The Magic City is abuzz with news of electric buses and scooters lately. In California, however, the most interesting electric vehicle news from Birmingham is happening on the manufacturing floor of Curtiss Motorcycles.
Curtiss Motorcycles, formerly Confederate Motors, is a luxury motorcycle manufacturer tucked away on 2nd Avenue South in Birmingham.
The company took its current name in early 2017 in honor of Glenn Curtiss, who began manufacturing motorcycles in 1902 and who invented the first American V-twin motorcycle.
Beyond the rebrand, the company is reinventing itself as all-electric motorcycle manufacturer. Its first all-electric “Hot Rod God,” Zeus, won the “Most Innovative Motorcycle” Award at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, in spring 2018.
The design for Hera, the second and highest-end of the Hot Rod Gods (and goddesses), was unveiled this past August during Car Week in Monterey, California. To describe Hera, Matt Chambers, the chairman and CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles, put it into car terms for me, your non-motorcyclist writer.
“The Hera is extremely upscale. Rolls-Royce has a product called the Phantom that’s their top product. So the Hera will be the very highest echelon of what Curtiss would make, like an S-Class Mercedes.
The Zeus is more of a E-Class Mercedes. There will be bikes that come out that will be more like a C-Class. There’s going to be a full range of what we call the Hot Rod Gods, all named after mythological Greek gods. They’ll all have different roles to play.Matt Chambers, chairman and CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles
The sleek lines of Zeus and Hera motorcycles bring to mind high-speed, action-packed chase scenes from the Batman movie “The Dark Knight.”
- The Zeus prototype features a 14.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack, powering the world’s first E-Twin power unit, a set of two high-output electric motors driving a common output shaft.
- Using a proprietary battery and electronics architecture, Hera’s design features eight “cylinders” of high-density lithium-ion batteries.
- The million dollar question: how fast will it go? Well, in 1907, the legendary Glenn Curtiss earned the title “Fastest Man on Earth” when he reached 136.3mph on Ormond Beach in Florida. Still in design phase, the all-electric Hera promises even greater speeds than her gas-powered 1907 predecessor.
- Zeus’ wheelbase measures 62-inches, while Hera’s is elongated.
“With Hera, we set out to create the world’s most luxurious motorcycle. Featuring the world’s first V8 battery architecture, an ultra-powerful, yet refined, E-Twin motor and a 66-inch wheelbase, Hera will occupy a class all her own.”Matt Chambers, chairman and CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles
- With Zeus in prototype phase and Hera in design phase, detailed specifications and pricing have not yet been released.
Both Zeus and Hera are set to release bikes, about 150 total, over the next 18-24 months. Curtiss Motorcycles will begin taking orders on Black Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to Black Friday shopping, doesn’t it?
However, don’t expect to see the streets of Birmingham filled with Hot Rod Gods in the near future. Though Curtiss Motorcycles will produce the bikes here, their primary market is California.
“I’m happy to report we just got back from Pebble Beach (California) where we showed Zeus for the second time. We could have taken dozens of orders. There’s a lot of demand for the battery electric motorcycle that looks the way ours look. A lot of people want them. They’re interesting to people, particularly in that market—northern California, Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of electric cars out there.”Matt Chambers, chairman and CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles
More electric cars in California mean more infrastructure, like charging stations, to support owners of Curtiss Motorcycles’ all-electric luxury motorcycles.
The marketing, Chambers said, will begin where the ground is most fertile to initiate sales: L.A., Silicon Valley, San Francisco.
“We’re from Birmingham, so we’re going to stay located here. But our strategic approach to how we’re going to sell the bike begins in California. Then the other contiguous 47 states, then the EU. Then Tokyo and China, then India and Africa. (That’s) about a five-year plan of how we’ll grow the company by adding new models and expanding distribution.”Matt Chambers, chairman and CEO of Curtiss Motorcycles