Harley-Davidson rides into the future with connected electric motorcycles5 minutes
For the next generation of motorcycle enthusiasts, the ride will be more urban and connected, with no clutch at all and a defiance of stereotypes.
Picture a backpack-clad commuter using an app on her bike’s control panel to snag the last parking spot on Main Street. Possibly on her way to get a vegan smoothie.
Ushering this culture shift will be the electric motorcycle, an industry segment that is expected to grow exponentially by 2021. With its release of LiveWire, the first mass-market cellular connected eMotorcycle in North America, Harley-Davidson is revved to take the lead in this space. The company chose to collaborate with Panasonic, tapping the global technology leader’s deep expertise in connected vehicles.
To learn more about the trends and disruptive tech driving the future of motorcycle mobility, we spoke with Harley-Davidson VP of Product Planning Marc McAllister and Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. of America Executive Director of Product Strategy David Taylor. Here are their thoughts on electrification, the next-gen rider, and how tech will enhance the motorcycle experience.
Harley-Davidson’s Marc McAllister:
Research led us to insights about our future customers, urbanization and the movement toward electric vehicles. The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018, with +2.5 billion more expected by 2050. Inevitably, the world of mobility will head more and more into the EV space, and right now with the convergence of capability and interest, it is the right time for Harley-Davidson to enter this market. LiveWire is the first step in our plan to lead the next revolution of two-wheeled freedom to a changing world and new generation of riders.
In July we announced our More Roads strategy which aims to broaden access to the brand, strengthen our channels around the world, and expand our portfolio with more product options, which EV is a part of. We are investing in great internal combustion products, and in leading the electrification of the sport of motorcycling.
How can technology change a marketplace?
Panasonic Automotive’s David Taylor: Globally, there is an emerging market for motorcycles for recreational use. An electric battery enables a smaller motor – so the bike itself can be lighter, smaller and much easier to maneuver. With an eMotorcycle, there’s no shifting. You just twist the throttle and go. This opens up the experience, making it accessible to even more people and new ways to ride.
Who is this new rider?
Harley-Davidson’s McAllister: The demographics of motorcycling are changing, particularly here in North America, towards a more urban customer and younger audience. LiveWire will bring an exciting riding experience for both the skilled motorcyclist, and because it is twist and go, it also appeals to someone who is newer to the sport.
Do other parts of the world point to changes in what we ride in North America?
Panasonic’s Taylor: As motorcycles shift towards the urban mobility space, traditional segmentation no longer exists. Both genders are equally interested. Look at European cities like London, Paris and Barcelona and you’ll see more commuters, business people and students using these new forms of two-wheeled mobility to get around. They’re easier to park than an automobile.
Talk about changing consumer tastes & ownership models
Panasonic’s Taylor: City dwellers may not want to own a motorcycle, but they are interested in the excitement of this form of recreation. EMotorcycles open up new business models. Shared ownership and subscriptions. Millennials are into enjoying the moment and comfortable with an on-demand, sharing economy. Now they will be able to choose the mobility they want, when they want it: maybe it’s a car for the weekend, but during the week they choose a two-wheeled vehicle.
What is some of the coolest technology on this motorcycle?
Harley-Davidson’s McAllister: As you evolve the way the vehicle is powered, you have to evolve all the interfaces that the rider is going to experience, whether that’s connected music, stolen vehicle tracking, or understanding the state of a vehicle via smartphone. In our increasingly mobile lives, we need to be able to meet the customer’s needs and deliver great Harley Davidson experiences with on-vehicle technology that enables that to happen in a way the consumer wants it to happen.
What does the tech do for the rider?
Panasonic’s Taylor: One benefit is on-bike communications that allows riders to remotely monitor their vehicle – oil level, tire pressure, battery life – promoting maintenance to avoid problems and extend the value of the bike and battery.