The LiveWire ridable concept bike (Image: Harley-Davidson)

Iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has been touting the “LiveWire” electric bike concept around for years. But only recently has the company committed to a timeline on production of anything like it.

“Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years,” writes Asphalt And Rubber citing Harley Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings as quoted in the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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A&R calls the comment “superfluous” explaining that “lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.”

Still, until this month the electric motorcycle idea seemed like it could have stayed at the “publicity stunt” stage indefinitely for Harley-Davidson. Now we’re hearing it’s happening, in some form, on the soon-side of the next decade.

Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich explained to The Wall Street Journal that the company’s waiting on battery tech to improve. “Will we get to that Nirvana that customers say they want? Probably not,” he said. “Will we get close enough? I believe we will,” as he’s quoted in Fortune.

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I imagine that “Nirvana” he’s referring to is a balance of performance, range and price.

Harley-Davidson has a strong brand image. Maybe one of the strongest on Earth, honestly. Who doesn’t know what a Harley-Davidson is?

Analysts around the internet seem to think the company’s success is dependent on its ability to “change with the times” and create expensive bikes that will appeal to younger buyers. Electrification looks like a means to that end. I reckon the company could do just fine leveraging their brand equity on things far more profitable than motor vehicles, like t-shirts and restaurant branding, but what the hell do I know?

One thing’s for sure; Harley is big enough to experiment and it’s cool to hear the company is planning on doing that. As for maintaining their retro rebel image while expanding into electric bikes, I think Jay Leno broke it down pretty nicely when he rode the LiveWire concept and posited that people will start taking the things seriously as they start to look as epic as their gas-powered counterparts in racing and on the street. That, for sure, is happening now.