H-D invests in Alta Motors
28th February 2018
Electric Hogs | Project LiveWire | Matt Levatich
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No, the motocross bike above isn't the latest production motorcycle from Harley-Davidson. And it's not a prototype either. It's actually the current electric Alta Redshift MX upon which we've tagged an Harley-Davidson logo. And we did that simply to illustrate the news that H-D has just bought a chunk of Alta, thereby consolidating its commitment to, in the very near future, build electric hogs.
Based in Brisbane, California (near San Francisco), Alta Motors was founded in 2010. The company, formerly called BRD, was launched with the financial backing of Tesla co-founders Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard.
The brief was to create world-class and even world-leading off-road and supermoto electric motorcycles. Currently, we're seeing just four bikes in the range, all based upon a common ($10,500 to $13,500) Alta Redshift platform and tweaked to offer optimum performance for the differing race/riding needs and disciplines.
The company website is pretty awful and desperately needs some kind of recharge, but the electro-tech employed in producing the motorcycles looks to be very well developed, and clearly Harley-Davidson hopes to use Alta Motors to leverage itself further into a new and still largely unfamiliar (and risky) world of mainstream battery bikes.
Here's what Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich had to say about the new investment. It's a little klunky, but nobody's perfect:
"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. 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."
From the Alta Motors point of view, the California firm could no doubt use the extra cash that will be pouring into its coffers, not to mention the extra industrial and commercial clout provided by Milwaukee. But we haven't yet seen any details of exactly how much money is about to change hands, and we haven't heard any specifics about the terms of the new tie-up. At the moment, its just a very public handshake.
What's interesting, however, is that BMW Motorrad chief executive Stephan Schaller has recently been quoted as saying: "The electric motorbike does not interest us. We are betting everything on scooters. Electric PTWs (powered two wheelers) will grow, but I believe that their diffusion will be limited mainly to urban use. Basically, they will be scooters like our C-Evolution or the Concept Link prototype presented in 2017. I’m convinced that we will see a significant increase in the sales of these models, not electric motorcycles."
So who's right? Who knows? Despite all the hoo-hah, the case for viable electric motorcycles as a direct replacement for petrol fuelled bikes still hasn't been decisively made. BMW, understandably, feels that its best interests lie in global trekking GS-style machines rather than more short-hop bikes. Alta Motors, meanwhile, is focussed predominantly on short duration competition machines. Harley-Davidson is somewhere between the two and has a very different client base to both companies and knows that it's risking a lot of kudos and credibility (and cash) in trying to re-establish itself as a manufacturer of heavyweight bad-ass electric cruisers.
Harley-Davidson, note, doesn't feel it really got its money's worth with (defunct) Buell, and its expectations for the now also defunct V-Rod fell a long way short of the boardroom target. Meanwhile, the company is struggling against tumbling sales and jittery shareholders, and it needs a new pig to put in the poke among the other established hogs.
In 2014 the firm broke the news of its new LiveWire electric motorcycle project (see image immediately above), and it toured the prototype (or prototypes) to gauge reaction. Since then, it's all fallen a little flat. So maybe the Alta Motors interest will get the project on a roll again.
The latest promise from Milwaukee is that by 2019, the first production electric cruisers will appear—and that's a big promise to make in the face of a struggling motorcycle market.
Harley-Davidson Livewire: Sump June 2014
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