Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle To Compete With Tesla-Backed Alta? What’s Lost In Translation? [Opinion]

Harley-Davidson has a certain image to uphold. As eager as Harley may be to compete with the Tesla-backed Alta electric motorcycles, and the Tacita electric cruiser made in Italy, Harley designers are taking their time in the development of an electric motorcycle that lives up to the name.

While the Tesla-backed Alta electric motorcycle is all about practicality and energy efficiency, a Harley must offer much more than that. Famous for their V-twin engine, that sounds like nothing else on earth, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have to be totally awe-inspiring.

Harley-Davidson is busily collecting customer feedback on their prototypes through Project LiveWire, a program that offers both virtual and real test drives. After about four years of developing prototypes of Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles, production may still be a couple of years away, according to Digital Trends.

Translating the Harley spirit of freedom into an electric motorcycle is no easy task. Harley-Davidson wants their image as far away from Tesla, and the Tesla-backed Alta motorcycles as possible, as explained in the Project LiveWire FAQ.

“Project LiveWire is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a pure expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric. Think electric guitar – not electric car.”

While Alta electric motorcycles are about practicality, Harley-Davidson obviously has other considerations. The Harley appeal is about the look, the feel, and the sound of the ultimate American motorcycle.

“From the bold styling of its longitudinally mounted electric motor to its distinctive Harley-Davidson look, sound and feel to its responsive acceleration and braking, it’s built to be a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, with dimensions that are right at home on any city street.”

While the Alta company is pumping out electric motorcycles right now, Harley makers can’t afford to worry about that. Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle is still a couple of years away from production. While there is no guaranteed release date, a Harley electric motorcycle is a big part of the company’s 10-year plan.

“Project LiveWire motorcycles are not for sale. This is a journey we’re taking with our customers to discover how good we can make the ride. We’ll gain feedback from real riders on what they are looking for in this type of vehicle from Harley-Davidson Motorcycle.”

Harley Davidson motorcycle
Harley Davidson motorcycle by Philip Pilosian Shutterstock

Tesla cars and Alta motorcycles, with their practical image, are not where Harley-Davidson is headed at all, but they may take the Tacita Italian cruiser a bit more seriously.

The Tacita electric cruiser motorcycle retails for $27,999, according to The Drive. That’s about what one would expect to pay for a top of the line Harley-Davidson.

A Harley-Davidson, gas-powered V-twin 2017 Low rider S, Fat Boy retails for $20,199, according to Motorcyclist. A Harley Davidson CVO, perhaps the ultimate Harley, starts at $25,799. A Harley-Davidson CVO Limited retails for $40,999.

Tesla’s Alta Motors makes a Redshift electric motorcycle for $15,000, according to Electrek. The price would be comparable to a mid-range Harley-Davidson, gas-powered motorcycle, but that’s where the comparison ends. Harley riders want speed, and it’s reported the Tesla motorcycles top out at just under 100 mph.

Harley-Davidson riders want freedom, and having to recharge their motorcycle for 90 minutes might be a contradiction of that. Still, larger batteries can go further between charges. The Harley-Davidson sound is a huge concern, but Tesla’s Alta Redshift motorcycles are silent.

While Harley-Davidson can definitely make an electric motorcycle, the question is, can they make an electric motorcycle that lives up to the spirit of American freedom? Is the transition to electric somehow a compromise of those values?

These traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles are not electric
Harley-Davidson motorcycles by Ermess

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Are Harley-Davidson riders ready for electric motorcycles?

[Featured Image by M.L. Johnson/AP Images]