Common Tread

Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors will build electric Harleys

Mar 01, 2018

Harley-Davidson has been saying it is serious about electric motorcycles, and now it has put some money behind those words by investing in Alta Motors. The companies said in a news release that they will collaborate to produce new models of electric motorcycles.

Alta EX
Whatever Alta Motors builds in collaboration with Harley-Davidson, it is likely to be quite different from the dirt bikes it makes now. Alta Motors photo.
While the companies have not yet detailed their plans, it appears this collaboration may be in addition to the Project LiveWire electric motorcycle Harley has been working on and plans to introduce for 2019.

"Earlier this year, as part of our 10-year strategy, we reiterated our commitment to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders, in part, by aggressively investing in electric vehicle (EV) technology," said Harley-Davidson President Matt Levatich. "Alta has demonstrated innovation and expertise in EV and their objectives align closely with ours. We each have strengths and capabilities that will be mutually beneficial as we work together to develop cutting-edge electric motorcycles."

The partnership is not a first for either company. Alta Motors has gotten outside investments recently to help them improve their manufacturing abilities and lower their cost structure (more on that coming tomorrow). Harley-Davidson worked with the now defunct Mission Motors in California to build the LiveWire. Another parallel is the purchase by Polaris of Brammo technology, which was followed by the Brammo Empulse being rebranded the Victory Empulse not long before the Victory brand was axed. It seems Harley is determined not to follow that dead-end route.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire Experience
Introducing something different to the Harley-Davidson faithful has never been easy. Here, a staff person explains the LiveWire. Photo by Lance Oliver.

Here's the challenge I can't help but ponder. The comments section here at Common Tread has been inundated with discussion of Harley-Davidson's need to diversify and difficulty doing so successfully. We all remember hearing complaints from Buell owners about how some Harley dealers treated them and their motorcycles, and those bikes (most of them, anyway) had a genuine H-D air-cooled V-twin inside the oddball frame. How are Harley dealers and service managers going to feel about a electric vehicle?

Given the small numbers, a stand-alone dealership doesn't make sense, so if they are branded as Harley-Davidsons (and that's presumably the plan), then they will have to be sold in Harley-Davidson dealerships. That will be interesting.

But that's also in the future. For now, Harley-Davidson has shown its interest in electric motorcycles is serious and Alta can move beyond dirt bikes and begin to make a claim as a potential competitor to Zero Motorcycles, where others like Mission and Brammo fell to the wayside.