Robin Diedrich, a senior analyst at Edward Jones, said the electric auto market could potentially mean big bucks.
"The electric car and motorcycle market is a very small niche, but a very fast-growing category," Diedrich said. "If Harley can create a good product and get a lot of excitement around it, you'll have individuals that may not have made the move to electric, considering taking the leap."
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But while Harley's Richer said the company has been "very happy with the response so far," several enthusiasts at the company's Canoga Park, California, dealership were critical of the electric vehicles. Many buyers buy Harleys and tune them to make them louder—adding to the adage that "loud pipes save lives."
One Harley owner said he wouldn't purchase the new bike because without the roar of the engine, it wouldn't be a true Harley.
"When I ride a motorcycle, it's that engine vibration, the sound, the kind of visceral experience you get that you can't get with an electric motorcycle," said the California owner. "If I'm going to buy an electric motorcycle, I might as well buy a scooter or something like that."
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Project LiveWire was unveiled at an invitation-only event in New York and will be available for licensed riders to test drive at events around the U.S throughout the summer. The prototypes get about 53 miles per charge and take roughly 3.5 hours to recharge.
—By Abigail Bassett. Paul A. Eisenstein also contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @DetroitBureau or at thedetroitbureau.com.
Correction: This story has been updated to properly identify Robin Farley.