News The Game

When Will We See Indian’s Electric Motorcycle?

Trademark filings have the moto world wondering when an electric Indian will appear

You may have already read by now that Indian Motorcycle has issued multiple trademark filings to use the name EFTR for “electric motorcycles and structural parts therefor.” You may have also read that shortly after that news was reported by Motorcycle.com, Indian quickly issued a statement to clarify the report, saying: “the trademark application… is related to a new youth-oriented product that will be unveiled later this year, and is not related to a new electric version of the FTR 1200.”

LOOK GOOD THIS SUMMER
Get a TMO T-Shirt

There are a number of interesting things to unpack from that information. Firstly, there’s the simple fact that Indian chose to respond. That’s not something you usually see. Typically, brands hold their tongue when it comes to speculation about what will or won’t be coming through their doors. I’ve written dozens of speculative articles over the years and have never once had a brand come back to me to say: “No, we’re not making that thing, we’re making this other thing.”

Polaris has some history with electric motorcycles, having raced the Victory Empulse RR at the Isle of Man TT

OK, true, it’s entirely possible (and, in fact, likely) that TMO isn’t important enough to respond to, but you get my point: it’s unusual behavior. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other examples of that happening. The behavior is especially unusual because it offers such specific clarification. Rather than simply say, “No, your speculation is wrong,” Indian’s gone on to explain that it’s actually going to use the name on a kid’s bike – probably along the lines of Harley-Davidson’s IRONe balance bikes – and that it will be available by the end of the year. 

I’m not entirely sure why Indian would be so forthcoming. Perhaps Polaris is still stinging from the Victory Octane debacle and is worried about getting people’s hopes up. Perhaps the company’s looking at the shit circus that is the economy and thinking: “You know, if we’re going to release this thing in time for Christmas maybe we should start hyping it now.” Or perhaps there’s a swerve in the statement that Indian released. 

KEEP READING:
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is So Much Better Than I Imagined

Look at the wording: notice that it simply says the trademark application referenced in MO’s article is not related to an electric version of the FTR 1200. Indian isn’t saying there’s not an electric adult motorcycle coming our way; it’s just saying it won’t be called the EFTR. And, really, the idea that Indian might be working on an electric model is in no way surprising. 

When Harley-Davidson finally launched the excellent LiveWire last year the company cheekily suggested that it was the first major manufacturer to issue a production electric motorcycle. People with functioning memories know this wasn’t true, though, because Victory had offered up the Empulse TT back in 2015. Yeah, that bike was effectively just a rebranded Brammo – an Oregon-based electric motorcycle company bought out by Polaris in January 2015 – but first is still first.

Victory’s Empulse TT was basically just a rebadged Brammo Empulse

Harley’s PR team was probably comfortable making the claim because the Empulse TT made very little impact (I’ve only ever seen one being ridden in the wild, and that was by someone who worked at Polaris headquarters) and Victory Motorcycles went under in 2017. With all that foundation, though, I doubt anyone would be surprised to see Indian rolling out an electric bike. Indeed, I’d be more surprised if Indian didn’t do such a thing. It’s been quietly signalling the possibility of an electric model for years. Seven years ago, even before Indian had displayed any new bikes under Polaris’ leadership, Indian held a competition encouraging young designers to imagine what a future Indian might look like. The eventual winning design was of an electric motorcycle, as was the third-place design.

Polaris has a lot of electric powertrain knowhow in house. In addition to the knowledge it gained from buying up Brammo, the company also makes GEM electric vehicles. Indian will make an electric bike one day. The question is simply when.

Design sketch imagining an electric Indian Motorcycle model
Back in 2013, James Yu won Indian’s design competition with this vision of what an electric Indian Motorcycle model could look like

Based on Indian’s statement, it won’t be this year. Which isn’t that big a deal. Right now is just not a good time to be unveiling anything in the motorsport space. Intermot and EICMA have cancelled this year’s shows and countless smaller, more local shows have done the same. There won’t really be a place to show off a new electric bike until at least 2021. Just as Harley-Davidson has pushed back the launch of its Pan America and Bronx models, I suspect a lot of manufacturers are holding their powder until questions about the current economic situation are answered. Will things be horrific, or just unpleasant? Probably best not to launch any new models until you have a sense of the way the wind is blowing.

That’s especially true for Indian, which has long been (and somewhat frustratingly) honest about the fact it expects to turn a profit on the stuff it makes. So it may wait longer than we’d like. To that end, since I’d like to see Indian revealing an electric model by the end of next year it will probably actually be 2022 when such a thing happens.

James Thetard’s sketch of a possible electric Indian Scout came third in Indian’s 2013 design competition

It might be even further away, though, because the aforementioned challenges will have set back other Indian plans, such as the other FTR 1200 variations we already know are coming. A more road-focused version of the FTR 1200 had been scheduled to break cover this year, with an adventure model scheduled for next year. Look for the road bike to at least be pushed back. If those things affect electric bike development, we might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for an eIndian.