How Harley-Davidson and Yamaha Are Breaking the Mold With Their New Electric Bikes

The iconic motorcycle makers are looking to the future...

Jul 9, 2014 at 12:50PM

What sounds like a jet engine, goes from zero to 60 in four seconds, and uses 220 VAC for fuel? It's the new LiveWire electric bike, now under development by the iconic American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG)

Source: Harley-Davision

Instead of sipping gasoline, a regenerative electric motor will rely on the flow of electrons from a lithium-ion battery, similar technology to what are in the 787 Dreamliner aircraft and many electric cars today.

The new bike is not yet on the market, and so far Harley is only planning a barnstorming tour to show off a prototype at dealerships around the country.

Electric motorcycles are not really new. There are a few out there produced by smaller manufacturers so the Hog maker will have a little catching up to do. 

What does all of this mean for investors of Harley-Davidson, and such rivals as Yamaha Motor (NASDAQOTH:YAMHF)?

High on the hog for now
Harley-Davidson dominates the industry right now, especially in the U.S., and has been reporting growth in shipments, revenue, and EPS  even though it only sells large (> 600 cc), on-street machines. However, some estimates indicate that Harley's domestic market share growth will flatline as competition heats up so the company might need a new strategy for the future.


Enter the LiveWire
The new bike probably won't be bought up in large numbers by the typical Harley customer; the long-haired, middle-aged, tattooed man, and ridden on the open road. Instead, the company would likely be targeting a new demographic: a hip, more environmentally conscious millennial, quite possibly a woman, who would drive the LiveWire in urban areas.

Harley has to overcome technical and marketing problems in order for the bike to be viable in the marketplace:

  1. The max range of the prototype is about 50 miles between charges. A charge requires about 3.5 hours, and that will probably need to be improved upon, even if the machine will only be used in the city. 
  2. Convincing a new type of rider, maybe one that has never ridden on a "big" bike, might involve some sort of "hearts-and-minds" campaign, and possibly a new training program to be developed.
  3. If the company wants to try to sell to the average Hog rider, a 49-year-old white male, it will have to convince him of the legitimacy of the new technology features. Right now, he likes that throaty growl that he can get from a gasoline-powered bike. 
  4. Harley will have to price the LiveWire correctly in order for it to appeal to a younger, likely less-affluent buyer. 

However, the company is thinking ahead and using innovation in a typically stodgy industry to plan for future sales to a new type of customer. Shareholders could benefit if the Hog maker improves upon the prototype and develops a successful marketing campaign. 

Another electric
Yamaha is also developing an electric bike, the PES1, which will be intended for the sporty end of the market and available in 2016.

Yamaha Pes
Source: Yamaha

There is not much credible performance and business information available on the PES1 yet. Yamaha would probably go after the same demographic that Harley is targeting with the LiveWire, based upon research that indicates the market is tilting toward a younger rider that would rather go green. Harley-Davidson could have some competition out there if this new market ever materializes. 

Foolish conclusion
The iconic motorcycle maker, Harley-Davidson, is investigating the feasibility of producing an electric bike. If the new machine ever gets to production it would likely be targeted toward a new type of rider. Instead of a middle-aged man riding in the open countryside, you might see a young upstart tooling around the city on a LiveWire. Innovation in the motorcycle industry will be good for investors. 


Warren Buffett's worst auto nightmare (hint: It's not Tesla)
A major technological shift is happening in the automotive industry. Most people are skeptical about its impact. Warren Buffett isn't one of them. He recently called it a "real threat" to one of his favorite businesses. An executive at Ford called the technology "fantastic." The beauty for investors is that there is an easy way to invest in this megatrend. Click here to access our exclusive report on this stock.

Mark Morelli has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers