Harley-Davidson’s Two Concept Vehicles Are Not E-Bikes

Harley-Davidson made headlines recently by announcing their $29,799 LiveWire electric motorcycle. In addition to the LiveWire, Harley-Davidson showed two electric-powered concept vehicles. While some news sources have identified the concepts as e-bikes, neither bike fits that definition.

E-bikes, even the e-bikes that use a twist-grip throttle or thumb-push throttle to apply their power (rather than power up as soon as pedaling begins), have operational pedals connected to a crank that turns a chain (or belt) connected to the rear wheel. To the relief of everyone from the high-end Specialized Bikes to the affordable Sondors Bikes, Harley-Davidson decided to create small electric motorcycles/scooters instead of bicycles.

I’ll call this guy the Topper 2. It appears to use a belt-drive instead of a chain and floorboards instead of foot pegs. It definitely doesn’t use pedals.

The concept vehicles shown by Harley-Davidson have foot pegs, not pedals. This moves the concepts out of the bicycle family and into the motorcycle clan. While established bicycle companies are relieved they won’t have to compete with Harley-Davidson, the old H-D may be on the right track.

Not an e-bike and not really a motorcycle, Harley-Davidson’s creation may only be permitted on OHV trails but it will leave the current crop of e-bikes in its dust.

E-bike companies have watched in horror as ride-share companies flood communities with ride-share e-bikes. These bikes cost a few bucks to rent and a rider will never have to store the bike, patch a flat tire, lube a chain or replace an exhausted battery. E-bike use on recreational trails is still extremely limited compared to where mountain bikes are allowed to be ridden. Harley-Davidson avoids these market limitations by offering a vehicle that is not an e-bike and not really a full-blown motorcycle. One is closer in design and function to a scooter while the other is a new type of off-road recreational vehicle.

The scooter business is not new to Harley-Davidson. The Topper was their challenge to the Honda 50 Super Cub of the sixties. This time H-D is not going head-to-head with the established competition. They want to redefine lightweight electric-powered cycles.

Taking this route allows Harley-Davidson to offer vehicles with more powerful motors and higher top speeds than permitted for e-bikes. And Americans love bigger and faster. Harley-Davidson may just be on the right track with both of these vehicles.

The jury is out on the LiveWire. Do riders want a $30,000 Harley-Davidson that runs silent? Harley-Davidson tried to patent their exhaust sound so the company knows it is important. If Tesla can have a flatulence setting, the LiveWire could offer a loud-pipes mode. The LiveWire is not Harley’s most expensive model. That honor goes to the $44,000 CEO Limited.

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