Japanese companies ignore electric motorcycles as Harley steps in

Harley-Davidson expects to bring its electric motorcycles to Japan by next year, according to the company’s CEO.

The news comes straight from the top, as Harley-Davidson’s CEO Jochen Zeitz explained to Nikkei that the American motorcycle manufacturer would bring its electric motorcycles to the island nation.

Harley-Davidson was one of the first legacy motorcycle manufacturers to embrace electric drivetrains. Nearly a decade ago the company began work on Project LiveWire, which eventually resulted in the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle. The bike received rave reviews for its performance but saw meager sales due to a high sticker price of nearly US $30,000.

The LiveWire was eventually relaunched with slight changes under H-D’s new all-electric motorcycle brand, also called LiveWire. The new bike, now known as the LiveWire One, is priced at nearly US $7,000 less than the original H-D LiveWire, bringing the price down to around US $23,000.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire One
LiveWire One electric motorcycle

LiveWire’s second electric motorcycle model, known as the LiveWire S2 Del Mar, is expected to rollout to customers later this summer.

That bike is slightly smaller and also more affordable, starting just north of US $15,000. LiveWire has used the launch to target an expanded market of younger, urban riders that might have been priced out of its flagship electric motorcycle several years ago.

Zeitz didn’t elaborate on which of the LiveWire models would enter the Japanese market, but it is likely that the smaller S2 Del Mar would be ideal.

That would make sense considering that Zeitz also revealed that Harley-Davidson may bring its smaller Chinese-made X350 motorcycle to Japan as well, though that model is powered by a combustion engine.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire S2 Del Mar
LiveWire S2 Del Mar

The news of an American motorcycle manufacturer bringing its electric motorcycles to Japan comes at a time when Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are still largely dragging their feet on e-moto development.

The Big Four of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki have mostly ignored the burgeoning electric motorcycle market over the last decade.

Only recently have they begun to rollout concepts and prototypes, though several have been rather weak efforts with pitiful specifications, especially compared to Harley’s higher power electric motorcycles that boast 0-60 mph times of just three seconds.

The four Japanese motorcycle makers joined a consortium to develop a standard for a swappable electric motorcycle battery, though hopes for a higher performance product were quashed when it turned out that Honda’s small Gogoro-style battery would become the likely standard.

For its part, Honda has pledged to present several electric motorcycles over the next few years, but the few models we’ve seen so far are closer to electric scooters and mopeds, such as the Honda e-Cub below.

honda cub e:
Honda E-Cub electric motorbike

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