- Harley-Davidson’s CEO stepped down late last month amid struggles at the company, including lacklustre sales of the brand’s first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire.
- The LiveWire’s steep MSRP and low range meant it didn’t catch on with young riders as Harley had hoped, but there are plenty of EV bike manufacturers looking to challenge the industry icon.
- Zero Motorcycles, Cake, Lightning, and others sell electric motorcycles without household names, and their lineups are expanding by the day.
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Between an ageing customer base, slumping sales, and new tariffs eating into profits, Harley-Davidson has had a rough go of it as of late. On top of all that, plenty of upstart motorcycle companies are looking to steal market share with their forward-looking, battery-powered bikes.
Late last month, amid the above issues, Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich abruptly stepped down after 26 years with the company. Levatich had bet that Harley’s first electric offering – the LiveWire – could jump-start sales and attract younger riders, but the electric motorcycle has, so far, failed to deliver.
Manufacturing issues delayed LiveWire deliveries, while a steep MSRP of nearly $US30,000 likely put off younger, less affluent riders. A limited combined city-highway range of only 95 miles also cuts down on the LiveWire’s appeal – for just a few thousand more, you can buy a Tesla Model 3 with a claimed 250 miles of range.
But the LiveWire isn’t the only option for motorcycle riders in the market for a greener alternative to their gas-guzzling bike. Several electric-bike startups – based in the US and abroad – are looking to get in on the EV trend.
Take a look at some of the electric motorcycles competing with Harley’s LiveWire below:
Lightning is one of the more established electric-motorcycle manufacturers in operation, and the Strike is its latest bike.
Lightning, which has been around since 2009, has a carbon-edition Strike now available for preorder. The bike claims a combined range of up to 152 miles, a top speed of 150 mph, and a motor good for 120 horsepower.
It comes with a sticker price of just under $US20,000.
Lightning says its LS-218, with a claimed 218-mph top speed, is the fastest production motorcycle in the world.
The sport bike is available with three different battery packs and offers a maximum range of 180 miles, but if we’re honest, this bike really isn’t built for long cruises – its speed runs prove that.
The LS-218 carries a base MSRP of $US38,888.
Zero Motorcycles has a full lineup of electric motorcycles, including the Zero S and SR.
The S and SR models sport combined ranges of 60 miles and 120 miles, respectively. But an optional long-range upgrade bumps the SR’s range to 150 miles combined, or 223 miles in the city. The more powerful SR gets a motor worth 70 horses and 116 pound-feet of torque, according to Zero.
Zero’s FX and FXS are the brand’s lightest and most wallet-friendly bikes.
Both supermotos sport the same electric powertrain that serves up 27 horsepower, 78 pound-feet of torque, and a top speed of 85 mph, according to Zero.
The FX is more catered toward off-roading while the FXS is built more for off-road and on-road travel, but both models will run you $US8,995 without options.
Like the FX lineup, Zero’s dual-sport DS and DSR bikes are meant for both on-road and off-road use, but they pack a bit more punch and a higher price tag.
The DS sports a 7.2-kWh battery pack, along with what Zero claims to be a top speed of 98 mph, a city range of 82 miles, 46 horsepower, and 78 pound-feet of torque.
The DSR has a 14.4-kWh battery, and a higher marks on everything else as well: a city range of 163 miles, a power output of 70 horses, and 116 pound-feet of torque.
Zero’s SR/S and SR/F are the most powerful bikes in the lineup, delivering a claimed 110 horsepower, 140 pound-feet of torque, and a top speed of 124 mph.
According to Zero, they each offer up a combined range of 109 miles thanks to a 14.4-kWh battery pack. They also both offer fast-charge capabilities, claiming the ability to reach a 95% charge in a little over an hour.
Swedish manufacturer Cake was founded in by a former IKEA designer, hence the utilitarian, minimalist look of its Kalk& bike.
Since the Kalk& originated as an off-road-focused bike called the Kalk OR, it’s essentially a street-legal electric dirt bike. It sports a relatively small, 10-kW motor, but what the Kalk& lacks in power it makes up for in size – it weighs only 174 pounds, a fraction of most street bikes.
Pricing starts at $US14,000.
The Cake Ösa+, which Cake calls a “modular utility motorcycle with off-road capabilities,” has a claimed top speed of 63 mph and a range of up to 63 miles.
Inspired by work benches, it can be modified with accessories to fit each rider’s needs.
The Ösa+ starts at $US8,500.
Italy-based Energica was born out of a project to build electric racing motorcycles, and its street-legal bikes — including the Ego — are just as high performance as you’d expect from a company with racing pedigree.
Energica’s Ego has a 13.4-kWh battery that provides up to 100 miles of combined range, according to the company. Energica also says the Ego puts out 148 pound-feet of torque and 145 horsepower.
The sportier Ego+ benefits from a larger battery pack, which ups range to 143 miles combined and boosts torque to a whopping 159 pound-feet, the company says.
The Ego starts at $US19,540.
The Eva, Energica’s naked sport bike, offers a more comfortable riding position than the racing-inspired Ego but packs plenty of power nonetheless.
The bike comes in two versions. The Eva Ribelle claims 145 horsepower, 159 pound-feet of torque, and a top speed of 125 mph. There’s also the toned-down Eva EsseEsse9, with more classic styling and slightly different stats: 109 horsepower, 148 pound-feet of torque, and the same top speed.
The Eva EsseEsse9 starts at $US17,620.
Brutus Electric Motorcycle isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with its V9 bike — instead, it’s relying on tried-and-tested cruiser design.
That classic look may just win it some of Harley’s business if and when electric motorcycles become mainstream.
The hefty, roughly 800-pound bike can be optioned with an 18.8-kWh or a 33.7-kWh battery pack. According to Brutus, the V9’s electric motor puts out 88 horsepower along with 92 pound-feet of torque.
Brutus builds its bikes custom to order.
Unlike its massive big sibling, the light and compact Brutus 2 was designed for quick commutes around town.
The Brutus 2 has a smaller, 10-kWh battery pack, but it still has all the retro styling of the V9 – especially in its café-racer version, aptly called the Brutus 2 Café.
Today, electric vehicles make up a scant 2% of car sales worldwide, so it will likely be a long while before any of these startups pose a true threat to Harley-Davidson or any other well-established motorcycle manufacturer.
But there’s little doubt that the future of transportation is electric, and it will be interesting to see which e-motorcycle winds up on top.
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