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This story was originally published on CycleWorld.com.

Let’s turn back the clock hands to 1978, when Steve Fehr of the Transitron Electronic Corporation built a one-off Harley-Davidson MK2 electric motorcycle prototype in Honolulu, Hawaii. And legendary designer Brooks Stevens was involved.

Steve Fehr’s original drawing of 1978 electric harley-davidson motorcycle
Steve Fehr’s original drawing.
1978 electric harley-davidson motorcycle
High voltage, indeed! Maybe Steve Fehr was an AC/DC fan? It was 1978 after all.

What are we looking at? The Transitron team started with a 1971 Harley-Davidson XLH Sportster, replacing the 900cc OHV internal combustion engine with a variable-speed electric motor and a series of deep-cycle batteries. The chain-driven, automatic four-speed transmission was powered by a proprietary control system with an integrated circuit mini-controller. Acceleration was a reported 0–30 mph in 5–6 seconds. The instrument panel was mounted to the handlebars, featuring an electric speedometer, a tachometer, and dual ammeters for measuring amps.


1978 electric harley-davidson instrument panel
The instrument panel was mounted to the handlebars, featuring an electric speedometer, a tachometer, and dual ammeters for measuring amps.
deep-cycle lead-acid batteries
A series of four deep-cycle lead-acid batteries were said to provide a run time of up to six hours.

The 24-volt, 95-amp Baldor electric motor was linked via a primary drive belt to a four-speed automatic transmission and linked to the rear wheel via a drive chain. The setup reportedly allowed the 628-pound Harley MK2 to reach a top speed of 50 mph while maintaining a range-friendly electric motor speed of just 2,500 rpm. A series of four deep-cycle lead-acid batteries were said to provide a run time of up to six hours.

Although Transitron was actively seeking funding and development partners, Harley-Davidson showed no interest in pursuing development of an electric motorcycle, but Stevens did. He already helped Harley design its game-changing 1949 FL Hydra-Glide OHV V-twin, and the then-67-year-old Stevens worked with Fehr to help test the prototype, racking up 360 miles of on-track testing of the prototype in Wisconsin (possibly at nearby Road America).

boattail seat from a Sportster
A “boattail” seat from a Sportster.
1978 electric harley-davidson motorcycle

Variable-speed electric motor, four-speed automatic transmission, Harley-Davidson Sportster chassis with a 59-inch wheelbase, 33mm XLH fork, Sportster “boattail” seat, and Harley-Davidson drum brakes.

RM Sotheby’s Auctions

After $70,000 was invested on the MK2’s development, Fehr’s bike found a home in Steven’s transportation museum in Mequon, Wisconsin, where it stayed until his death in 1995.

The bike sold for $11,000 at the RM Sotheby’s auction at Amelia Island in 2014, the same year Harley introduced its LiveWire prototype.

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