Harley-Davidson Pivots to Hemp in Electric Vehicle Division’s Sustainability Push

What’s the most unique aspect of the recently unveiled S2 Mulholland electric performance cruiser released by LiveWire, Harley-Davidson’s electric division? Some of its major components are made from hemp biocomposites—marking a first for the company as it shifts to a more sustainable approach.

On March 20, LiveWire—Harley-Davidson’s electric vehicle (EV) division, which separated as a company in 2022—announced the S2 Mulholland, an electric cruiser with components made from hemp biocomposites. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, the new vehicle also features components made from materials sourced from discarded fishing nets that otherwise would be choking ocean life across the sea. 

Plastic News reports that LiveWire’s newest motorcycle features hemp-reinforced fenders and other parts made with post-consumer plastics. Mulholland’s front and rear fenders are made with a hemp biocomposite. Its radiator shrouds and wiring caddies are made using post-consumer nylon from Ravago, which is sourced from discarded fishing nets. 

“S2 Mulholland continues to push the envelope of design further with LiveWire’s first use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials across key touch points on the bike including bodywork, seat, and secondary plastic components,” the press release reads.

“Mulholland’s front and rear fenders are manufactured using CAP hemp bio-composite,” the announcement reads. “The motorcycle’s radiator shrouds, and wiring caddies are manufactured from HYLON® OCEAN (PCR Nylon 6), the origin of which are discarded ocean fishing nets, further reducing the reliance on petroleum-based plastics. LiveWire also manufactured the seat using petroleum-free, recyclable silicone rather than leather or vinyl.

The finish on the bike is designed to highlight its hemp parts.

“Finally, the bike will be available in an eco-friendlier unpainted Lunar White finish that elevates the CAP Hemp material while minimizing the use of traditional plastics and paints—efforts unseen in this category prior to the launch of Mulholland. Liquid Black will be the sole painted option available.”

The Mulholland isn’t designed for long rides, however, and it ideal for city driving and other instances.

The bike weighs 432 pounds, and the Mulholland is capable of a 3.3 second zero-to-sixty time with its 84 horsepower and 194 ft-lb of torque available to the rider. The 10.5 kWh pack contributes 121 miles of city riding range and 73 miles of highway range at 55 mph. The bike adopts the same charging technology available on Del Mar, with both Level 1 and Level 2 equipped as standard. Mulholland’s 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels are equipped with Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart IV tires, utilizing the bike’s 55°/ 50° left and right lean angles.

LiveWire’s majority shareholder is Harley-Davidson, Inc. The bikes come from the lineage of the classic Harley-Davidson bikes as it moves into the EV sector.

Sustainability and Hemp Motorcycles

There are unique acoustic, thermal, and mechanical properties of hemp biocomposite—notably its fire resistance. Hemp biocomposites help to reinforce materials.

The push for sustainability in EV design shows how Harley-Davidson is adapting to the changing times. 

Electric bikes typically cost more but younger generations are buying them anyways. A survey found that in particular, 73% of Gen Zers were willing to pay more for more sustainable products. (Nearly all studies point to a generation more concerned about sustainability.) This bike is priced just under $16,000 USD and C$22,000, which is more than gas-powered Harley-Davidson cruisers.

The bike went on sale last week with inventory available immediately at all U.S. and Canadian motorcycle dealers. The Mulholland line represents a shift in design at LiveWire with changes to the profile and shape of the bike while also using sustainable materials in major components for the first time.

The idea to make bikes out of hemp has been around, though they are few.

Other engineers like the ones at smaller start-ups like New Zealand-based FTN Motion released electric motorcycles with parts made from hemp.

FTN Motion launched its New Zealand-made electric motorbike, the Streetdog, in 2021 and was eyeing the Australian and European markets.

The Streetdog can be charged on a household power socket and has a range of up to 80 km. It had a top speed of 50km/h and interestingly—could be driven in New Zealand on a restricted car license because it was classed as a moped. The price starts from $12,000 NZ.

Jay Leno also explored hemp-based vehicles. On Jay Leno’s Garage, retired Dell executive Bruce Dietzen demonstrated a red convertible to show the strength and durability of his 2017 Renew, which is made out of 100 pounds of cannabis hemp.

Get used to EVs, because they are growing in popularity, big time: According to the International Energy Agency, the share of electric cars in total sales has more than tripled in three years, from around 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022. 

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