Birmingham’s Curtiss Motorcycles aims to be market leader in electric motorcycles

Birmingham’s Curtiss Motorcycles aims to be market leader in electric motorcycles
Birmingham's Curtiss Motorcycles is going full-throttle into electric motorcycles with its first offering, Zeus. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Whether it’s the familiar “potato” sound of a Harley, the “roar” of a Ducati or the “bark” of an Indian, motorcycles have long been identified by their sounds as much as by their brands.

But Birmingham’s Curtiss Motorcycles doesn’t think you have to be loud to make a statement.

The company recently unveiled its “Hot Rod Gods” line of electric motorcycles starting with Zeus, expected to be available to order later this year, and Helena, which is slated for a 2020 rollout.

Don’t hear the words “electric motorcycle” and envision a moped or scooter. Formerly known as Confederate Motors, Curtiss is committed to design and performance even as it turns its attention to battery bikes.

Birmingham’s Curtiss Motorcycles is ready the lead to charge on electric motorcycles from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We’re taking everything we know from 30 years of making motorcycles and applying it to the future technology under the Curtiss brand,” Matt Chambers, CEO of Curtiss, said.

Confederate switched to Curtiss about 200 days ago with a change in name but a continuation in evolution.

“Even though we’re 198 days old, this is all we’ve done in R&D within our company for seven years,” Chambers said. “Every ounce of our energy, our fiber has been dedicated to Curtiss.”

Curtiss has spent the past few days introducing Zeus to the world. The motorcycle was unveiled to the public at The Quail Motorsports Gathering at Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California, on Aug. 24.

Curtiss then had two of the motorcycles on display at the National Drive Electric Week kickoff event at  Brookwood Village on Sept. 8.

Just as the Confederate motorcycles helped usher in an era of industrial, muscular design of bikes as an alternative to the sleek, street bikes of the time, Chambers believes Zeus and Curtiss’ line of electric motorcycles are out in front of the next trend.

“It’s the new American minimalism; the introduction of a new golden age of motorcycling,” he said. “We feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”

Harley-Davidson is coming out with its own line of electric motorcycles and other established companies are expected to follow suit. Chambers welcomes the competition.

“We think we can take it to them pretty good with better design, better technology, a more interesting brand,” he said.

“It’s perfect for us because we’re a small company,” Chambers continued. “The market is small, but it’s going to grow 50 or more percent a year for the foreseeable future. So it’s an amazing coming together from a purely business sense. You have a small company that can organically scale as the market scales. So, in a sense, we’re best suited to be the leader in the battery electric motorcycle market relative to Harley-Davidson or Indian or any one of the larger companies. It’s an extremely positive opportunity for us.”

One way Curtiss plans to be different is in customization. The company hopes to have its website ready by Black Friday this year to allow buyers to select elements to fit their shape, size and style.

“The big idea is you come in, you choose your architecture, you choose your gestalt, you get some geometric scale opportunities because obviously not everyone is the same size,” Chambers said. “Essentially you tell us what your dream motorcycle is and we will help you make the dream a reality.”

Pricing for the Zeus motorcycles is still being set. If early demand is any indication, Chambers said Zeus could hit like a bolt of lightning.

“It’s just so much fun and it gives a feeling when you’re on it. You know you’re on something really special.”

Follow Curtiss Motorcycles on Facebook and Instagram.

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