Supply and Demand

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK by Steve Lita, Editor

…something all-new, futuristic, high-tech but on a burrito-lunch budge

Times are a-changin’. Are you ready? Or perhaps I should write: Times are a-chargin’. Subtle difference there. I’m referring to vehicle charging, as in charging your bike’s battery overnight for a commute the next morning. And I’m not talking about the little battery used to spin the starter that then turns over your internal combustion engine. I mean the battery (or batteries) that power an electric motor that silently glides you down the road.

Here in the congested Northeast, I see Tesla electric cars every day. On my morning and afternoon commute, shopping malls on the weekends, and even on a night out on the town. What was once an oddity is slowly becoming the norm. Tesla charging stations are located outside of restaurants, shopping malls, and even highway rest stops. I’ve seen folks offer up their personal Teslas on Turo, the car rental/borrow site, and that seems to be a great way to try an electric vehicle to see if you can really live with one. It sure beats a 15-minute dealership test drive.

Harley’s recent announcement of its LiveWire model retail pricing at this winter’s CES show was met with jeers by most motorcycle enthusiasts when they noticed its $29,799 price tag. I guess everyone wants something all-new, futuristic, high-tech—but on a burrito-lunch budget. Newsflash, folks: the electric future will cost money to power, both literally and figuratively.

I, for one, am excited about the prospect of riding an electric bike in the future. What limited exposure I’ve had to electrified bikes has left me wanting more. The torque production, the thrust, the lack of gear changes, and, yes, the not-completely-silent but plenty-quiet powertrains are a hoot to experience. My first ride aboard an electric motorcycle was at, of all places, Daytona Bike Week about a decade ago. It was quite surreal sitting at a stop light on a completely still and silent motorcycle, while all my “brothers” sat there jostling and gyrating to their wide-open exhaust note, even at an idle. It made me laugh.

I recently asked a Harley rep how the LiveWire program was progressing, and I got the usual upbeat, rah-rah reply. “We’re pleased with the initial response to LiveWire in the US. More than half a million people have visited the LiveWire page on H-D.com and preorders are coming in daily. With this new go-to-market approach, we’re attracting a broad spectrum of customers who want to be early-adopters”.

I did a little research to see who would be handling the LiveWire in my community and found only a single dealer in Connecticut as the authorized outlet. (I know, it’s a small state.) When I questioned H-D as to why, I was told, “The initial production run on LiveWire is limited. We know that the consumer demand for EV products is not the same in every area of the country, and, as such, the return on investment for dealers will vary. We are closely looking at a distribution model that phases in dealers based on demand and readiness.” That doesn’t seem out of line to me.

As of late we’ve been enjoying some pretty stable gas prices here in the US. And the last time I was filling up at the pumps (I think I spotted a Tesla drive by) I wondered if someday there would be so many electric vehicles on the road that demand would dwindle for petroleum. Would the oil companies lower their prices to keep folks from abandoning internal combustion-powered vehicles and keep buying their liquid commodity? On the other hand, would production of gasoline be reduced, thus becoming scarcer and more valuable? I don’t claim to be an economics professor, but surely an uptick in electric vehicles will mean less gas consumption.

But people still love their gas-guzzling SUVs—for now. I definitely see more gas guzzlers on the road these days than electric cars. It’ll take a long time before the gas-powered engine is gone for good. And, dare I say, I won’t be around to see it? I’m not sure.