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Harley Whisper

harley-smHarley-Davidson figures the only way for customers to appreciate electric motorcycles is to let them ride one, reports Dexter Ford in The New York Times (6/22/14). “It’s ultimately a challenge about whether riding an electric motorcycle can be an emotional experience or only a rational one,” says Harley CMO Mark-Hans Richer. “To be a true Harley, it has to have character … It has to be cool. It has to make you feel something important about yourself.”

To that end, the electric motor is a “machined-aluminum cylinder” and the “gears it uses to send power to a single-speed transmission are intentionally designed to make a distinctive sound. The final drive to the wheel is by a belt, typical of gasoline Harley.” “It sounds like a turbine when you are on the bike,” says Mark-Hans. “And from the side, as it goes past, it sounds like a jet.” The bike, called Live Wire, is still in prototype, but Harley’s plan is to let potential customers experience it via a coast-to-coast traveling roadshow.

Dubbed Project LiveWire Experience, the event will stop “at dealerships and other locations,” from New York to Chicago and then … along Route 66 to Santa Monica, California. About 30 prototype bikes will be available to licensed motorcyclists to try, and then convey “their impressions all over the Internet.” “We didn’t want this sitting on a turntable somewhere, with an attractive model standing around handing out brochures,” Mark-Hans says. The tour started on June 24.