The Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire - Photo: Harley-Davidson.com

The future is coming. Or perhaps it's already arrived.

Zero. Brammo. Mission. And now Harley-Davidson.

2014 may just be the year when electric motorcycles finally get plugged in to the public conscious. It's no longer a question or a matter of when.

Police departments use them. KTM unveiled an electric dirt bike a few years ago. Honda and Yamaha? Give it time - plans already in the works. There's also the eMotoRacing 2014 series. Then, Harley's unveiling of Project LiveWire last month turned the biking community upside down.

"We had our biggest single day of Internet traffic in the history of the company the day Harley made its announcement," said Scot Harden, vice president of global marketing for the California-based Zero Motorcycles.

Zero Motorcycles is the top seller of full-sized high-powered electric bikes and most recently made its first delivery to the Los Angeles Police Department. Described as "super-stealth" the military grade police bike can race along at 95 mph, has 68 pounds of torque and costs $1.50 to recharge.

According to a study by Navigant Research, 1.2 million electric motorcycles will hit the pavement this year. Zero expects to sell 2,400 of those bikes. Industry standards expect electric bikes to make up 50 percent of the market by 2018. Though some think that's a bit high, electric bikes are certainly alternating the current of two-wheelers.

The Zero SR Electric Motorcycle - Photo: ZeroMotorcycles.com

Mark Seeger, president of Mission, said his company's bikes are as good or better than any gas bike. The Mission electric motorcycle comes with a hefty $29,000 price but it flies. It can reach 60 mph in less than three seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph. For purists - its looks like a gas bike. The battery provides a range of 140 miles on the highway and 230 in the city but the company plans to manufacturer a bike with a 600-mile range.

Well balanced and easy to ride, electric bikes use direct drive and offer gears and clutches as options. Of course there are no emissions and the bikes are relatively maintenance free. The average range is more than 100 miles in the city - compare that to just 25 miles four years ago. Batteries plug into a regular outlet and charge for about $2.

The Mission RS Electric Motorcycle - Photo: Mission-Motorcycles.com

Craig Bramscher, chairman of Brammo which is based in Ashland, OR, said the company wanted to match the performance of a 125cc race bike when it started in 2002. Since then, they've taken an electric bike around Daytona International Speedway at 175 mph.

"We see the path," he said. "We can see that we can pass gasoline in terms of its capability."

The Brammo Empulse Electric Motorcycle - Photo: Brammo.com

Project LiveWire features a 74 hp and 52 pound of torque motor which is equivalent to the 833 cc internal combustion engine. It races to 60 mph in less than four seconds and tops out at 92 mph. Mission helped in the development of the battery.

The current range is 53 miles but since Harley's bike is a prototype it's almost certain that specs will change. Harley-Davidson's Chief Engineer Jeff Richlen says the company plans to solicit feedback from customers. The LiveWire prototypes are currently touring dealerships across the country and customers can test ride them.

The Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire - Photo: Harley-Davidson.com

Craig Vetter, a 1999 Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee and designer of the Windjammer fairing and Triumph Hurricane, is passionate about electric bikes and streamlining motorcycles to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. He ran a fuel economy contest from 1980 to 1985 and then started it again in 2011. The next Vetter Fuel Challenge takes place at Bonneville on August 29.

"Energy from the sun is free and abundant," he said in a December 2013 interview with MotoSport.com. "The sun's energy can easily be harvested from our rooftops and turned into electricity."

According to AAA on Wednesday, the average gallon of gas costs $3.67, 20 cents more than last year and the second highest level ever for this time of year. Zero's SR model electric motorcycle sips the equivalent of 462 miles per gallon around town. The company's battery lasts more than 300,000 miles too.

Bramscher assures the cost of owning an electric bike is dropping and once people experience one they'll see how much fun an electric bike is to own.

"I think we will look back and say 2014 was the turning point for the acceptance of electric bikes," Vetter said.

Written By: AndrewT