The Harley Davidson Livewire electric bike thread

Discussion in 'Electric Motorcycles' started by Kawazacky, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. KiLeR650

    KiLeR650 tjoseph is unethical.

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,735
    Location:
    .
  2. liberpolly

    liberpolly Nu, shoyn, nudnick!

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    5,007
    Location:
    Seattle
  3. voltsxamps

    voltsxamps Advolturer

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,679
    Location:
    +positively grounded-
    ctromley called HD out a year ago and articles like this prove his prediction to be correct. While I do understand some of the grumblings of the author, there were several areas of contention:

    “An electric bike offers no economic advantage to Gen Soy while being of no interest to people who like motorcycles.”

    One of the reasons I’m going back to an electric bike IS because of the economic advantage. Premium gas (recommended for my FZ-07) in my area is $4.50-$4.55/gal and recommended maintenance intervals cost an average of $450 per shop visit twice a year. With my electric motorcycle, all I had to do was plug it in overnight with a TOU kW rate of 11 cents, wake up each day to a “full tank”, each ride costing about a penny per mile. Time to charge? About 10 seconds: the time it takes for me to plug it in when I get home.



    “The LiveWire eliminates practically every reason for owning a bike. Including the sound.”

    While the author has reasonable gripe with the Livewire’s cost and points out the obvious when it comes to what HD’s customer base tends to look for in a bike, it’s assumptive to make such a blanket statement. One of my of coworkers and one acquaintance who each rode the Livewire were each impressed with its torque and how smooth it rode. The one I work with is 53 and the one who is retired is 57, so definitely not kids categorized as “Gen Soy”.

    .. and what’s up with the stereotyping? I love electric vehicles and personally avoid soy whenever possible. :dunnojust sayin.



    “Harley seems to think Harley people are yesterday’s people; that Generation Soy wants a silent bike that doesn’t go very far — like an electric car.

    But people can be forced to buy electric cars because most people have to have a car — to get to work, to live. Almost no one has to have a motorcycle.”


    What is he going on about? No one is forced to buy an electric car. Additionally, not everyone has to have a car. My main mode of daily transportation is on a motorcycle. And why would “Generation Soy” want a bike or car that doesn’t go very far? While there are some electric cars that don’t travel far on a single charge, my wife’s Tesla can travel 290 miles on a single charge and just took the whole family to and from Canada on a 4000 mile trip this summer. Newer Tesla’s can go even further with 370 miles on a single charge and a zero motorcycle can go up to 223 miles on a single charge. Just because HD chose to build and sell the Livewire at twice the price it should be with half the range it should have, doesn’t mean there aren’t other good value EV’s & EM’s.



    “An electric motorcycle isn’t even a motorcycle — if that term means something different than scooter.

    Motorcycles have transmissions and gears and a clutch as well as engines that rumble and bellow.”


    Um, no. A motorcycle is a motorcycle and a scooter is a scooter by their own defining differences and the method of propulsion isn’t one of them. A bus isn’t suddenly not a bus because it’s powered by natural gas and a car with an automatic transmission isn’t suddenly not a car because you aren’t manually shifting gears. If anything, an electric MOTOR makes it more of a motorcycle than a gas engine does. Enginecycles anyone?



    “the people running Harley — including its female chief operating officer, Michelle Kumbier — no longer understand what motorcycles and Harleys are all about tells you all you need to know about the future of Harley.”

    Lol, I think it’s inferred that someone named Michelle is female without having to point it out. The author suggests the CEO’s gender has something to do with not being able to understand what motorcycles and Harleys are all about, though, I’d bet she understands more than he does. He also believes that this is the end for HD, but really more so the end of a generation of riders who expect Harley to continue its path and not adapt in the face of multiple YOY sales declines. While the Livewire is overpriced and under ranged, it’s their first release and can learn from the praise and shortcomings to make adjustments to its bikes, dealerships, and pricing going forward.


    It is commendable that HD was bold enough to develop the Livewire, despite its deep rooted reputation of producing quite the opposite for such a long time. For the most part, the Livewire is a fine motorcycle that could’ve been better perceived on launch with a lower price point given its range. Rebranding HD’s image is going to be hard but hopefully they can turn the corner and become profitable with its new direction. It’s future depends on it.
  4. WDG

    WDG Not entirely domesticated

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2011
    Oddometer:
    533
    Location:
    Fort Worth, TX
    I’m thinking that writer believes women don’t ride motorcycles. :fpalm

    I’m also thinking I would avoid taking advice from him on either motorcycling or running a company.
    Any company. :loco

    As for the Livewire, it’s so tantalizingly close to what it needed to be, that the reality is head-scratchingly frustrating. The styling fits nicely into the H-D lineup, and from all reports, seems to be no slouch performance-wise. But charging, pricing, and possibly range just miss the mark. I’m already hesitant about a $20k Zero, so $30k is way out of the ballpark for me.

    Almost no other motorcycle company has more eyes on it than H-D, so this first electric model REALLY needed to be an unquestionable home run. So, why the compromises, especially at this price-point?
  5. RCmoto

    RCmoto Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2014
    Oddometer:
    2,779
    Location:
    US of F'ing A
    Because their no compromises version would be $40k.
  6. liberpolly

    liberpolly Nu, shoyn, nudnick!

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2015
    Oddometer:
    5,007
    Location:
    Seattle
    This could easily be Harley's epitaph.
    ctromley and WDG like this.
  7. ctromley

    ctromley Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,010
    Location:
    PA
    The HD story probably has years left to play out, but yeah - at this point they may in fact be a dead manufacturer walking. It may turn out that the Streetfighter and Pan America are their saviors or their downfall.

    The Livewire is in a market that is still being defined. If it fails (or just falls flat), and that leads to the failure of the rest of their proposed electric product line, the market might give them a pass and still respect them for undertaking a bold expedition into uncharted territory. Their new gassers are a bigger risk, because HD will have no excuses if they fail. HD is institutionally incapable of pricing anything reasonably, which likely puts these new arrivals up against the best of the best in their respective markets. Frankly, I just don't see them unseating Aprilia, Ducati, Triumph, BMW and KTM from their market-leading positions in terms of quality and performance. And no way in hell are they going to beat the Japanese Big Four in quality, performance and value.

    That leaves being new and being assembled in America as the only meaningful draws for buying them. That's pretty weak. Sure, some will buy simply because they're Harleys, but that only means a different Harley was bought by one of the Harley faithful - not what HD needs. They need new-to-the-brand buyers, or they are well and truly done.

    So I'm thinking HD's epitaph is not yet written, but by the end of the 2020 riding/buying season we'll have all we need to know to write it. Or hopefully, HD finally finds a new well of enthusiasm in some as-yet-unidentified demographic that yanks their fannies out of the fire.

    The Livewire and the electric line it leads to might have saved HD on their own, but the ham-handed management of that effort has probably killed that opportunity, at least for now. Their short term future relies on their new gassers. IF they are successful, there's a chance HD will get their head in the right place and sell squillions of EMs.

    Honestly I'm not seeing it. At the core of this issue is the fact that those faithful to the HD brand are culturally different from the buyers HD needs going forward. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're talking about a cultural difference that HD actively encouraged and supported for decades. Now they have to cross the barrier they helped raise. They need to build an entirely new and different following, without disrupting their current base.

    How do you navigate the very risky waters of brand identity with your feet in two boats? That would be Really Hard for any company, but let's be very clear here - HD relies on brand identity for their business success more than any other brand. Not just among motorcycle manufacturers, but just about any consumer product. So much so that they have been literally a textbook example of how branding is done. The dark side of that success story is that society is changing, and HD's identity, upon which they are solely reliant, becomes less and less relevant as the faithful age out of riding. The faithful are the only thing keeping HD afloat these days, but the HD brand is not getting traction with any other segments of today's society. They desperately need the old guard that's dying off AND fresh new blood, but the two are incompatible - due in part to the unjustified, arrogant exclusivity HD has wrapped around their brand for decades. That is a truly existential crisis.

    For the next several years, one of the worst jobs in the world will be working in the Marketing department of HD.
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.
  8. Ogre_fl

    Ogre_fl Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,386
    Location:
    Cook Bayou, FL
    I got the opportunity to demo the Livewire.

    It was funny, the ride leader asked me what I thought of it.
    I said I liked it a lot (I did), but I did not $30k like it.
    To my surprise he was taken back......he had no clue they were that expensive.

    I did not really "get" the pulse thing until I was on a 114 bike.
    It does mimic, in a very subtle way, the staccato vibe peak of a HD twin at idle .

    Another odd observation.
    I was ok, but not really thrilled with the whine sound on the bike as I rode it.
    I was very annoyed by the whine of the bike in front of me.

    I would like an electric bike for my 30 mile daily commute as I have to ride 16 miles out of my way to get gas.
    Being able to "fuel up" either at home or on my bosses dime at work would really be a benefit for me.
    At the current price the Livewire is not that bike for me.
    Traxx and Rollin' like this.
  9. WDG

    WDG Not entirely domesticated

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2011
    Oddometer:
    533
    Location:
    Fort Worth, TX
    So, if I’m understanding the design correctly, there is a bevel gear to turn the direction of motor rotation 90° for the final drive. I’m wondering how much this might affect power delivery and range?
  10. KiLeR650

    KiLeR650 tjoseph is unethical.

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,735
    Location:
    .
    We've been hearing about how they can't make a good bike because it would piss of their loyal customers for as long as we've been hearing about how their loyal customers are soon going to be too old to ride. After thinking about it for a bit, the second half of that sentence is certainly true (not enough 70 y/o's still buying road glides), but I think the first half of that sentence (can't make a good bike because it will piss of the faithful) is a thin veneer for a much harder truth. They just can't make a bike to sell to anyone else. They've tried several times. The v-rod, Buell, XR's and other special sportster models, the "Street" line ... they were all scoffed at by their core customers and they made them anyway. And they all did very little to bring riders in from other brands because they were all just a little shy of being competitive with other brands. They haven't given a shit about upsetting a road king owner over offering a different kind of bike for decades, they've just never done it well.

    So I think you could just stop after your first paragraph. They can't unseat any of the top-of-the-line bikes on specs, and they can't make anything to compete at lower price points. And when I say "can't" I don't mean won't or shouldn't, I mean incapable.

    Giving the old timers something to complain about is the least of their worries. They'd drop them all tomorrow if they had the ability to replace them.
  11. Cataract2

    Cataract2 Where to?

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    7,100
    Location:
    NH
    The highlighted part I think is the core of the truth. HD has not attempted to REALLY be competitive with other brands for a very long time. They have rode (so to speak) the nostalgia and waving the flag thing for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, the chickens are coming home to roost and they either need to get serious about competing and putting out something that not only competes, but outdoes the competition.

    I am happy to see them making attempts. Time will tell if it's enough.
    72 Yamaha RD350 likes this.
  12. ctromley

    ctromley Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,010
    Location:
    PA
    I've mentioned this before, but I'll recap because it speaks directly to your point. Cycle World did a comparison test a couple years ago between the HD 750 cc Street Rod (the 'high performance' version of the Street) and an FZ-07 that was very illuminating for me: https://www.cycleworld.com/harley-davidson-street-rod-vs-yamaha-fz-07-comparison-motorcycle-review/

    While the author tried hard to be welcoming to the HD (an interesting topic in its own right - that's common these days, but very different from maybe 10 years ago), if you read for the hard facts instead of the spin and look at the performance specs, the FZ-07 spanked the HD hard. Especially in top gear roll-on, which is where HD bases so much of their reputation because of their 'monster' torque. The FZ is also a far more versatile and ergonomically friendly bike to boot, without paying the 30%(!!) price premium for the HD. And you know what? Any bike can cruise.

    To make matters worse, the FZ's performance was so much better than the Street Rod's that I wondered what the HD really compared to. Did a little searching and found that the Street Rod performed just a little worse in every category than the original, industry-revolutionizing Honda CB750-K0, a bike that came out 50 years ago. (Well, the HD might brake a little better, but adding a second disc to the Honda was cheap, easy and common.) The Honda was considered at the time to be rather overweight, but it still undercut the Street Rod a little.

    HD's engineers aren't stupid or incompetent. The Livewire is a testament to that - new technology executed superbly. Its shortcomings are in product definition (which comes from the executives), not execution. Zero progress over 50 years in their most modern, 'high performance' gasser can only mean they aren't trying. At all. It's all about the look, image, mystique, lifestyle, whatever. HD is terrified of getting the atmospherics wrong, because the atmospherics are everything. The faithful will stay away in droves if it's not what they consider a "real" Harley.

    Yet for some reason, Indian's customers are far more accommodating. They've had some 'out there' designs that still sell. They have a thoroughly modern street tracker in the Scout-based FTR1200 (what the Sportster could be today if the faithful allowed it) that is embraced from within and outside the Indian fold. The 750 racer version is actually winning races. A lot. Magazine editors treat Indian with more respect, without the pandering spin they frequently apply to HD to satisfy their publishers' big-tent (meaning more eyeballs) aspirations.

    I don't really think HD's problem is in their capabilities. (Though they have some serious catching up to do.) It's the fact that the emperor has no clothes. The customers who believe he's dressed are dying off. Some (most?) HD execs believe he's dressed too, and quite nicely. No motorcyclist who sees he's naked cares at all about HD because, well, naked and all that. (Except some in HD management, who face a monumental dilemma).

    HD needs to transition from fantasy to reality. It really is that simple, and that hard. It will take some time to build interest in those motorcyclists who don't care. And the old guard needs to still believe and keep paying. Both at the same time, at least during the transition.

    If you're one of the few in HD management who's woke enough to see that, how the hell do you pull off such a feat?
  13. davenowherejones

    davenowherejones short guy

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,642
    Location:
    Hope "I get there", BC, Canada
    The HD Street machines horribly banged my knees with that crappy engine. No thanks.

    I did like the Livewire when I test rode it but way too expensive for me.
  14. RCmoto

    RCmoto Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2014
    Oddometer:
    2,779
    Location:
    US of F'ing A
    Oh come on, a person working a demo doesn't know how much it costs?
  15. Traxx

    Traxx Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 14, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,208
    Location:
    Ft Worth Texas
    Any one seen a Livewire in the wild yet?
  16. Ogre_fl

    Ogre_fl Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,386
    Location:
    Cook Bayou, FL
    Dead serious.
    I was really surprised.
    I asked him if he was from the Factory and he said he was with the local dealership group, but out of one of their other stores.

    He was funny, he actually said....."wow, really, you can get hell of a gas bike for that kind of money".
    He also made a few jokes about the "gassers" not being able to keep up.

    Actually the guys that had the Livewire shirts on (I assume they were from the factory, didn't ask) that showed us how to turn them on and stuff didn't really know shit about the bikes either.
    I asked one of them about the reverse throttle (you can push it forward about 1/4 turn) if it was an engine brake......he didn't know it turned forward nor what if anything it did.
    I explained it seemed to do nothing in the ride mode the bike was in.
    I asked if there was a sport mode that it might work in......he didn't know but asked me to leave the modes alone.
    voltsxamps and Traxx like this.
  17. Traxx

    Traxx Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 14, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,208
    Location:
    Ft Worth Texas
    Seems like if you’re gonna demo something that you would want to at least be able to answer questions. “I don’t know” is okay as long as it is followed up by “I’ll find out”
    sloryder and _mtg_ like this.
  18. Ogre_fl

    Ogre_fl Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,386
    Location:
    Cook Bayou, FL
    In the Livewire guys defence he did say "let me find out" after the first question.
    He came back to tell me anytime you are off throttle you are regening/engine braking (I don't know if that's true).
    He still had no clue why the throttle had a 1/4 forward twist or if it did anything.
    It was then that I asked him about the modes and I was told to leave the modes alone.
    Traxx likes this.
  19. Crilly

    Crilly Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,136
    Location:
    Wi
    The reverse tension on the throttle is to cancel the cruise setting.
  20. davenowherejones

    davenowherejones short guy

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,642
    Location:
    Hope "I get there", BC, Canada
    "Leave the modes alone" wasn't that by Pink Floyd?

    I have test ridden a few Honda DCT motorcycles. Most of them were really boring in "Normal" mode and quite exciting in "Sport" modes. Huge diference.