Harley-Davidson invests in Alta, plans for electric motorcycle

Company plans for bike to be delivered in 2019

Harley-Davidson announced Thursday that it has invested in California-based electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors, further fueling speculation about a production version of the LiveWire, The Motorcycle Obsession reported.

The announcement comes roughly a month after Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich told investors the company was on track to deliver its first electric motorcycle “within 18 months” (i.e., before July 2019).

“Harley-Davidson remains fully committed to investing in product development to inspire new riders through redefining its product in traditional spaces and expanding into new spaces,” he told shareholders in January. “The EV motorcycle market is in its infancy today, but we believe premium Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles will help drive excitement and participation in the sport globally.”

Alta Motors is a relative newcomer to the electric vehicle scene and is known for its Redshift series of motocross-inspired bikes. Its 42-horsepower Redshift SuperMoto claims 60 miles of commuting range or 40 miles of sport riding. Those numbers may come as a disappointment for the traditional long-haul Harley rider (by comparison, the Zero DSR claims a 140+ mile range), but the Milwaukee company is optimistic.

“Alta has demonstrated innovation and expertise in EV and their objectives align closely with ours,” Levatich said Thursday. “We each have strengths and capabilities that will be mutually beneficial as we work together to develop cutting-edge electric motorcycles.”

Alta, too, is buoyant in its mood. Chief Product Officer and co-founder Marc Fenigstein said the collaboration represents an opportunity for American companies to lead the way in terms of EV technology.

“Riders are just beginning to understand the combined benefits of EV today,” he said. “We believe electric motorcycles are the future… . It’s incredibly exciting that Harley-Davidson, synonymous with motorcycle leadership, shares that vision and we’re thrilled to collaborate with them."

Harley-Davidson has shown a very real interest in electric motorcycles for a number of years. Industry observers see at as a way for the company to address the challenges of increasingly stringent environmental legislation in Europe and elsewhere, as well as capture the imaginations of millennial buyers.

“We believe that EV is where global mobility is headed and holds great appeal for existing riders as well as opportunity to bring new riders into the sport,” said Levatich.

Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire Project drew tremendous interest when it was unveiled in 2014, with thousands of riders clamoring for an opportunity to throw a leg over on the prototype bikes. The project was eventually pushed to the back burner, however, while the company sought to address issues of range and cost. Prospective buyers were being put off by the idea of paying a lot of money for not a lot of miles per charge.

Presumably this collaboration with Alta will help the company overcome those challenges; however, don’t expect Harley to change its stripes completely.

“We intend to be the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles,” Levatich said. “At the same time, (we plan to) remain true to our gas and oil roots by continuing to produce a broad portfolio of motorcycles that appeal to all types of riders around the world.”