost transportation options and the eventual inexorable rise in the prices of fossil fuels will eventually mean that these bikes could turn out to be the next automobile. The future will only tell if they are successful.