While Harley-Davidson recently announced their intention to bring an electric bike to market by 2020, they put their money where their press release is today, and announced they’d made an equity investment in Alta Motors.  We’ve featured Alta’s back story here before, and the San Francisco e-bike maker has previously specialized in motocross and supermoto machines, although it’s clear their proprietary technology could easily be applied to street bikes. The Alta investment is The Motor Company’s response to Polaris Industries’ acquisition of Brammo exactly three years ago, after making a substantial investment in the Oregon company back in 2011.

Could this be the marriage made in hog heaven? [Alta Motors]
“Riders are just beginning to understand the combined benefits of EV today, and our technology continues to progress,” Alta Motors Chief Product Officer and co-founder Marc Fenigstein said. “We believe electric motorcycles are the future, and that American companies have an opportunity to lead that future. It’s incredibly exciting that Harley-Davidson, synonymous with motorcycle leadership, shares that vision and we’re thrilled to collaborate with them.” In addition to a financial stake, the two companies will collaborate on electric motorcycle technology and new product development. “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,” Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich said. “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.”

A 1970 Harley-Davidson Aermacchi 250 Ala Verde. [Harley-Davidson Archives]
Harley-Davidson has invested in several smaller bike companies in the past, with mixed results. Aermacchi, Buell and MV Agusta were all temporary bedfellows with H-D, but in the end the Harley-Davidson shut them down or sold them for a dollar (or $3 in the case of MV Agusta).  These purchases  brought new technology to H-D, or riders interested in small/off-road/sports bikes, but in each case the relationship was dramatically severed. EV tech is different, and with the patient trajectory that Alta has chosen, their relationship with H-D might just work for the 115-year-old brand that made Milwaukee famous.

The Alta Pack crams 5.8 kWh into 30.8 kilos with a maximum of 350V, and is waterproof – rated up to IP67. Durable enough to handle impacts and vibrations up to 20G, and digitally self-monitoring. The stacked, honeycomb architecture allows for extreme energy density at 185 watt hours per kilogram.[Alta Motors]
“We believe that EV is where global mobility is headed and holds great appeal for existing riders as well as opportunity to bring new riders into the sport,” Levatich added. “We intend to be the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles and, at the same time, remain true to our gas and oil roots by continuing to produce a broad portfolio of motorcycles that appeal to all types of riders around the world.” We can’t wait to see Alta’s cutting-edge, proprietary technology on a Harley-Davidson ‘Revelation’ roadster (as they’ve dubbed their proposed e-bike).  If the quality, performance, and fitness for purpose is as good as Alta’s dirt bikes, it could bring a totally new crop of riders into the H-D camp…something they desperately need.