MILWAUKEE -- Harley-Davidson will unveil its first electric motorcycle next week, and President Matt Levatich said he expects the company known for its big touring bikes and iconic brand to become a leader in developing technology and standards for electric vehicles.
Milwaukee-based Harley will show handmade demonstration models Monday at an invitation-only event in New York.
The company will then take about two dozen bikes on a 30-city tour for riders to test drive and provide feedback. Harley will use the information it gathers to refine the motorcycle, which might not hit the market for several more years.
The venture is a risk for Harley because there's currently almost no market for full-size electric motorcycles. The millions of two-wheeled electric vehicles sold each year are almost all scooters and low-powered bikes.
But one analyst said investment by a major manufacturer could help create demand, and Levatich emphasized in an interview with The Associated Press that Harley is interested in the long-term potential.
"We think that the trends in both EV technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders," Levatich said. "So nobody can predict right now how big that industry will be or how significant it will be."
At the same time, Levatich and others involved in creating the sleek LiveWire predicted it would sell based on performance, not environmental awareness. With no need to shift gears, the slim, sporty bike can go from zero to 60 mph in about four seconds.
"Some people may get on it thinking, 'golf cart,' " lead engineer Jeff Richlen said. "And they get off thinking, 'rocket ship.' "