Motorcycles

Curtiss goes for Harley's jugular with new electric Psyche – and a prospectus

Curtiss goes for Harley's jugu...
The US$30k Psyche is a direct shot at Harley's Livewire
The US$30k Psyche is a direct shot at Harley's Livewire
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The Curtiss Psyche from above
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The Curtiss Psyche from above
A statistical comparison between the Livewire and the Psyche
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A statistical comparison between the Livewire and the Psyche
A fairly anonymous belt guard blocks the view of the banana-shaped swingarm
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A fairly anonymous belt guard blocks the view of the banana-shaped swingarm
Barrel-chested battery of the Curtiss Psyche 
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Barrel-chested battery of the Curtiss Psyche 
Looking down from the rider's point of view, that battery is reminiscent of a BMW boxer motor
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Looking down from the rider's point of view, that battery is reminiscent of a BMW boxer motor
The US$30k Psyche is a direct shot at Harley's Livewire
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The US$30k Psyche is a direct shot at Harley's Livewire

Curtiss has revealed yet another design concept – this time for its most affordable bike yet, Psyche, "The Lover." It's designed to go at Harley-Davidson's jugular, as the company calls for small-time investors to get behind its play for world domination in the premium electric motorcycle segment.

When we say "affordable," mind you, we're only talking in comparison to the other machines that have come out of the Curtiss/Confederate stable. The Psyche will start at US$30,000, putting it neck and neck with Harley's Livewire. This is no accident, as Curtiss CEO Matt Chambers is taking aim directly at America's most iconic motorcycle brand and its early forays into the electric world.

"I've got something I've always dreamed of," Chambers wrote in an email this morning, "a clean shot at Harley, exposing the hollow seemingly cynical nature of their EV effort, their own CEO referring to their rather commodity looking Livewire example as a catalyst for their petrol line. How uninspiring. He goes on to say he will lead the BE motorcycle field. No! Curtiss is the precise hard knock out punch he didn't see coming. He is way too big and spread way too thin. The volumes will be too low for the next five years. We have out planned them, out designed them, out engineered them, out branded them and out promoted them. The market is very small, ideally suited to our core competencies, skillsets and bandwidth. We have the experience and collaborative relationships to ideally grow with this market. Harley does not."

Indeed, while Harley is dipping its toe into electric powertrains, Curtiss has jumped right in. The new brand represents a Confederate rebirth focused entirely on electric motorcycles, with design choices more futuristic and outrageous than anyone shy of Johammer is daring to put out there. As such, the company has identified NorCal as its key market, given that California buys more bikes than anyone else and the Bay Area is well known for being future-forward. So Curtiss wants to set up a bike assembly and sales facility there.

To get the ball rolling, it's selling stock in a WeFunder campaign, stock that it plans to take onto the NASDAQ by 2021. The campaign is ending in a couple of days, so let's take a look at the bike Chambers wants to build to take the Harley team to school.

Looking down from the rider's point of view, that battery is reminiscent of a BMW boxer motor
Looking down from the rider's point of view, that battery is reminiscent of a BMW boxer motor

The Psyche (named for the Greek goddess of the soul and wife of Eros, the god of love) has many of the hallmarks of Confederate/Curtiss design: tiny saddle, outrageous girder front end, long, low proportions and skeletal design. But it packages them in an aesthetic we haven't seen in a motorcycle before. The white-coated accents on the bike almost have the feel of medical equipment about them, like some wild future prostheses from an I, Robot sequel that was never made. I'm not sure I'd be at all surprised if it stood up by itself and started advocating for machines' rights.

Nobody in the electric motorcycle business is putting more effort into the visual design of their battery packs than Curtiss. The Hades battery looks like a rampant bullet-phallus. The "Radial V8" uses a series of cylindrical tubes set at increasing angles along a central box, riffing on the beauty of the combustion motor. In the case of the Psyche, it's a beefy, plasticky-looking barrel chest of a thing that extends out sideways in a way that reminds us not a little of a Beemer Boxer motor.

The Curtiss Psyche from above
The Curtiss Psyche from above

The skeletal banana architecture of the girder forks is echoed in the swingarm, which is sadly hidden on the right side of the bike by a fairly pedestrian belt guard. The curved backbone of the bike is shockingly visible where a tank would normally sit, and the seat padding is bifurcated in a strangely pleasing way.

Curtiss has given us a few key stats to go along with the $30k starting price. Power will be either 48 or 96 hp (36 or 72 kW), presumably the latter costing extra. Weight will be around 375 lb (170 kg) so it's impressively lightweight, and the bike's range in combined cycle testing is estimated at around 160 mi (260 km) per charge.

As with everything that comes out of the avant-garde design studio at Curtiss, it'll split opinions. Personally, I've always liked the way these guys go for something completely different to everyone else. The Psyche, with its thin tires and robot-cheetah body, would steal attention away from just about anything you parked it next to. It looks more like a 30-grand motorcycle should than the Livewire, and we hope to get a chance to see one in the flesh.

Source: Curtiss Motorcycle

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