Harley-Davidson has been working on an Electric Vehicle (EV) for several years and in September started the release of its Live Wire motorcycle to a large number of dealerships around the country.
The world is changing, options for transport are changing and how they are powered is changing EV’s are everywhere nowadays but from a major motorcycle manufacturer, the market has been relatively quiet.
A few smaller companies have released bikes, some with success and some with failure, but none have put in the capital investment Harley-Davidson has, and it shows.
Harley-Davidson (H-D) is looking to lead the electrification of two wheels, that will push the boundaries of both design and technology.
H-D is looking at a full range of EV from under a thousand dollars to their current flagship model, the Live Wire at $29,799
Their market research with consumer interaction is looking to engage, younger riders, EV for urban and suburban environments.
What is Live Wire?
The main thing they want to portray is authentic H-D styling with the focus on the motor, you may think an electric bike doesn’t really have a motor! A motor is the heat of the machine, and this motor has a heartbeat, its called a ‘Haptic Pulse’…seriously when you are completely stopped you can feel the heartbeat of the motorcycle so you know it is alive underneath you and ready to ride. Once you start moving this will stop and then restart the subtle pulsing of torque again the next time you stop.
A lot of electric bikes lack the look and feel of a ‘real’ motorcycle. To make Live Wire look like a motorcycle they kept a gas tank, and a gas cap, but it’s electric I hear you say, why does it need a gas cap? Well, this is where the charging port is, this is where the juice goes!
…and sitting on the bike it makes it feel right, a tank to grip with your knees as you brake into a corner or accelerate out of it.
Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) have been highly refined to mitigate resonances and vibration, and the throttle mapping ensures leading progressivity and responsiveness.
The H-D Revelation motor produces 100% of its rated torque and 100% of it is available whenever the throttle is twisted
The official figures are
105hp – 86tq
0-60 3 seconds
60-80 1.9 seconds
110mph top speed
All the above acceleration and speeds I can personally verify, because I put my test model in max output and it does EXACTLY as described above, with zero hesitation, just smooth power from standstill to its limit.
The power, or Renewable Energy Storage System (RESS) Live wire is powered by a 15.5kWh high voltage battery and has a 5-year unlimited-mileage guarantee.
RESS can be replenished on deceleration, what we commonly know as engine braking and this can help add to the range. RESS provides 146 miles/ 235km of city range, or 95 miles/ 152km of combined stop and go and highway use.
Your range shown will vary depending on where you are riding and your style of riding and the inboard computer will estimate your potential range based on how you ride. So H-D stated that the ‘actual’ range can vary from the estimate sometime by a significant amount more, due to regeneration.
When you run out of ‘juice’ you need to charge the LiveWire and have two options
Level 1 (standard charge) by a 110 outlet with a power cord that is kept under the seat. This type of charging will be approximately 13 miles per hour, so each hour adds 13 miles of range. Basically like you would charge your cell phone overnight, you would do the same with the LiveWire. The Live Wire can plug into Level 2 chargers but will charge at Level 1 speed.
DC Fast Charge, charges at a rate of 192 miles per hour, so an 80% charge can be accomplished in 40 minutes. These fast-charging stations are at 160 H-D dealerships currently and other charging areas around the country can also be used through the Electrify America Network
All H-D dealers that sell LiveWire have Fast Charge capability and, for the first year, LiveWire owners will have 500kWh free on Electrify America chargers.
The company also introduced H-D Connect, a subscription-based cellular connectivity that connects riders remotely to their motorcycle from the Harley-Davidson App. It is free for the first year and $150/year thereafter. H-D Connect is not necessary to charge or operate the LiveWire. The app will allow owners to track their bike’s location and get realtime tamper and theft alerts.
Brakes and suspension are courtesy of Showa and Brembo, dual 300mm discs up front and 180mm in the rear, and running on co-branded Michelin Scorcher tires designed specifically for the LiveWire.
Ok, so that’s what I learned about LiveWire at a press conference sitting on a coffee shop in a suburb of LA for a small selected group of press, 6 of us in total.
Once the talking was over we ventured outside to start the test ride, the rest is purely my experience.
For reference, I have NEVER ridden an electric motorcycle, or even sat on one, actually never driven an electric car, so its all a new experience for me.
Initial impressions were, it looked good, well-styled, obviously, they were going for a stripped-down sport bike look and it was accomplished.
Sitting on the bike it felt a lot lighter than its 553lb weight due to the mass being so low, the seating position was mildly aggressive, making you lean into the bars which made you feet meet the pegs in a mid-control position which felt natural.
Before setting off I was asked if I’d like to set up any personalized modes? Ok, show me how.
The computer sitting in the middle of the bars, looking like a large GPS or cell phone has all the info you’d need.
There are four factory modes
- Sport – full performance, fastest throttle response
- Road – balanced performance, blended for daily use
- Rain – restrained acceleration and limited regeneration (engine braking)
- Range – to get the maximum range out of a RESS charge
then there are options for 3 personalized modes, I set them up so there were purposely different than the stock 4. with options and percentages adjustable in Power. Regeneration. Throttle Response. Traction Control. Switching from mode to mode can be done on the fly while riding.
Key fob in the pocket, no physical key needed to ride, hold in the power button for a few seconds to activate the bike and green lights flash either side of the dashboard to let you know the bike is live.
Twist the throttle and pull away, obvious grabs by your left hand for a clutch lever are instinct but soon forgotten.
The power is smooth and linear, the bike feels very light and nimble as we ride through traffic, and in a few miles, we are out of the city completely and riding up a quiet mountainous road with zero traffic.
All the journalists get the feel for the bike in their own way and give each other plenty of room, we space out and a long straight stretch appears and EVERYBODY tests acceleration.
This is where you realize this is a new experience you are having on a motorcycle, it does not feel like any other motorcycle you have ever ridden before, this is a very unique feeling.
We ride for about 25 miles and stop, other members of the group admit that they were wrong and it really is a game-changer H-D have done this, and done it right.
For a few more hours we ride, and feel the different functions working –
- Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System
- Rear Wheel Lift Mitigation – (no stoppies)
- Cornering Enhanced Traction Control
- Drag-Torque Slip Control
All of these are self-explanatory except maybe the last one, this is designed to manage rear wheel slip and prevent rear wheel lock during regenerative braking which may occur on wet surfaces.
The experience was unique and a very enjoyable ride, there were only two negatives I could find on the bike in the short time I was riding it, the seat could use a little more width and padding and the mirrors gave a very restricted rearview. Both of these could be fixed for a few hundred dollars.
This model is obviously built for urban riders, canyon carvers and the like and does exactly what it is designed for at an extraordinarily high level.
I know readers will have an opinion good or bad about electric motorcycles, but I would hesitate to tell you to hold your opinions until you personally have taken a LiveWire for a test ride.
You really need to feel the performance for yourself before you make any sort of claim…maybe when you do, you’ll see and feel H-D has spent the time and money in research design and development and done this right.
Ultimately this may or may not be the bike for you but one thing you will agree on: this is a game-changer.
Length 84.1 in. (2,135 mm)
Seat Height 30 in. (761 mm)
Dry Weight 553 lb. (251 kg)
Motor H-D Revelation™
High-Voltage Battery 15.5 kWh Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS)
Range, City 146 miles (235 km)
Range, Combined Stop-and-Go 95 miles (153km)
Level 1 Compatible AC Wall Charging: Capable of 13.8 miles/hour (22.2 km/hour) charge rate
RESS from 0%–80% / 0%–100%: 10 hours / 12.5 hours
Level 2 Compatible same rate as level 1
DC Fast Charge (DCFC) DC Fast Charging: Capable of 221.2 miles/hour (356 km/hour) charge rate
RESS from0%–80% / 0%–100%: 40 minutes / 1.0 hours
Electric Motor Torque 86 ft-lb (116 Nm)
Horsepower 105 HP / 78 kW
WHEELS / TIRES
Wheels Black, Split 5-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Tires Front 120/70 ZR17 58W
Tires Rear 180/55 ZR17 73W
Part 2 will be an interview with a good friend of mine who was part of the original development team for Project LiveWire the predecessor to this current model, talking about what it was like to be involved, the process and challenges, if you have any particular questions you’d like to ask, please add them in the comments below
Images: rtwPaul, Harley-Davidson, Kevin Wing