Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

July 2, 2014

Electric motorcycles

Harley helps put electric motorcycles in spotlight

PRINCETOWN, N.Y. (AP) — When Maggie McNally-Bradshaw and husband Curt hop on their electric motorcycles and twist the throttles, they get a rush like no other.

Or maybe a WHOOSH!

"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," Harley President Matt Levatich said. "I mean, 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.

"We had our biggest single day of Internet traffic in the history of the company the day Harley made its announcement," said 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.

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