Harley-Davidson introduces electric motorcycle

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Harley-Davidson introduces electric motorcycle
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
In this Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo, employee Ben Lund demonstrates Harley's new electric motorcycle at Harley's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows the engine on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle, at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle, at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
This Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo shows the control screen on Harley-Davidson's new electric motorcycle, at the company's research facility in Wauwatosa, Wis. The company plans to unveil the LiveWire model Monday, June 23, at an invitation-only event in New York. (AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
Harley-Davidson product logo. (Photo by: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images)
FW Dixon with a Harley-Davidson, 1923. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Harley-Davidson racing motorcycle. (Photo by Loomis Dean//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle sits on display at the Starved Rock Harley-Davidson dealership in Ottawa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Harley-Davidson Inc. rose the most in almost 18 months after reporting first-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as retail sales of motorcycles increased. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A 2014 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide motorcycle sits on display at the Starved Rock Harley-Davidson dealership in Ottawa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Harley-Davidson Inc. rose the most in almost 18 months after reporting first-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as retail sales of motorcycles increased. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Five time Daytona 200 winner Scott Russell races through a turn at Daytona International Speedway during practice fir this year's Daytona 200 on March 3, 1999. Russell switched to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the 1999 season and will run his first race for Harley-Davidson in Sunday's race. (Photo by Brian Cleary)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Italy - 1967 Harley-Davidson Rapido 125cc Motorcycle (Photo by Bob Greene/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 26: Bonneville National Speed Trials - 1974. Bob George's S&S Cycle twin-engine Harley-Davidson. (Photo by Eric Rickman/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)
FW Dixon on a Harley-Davidson, with a passenger in the sidecar, 1921. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The Harley-Davidson motorcycles logo is displayed on a motorcycle for sale at Bartels' dealership in Marina del Rey, California, U.S., on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Harley-Davidson Inc. is scheduled to release second-quarter earnings figures on July 25. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Harley-Davidson motorcycles logo is displayed on the sleeve of a leather jacket for sale at Bartels' dealership in Marina del Rey, California, U.S., on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Harley-Davidson Inc. is scheduled to release second-quarter earnings figures on July 25. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 31: Harley-Davidson motorcycles from around the world, sits outside the Milwaukee Art Museum to commemorate the Harley-Davidson 110th Year Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on AUGUST 31, 2013. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
US freestyle motocross legend Seth Enslow is airborne as he smashes the longest distance record jump on a Harley-Davidson in Sydney on March 2, 2010. Enslow broke his own new world record set only an hour earlier, with a jump of 55.77 metres (183.7 feet) on his Harley-Davidson XR1200. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
MENOMONEE FALLS, WI - AUGUST 30: Mike Beckman works on the assembly line building motors at the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations plant on August 30, 2013 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. More than 100,000 people are expected to join Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee this week to help the company celebrate their 110th anniversary. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MENOMONEE FALLS, WI - AUGUST 30: Pushrod tubes sit along the assembly line at the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations plant on August 30, 2013 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. More than 100,000 people are expected to join Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee this week to help the company celebrate their 110th anniversary. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MENOMONEE FALLS, WI - AUGUST 30: Cheryl Zastrow works on the assembly line building motors at the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations plant on August 30, 2013 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. More than 100,000 people are expected to join Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee this week to help the company celebrate their 110th anniversary. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Harley-Davidson will unveil its first electric motorcycle next week, and President Matt Levatich said he expects the company known for its big touring bikes and iconic brand to become a leader in developing technology and standards for electric vehicles.

Harley will show handmade demonstration models Monday at an invitation-only event in New York. The company will then take several dozen riders on a 30-city tour to test drive the bikes and provide feedback. Harley will use the information it gathers to refine the bike, which might not hit the market for several more years.

The venture is a risk for Harley because there's currently almost no market for full-size electric motorcycles. The millions of two-wheeled electric vehicles sold each year are almost exclusively scooters and low-powered bikes that appeal to Chinese commuters. But one analyst said investment by a major manufacturer could help create demand, and Levatich emphasized in an interview with The Associated Press that Harley is interested in the long-term potential, regardless of immediate demand.

"We think that the trends in both EV technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders," Levatich said. "So, nobody can predict right now how big that industry will be or how significant it will be."

At the same time, Levatich and others involved in creating the sleek, futuristic LiveWire predicted it would sell based on performance, not environmental awareness. With no need to shift gears, the slim, sporty bike can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 4 seconds. The engine is silent, but the meshing of gears emits a hum like a jet airplane taking off.

"Some people may get on it thinking, `golf cart,'" lead engineer Jeff Richlen said. "And they get off thinking, `rocket ship.'"

One hurdle the company has yet to address is the limited range offered by electric motorcycles. The batteries must be recharged after about 130 miles, and that can take 30 minutes to an hour.

San Jose State University police Capt. Alan Cavallo helped his department buy two bikes from Zero Motorcycles, the current top-selling brand, and said officers have been "super happy" with the quiet, environmentally friendly bikes made nearby in Scotts Valley, California. But he said American riders who like to hit the highway would likely lose patience with the technology.

"That's the deal with the cars; you can't jump in a Tesla and drive to LA, it won't make it," Cavallo said, adding later, "People want the convenience of `I pull into a gas station, I pour some gas in my tank and I go.'"

Zero Motorcycles introduced its first full-size motorcycle in 2010 and expects to sell about 2,400 bikes this year, said Scott Harden, the company's vice president of global marketing. That would give it about half of the global market for full-size, high-powered electric motorcycles.

In comparison, Harley-Davidson alone sold more than 260,000 conventional motorcycles last year.

Outsiders focused on electric vehicle development predicted Harley would help boost sales for all electric motorcycle makers by creating greater awareness of and demand for electric bikes. Yamaha also has an electric motorcycle in development.

"It's the old `a rising tide raises all boats,'" said Gary Gauthier, business and technology adviser for NextEnergy, a Detroit-based nonprofit focused on energy development.

John Gartner, a research director for the consulting firm Navigant Research, noted the major automakers helped drive sales for hybrid and electric cars.

"Their marketing budgets are much larger and they have dealerships set up everywhere, and so it's much easier for companies like Ford, BMW and Honda to advertise about their electric vehicles," Gartner said.

Levatich said true growth will require common standards for rapid charging and other features, as well as places for people to plug in. Harley expects to play a key role in developing electric vehicle standards, and its dealership network could provide charging stations to serve all drivers, he said.

"We've been very silent up to this point about our investment in EV technology," Levatich said. "... but now that we're public, and we're in this space, we expect to be involved and a part of leading the development of the standards, and the technology and the infrastructure necessary to further the acceptance and the utility of electric vehicles."

Introducing Harley-Davidson's First Electric Motorcycle

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