After Polaris Industries Inc. announced in January that it would wind down the operations of its Victory motorcycle brand, the status of the company’s electric motorcycle program remained unclear. But now that has changed under Polaris’s Indian brand of Motorcycles.
Polaris motorcycles division president Steve Menneto recently said that the Medina, Minn.-based company is planning to roll out electric motorcycles under the company’s growing Indian brand in the next four to five years. Polaris’ current electric motorcycles are Victory bikes sold under the Empulse brand.
Polaris has had success in revitalizing Indian motorcycles since buying the vintage brand in 2011. Polaris said it is winding down Victory to allow it to focus more on Indian, which has grown its U.S. market share in what has been a relatively flat market for motorcycle sales.
The timeline stated by Menneto means that electric Indian motorcycles could hit the market around the same time as rival Harley-Davidson Inc. may introduce its LiveWire electric motorcycle to the market. Sean Cummings, senior vice president of global demand for Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson, told the Milwaukee Business Journal in June 2016 that the company could launch LiveWire to the market within five years.
Harley-Davidson introduced the LiveWire as a prototype available for test rides all over the world in 2014 and 2015, with the caveat that the electric vehicle technology was not ready for commercial sale under the Harley brand. Although not for sale, the LiveWire was priced out at about $50,000, and had a range of 53 miles. Industry experts have settled on a price point of $15,000 and a range of at least 150 miles to make an electric bike commercially viable.
Polaris’ Menneto told Reuters that its Indian electric motorcycle is expected to have a range of up to 140 miles on a single charge. That compares with 75 miles for its Empulse motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson dominates the U.S. market for heavyweight motorcycles, the market in which Indian has shown it can compete. Since being acquired by Polaris in 2011, Indian’s market share has grown to 3 percent of the U.S. on-highway motorcycle market, according to an October 2016 report from Milwaukee-based Baird. For comparison, Harley-Davidson’s dominating market share stood at 48 percent, distantly followed by Japanese brands Honda and Yamaha at 11 percent apiece.