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There is that sense of being at the beginning of something new, and part of our future as far as ecology, said McNally-Bradshaw, chairwoman of the American Motorcyclist Association. People think it’s novel. Then they realize it’s powerful stuff. The technology is improving by leaps and bounds. It’s coming. While startups like Zero, Brammo and Mission are producing state-of-the-art electric motorcycles on the West Coast, Harley-Davidson has decided to jump into the fray. The Milwaukee-based manufacturer announced its LiveWire this month and plans to offer demo rides to gauge interest nationwide before going into production. We don’t see it at all replacing internal combustion, according to Harley’s President Matt Levatich, and maybe in 100 or 50 years, I don’t know. We’ll be open to what people want.
Still, while Harley’s announcement may not sit well with its core riders, who relish the distinctive rumble of the V-twin engine’s exhaust, it might provide the impetus needed for the electric market to take off. There has been the biggest single day of Internet traffic in the history of the company the day Harley made its announcement, claimed Scot Harden, vice president of global marketing for Zero Motorcycles, which began in a Santa Cruz, California, garage in 2006 and now is the top seller of full-size, high-powered electric bikes. It just validates what we’ve been saying and how it’s going to play out in the years ahead.
A recent study by Navigant Research suggests the industry is at the start of a trend. The research company anticipates sales of electric motorcycles worldwide will grow to 1.2 million this year. No surprise that Yamaha, Honda and KTM also have electric bikes in the pipeline. It seems that electric motorcycles are going to be a pretty important mainstay, stated Jerry Phibbs Jr., a longtime motorcycle dealer in Albany who sold all four of the Zero bikes on the showroom floor this year. All of the industry standards say by 2018 it will consist of more than 50 percent of the market. I don’t know if I believe that, but it’s certainly going to be a major part of it.
Zero expects to sell 2,400 electric motorcycles this year, a fraction of the more than 260,000 conventional motorcycles sold last year alone by Harley. But what has happened to the technology since former NASA engineer Neal Saiki began tinkering in that Santa Cruz garage is impressive. In the beginning they were hoping to get to the performance of the 125cc race bike, claimed Craig Bramscher, chairman of Oregon-based Brammo Inc, and wow, they expect around Daytona (International Speedway) at 175 mph. They see the path, and that there’s technology there where it starts to exceed the capabilities of the bike to hold the road. We can see that we can pass gasoline in terms of its capability.