Harley-Davidson has announced that it is following the likes of BMW, KTM, Piaggio, Royal Enfield, Hero Corp and other motorcycle manufacturers in creating an advanced technology Research and Design facility.
|Future Electrics - “a broader range of light and nimble models, ready to tackle the urban landscape”|
In Harley’s case it is to be established just down the road from e-bike manufacturer Alta Motors - Harley’s LiveWire R&D joint venture partner - in Silicon Valley, California, as a satellite of the Willie G. Davidson Product Development Facility that is based at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The new facility is expected to open as early as in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Harley says it will initially focus on electric vehicle research and development, including battery, power electronics and e-machine design, development and advanced manufacturing. In the long- term, Harley says it may consider expanding the center’s focus to embrace “an increased range of advanced technologies that uniquely leverage the rich talent in the Silicon Valley” with the aim of “supporting its most comprehensive and competitive line-up of motorcycles across a broad spectrum of price points, power sources and riding styles.”
|Matt Levatich, Harley CEO: “This new R&D facility in the heart of Silicon Valley will help us deliver on our announced plans and demonstrate our commitment to lead the electrification of the sport”|
The move is part of Harley’s overdue response to the changes that have been taking place in the global motorcycle industry and its need to act decisively to keep itself competitive as demographics and technology drive an all new direction for the motorcycle industry.
“Recently we shared with the world our accelerated plans to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally,” said Matt Levatich, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson, Inc. “This new R&D facility in the heart of Silicon Valley will help us deliver on those plans and demonstrate our commitment to lead the electrification of the sport.”
As part of its recently unveiled “More Roads” strategy, Harley has said that it will launch its first electric motorcycle, the much trailed LiveWire, in 2019. The plan is that LiveWire will be “the first in a broad, no-clutch “twist and go” portfolio of electric two-wheelers designed by the company. It will be followed by additional models through 2022 to broaden the portfolio with lighter, smaller and even more accessible product options to inspire new riders with new ways to ride.”
|A European style city and campus hopper, ideal for ‘Pay and Go’ rental fleets|
Those additional models will likely include models that are broadly in line with the “Future Electrics” concepts that were also unveiled in the “More Roads” strategy document. The “broader range” of electric model concepts seen in “More Roads” included models that are “light, nimble and ready to tackle the urban landscape” and “more accessible product options to inspire new riders with new ways to ride”.
The concepts visualized an Enduro style street/off-road surface-capable cross-over and a European style city and campus hopper that would be ideal for ‘Pay and Go’ rental fleets. It is thought that new models may also include scooters and PedElecs.
The company says it has already begun recruiting “top talent in electrical, mechanical and software engineering with experience in developing and delivering a wide variety of EV systems from design through production.” The facility will initially employ a staff of approximately 25, most of which the company intends to hire from within the Silicon Valley area.
“This is an exciting time in Harley-Davidson’s incredible history, and it’s also an exciting time to join our company and help shape our future,” said Levatich.
In fact, Harley and other manufacturers are treading a path down a trail first blazed by Ducati at around the time that Harley-Davidson tried to buy the Bologna, Italy based manufacturer - before settling for MV Agusta - which Matt Levatich was tasked with turning around, something he did with considerable success before the Wandell era saw MV (and Buell) jettisoned.
The Ducati Research Centre was created in 2006 as the result of cooperation among the Universities of Bologna and Trento, Italy, where a significant team of engineers have been working to develop “innovative solutions in the systems of emission reduction and alternative traction.”
In 2012 Ducati went on to establish the Ducati Energia Group research and development operation, whose activities have included new production and engineering research and new product prototyping.