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Harley-Davidson’s electric bike gets mixed reactions

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 4:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:30 p.m. CDT
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Caption
(AP file photo)
Employee Ben Lund demonstrates Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The company unveiled the LiveWire model this week at an invitation-only event in New York.
Caption
(M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
Caption
(M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle, at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
Caption
(M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle, at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)

WOODSTOCK – When it comes to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Gene Lambert considers himself an “old-school purist.”

Still, last week’s reveal of the company’s first-ever electric motorcycle prototype, Project LiveWire, was well-received by the Wonder Lake man.

“I can’t wait to get my butt on a LiveWire, you bet, because I’ve been on an electric motorcycle before,” said Lambert, the assistant sales manager at Woodstock Harley-Davidson. “I’m more of a purist, but it’s pretty cool to hop on a motorcycle that’s nothing but pure power. There’s no gear box, so it’s hit the throttle and with its electric motor, you’re like ‘Boom!’ – you go from zero to oh-my-god, in no time at all.”

The bike, more sporty in nature than the conventional Harley-Davidson, is not yet in production. Instead, the company has taken prototypes on tour to let select riders try them and offer feedback. After hearing from riders, the company will refine the bike.

Aside from the prototype’s sleeker frame and electric motor, another notable difference of Project LiveWire is its sound.

Far from Harley’s iconic rumble, the electric bike sounds more like a jet engine in videos released by the company.

Gigi Beaird, chapter director of Women on Wheels in the DeKalb County area, said this was the first thing that came to mind after reading about the new bike.

“It’s not going to make any noise,” Beaird said. “I was surprised Harley was testing an electric model because it’s the polar opposite of what they’re known for.”

It might look cool, Beaird added, but it probably won’t end up in her garage if production is in its future.

Ashley Lambert, Gene’s wife and the marketing director at Woodstock Harley-Davidson, also said the lack of the traditional thunder could be a drawback for her.

“There is something to be said about sitting on a Harley-Davidson and hearing that ‘pop-pop-pop-pop-pop’ vibration underneath you and the sound and the roar of the bike,” Ashley Lambert said. “That’s a heritage I don’t want to lose with Harley, and I’m confident we won’t.”

However, that doesn’t mean there’s not a market for LiveWire, she added.

In her eyes, the electric bike is not the beginning of the end for the American manufacturer’s traditions, but rather a way to ensure its future success.

“In terms of longevity of the business, we need to stay on top of technology and innovations that will keep our customer base growing,” Ashley said. “Changing with the times and going in that direction and trying new innovations, I think, is exciting. From what I’ve seen regarding the motorcycle and what I’ve heard – the sound of it – it’s very cool.”

The Project LiveWire tour began Monday in New York and will continue Thursday in Milwaukee. For information, visit the Project LiveWire webpage on Harley’s website.

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