The adoption of electric vehicles is on the rise. One-third of Americans are expected to own an electric vehicle within a decade. They’re driven by a desire to help the environment and eliminate paying for gas.
Not to be left behind, motorcycle manufacturers are answering the call for electric vehicle (EV) demand. The latest rumor is that Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki are collaborating to create an electric motorcycle standard.
But right now it’s Harley-Davidson’s turn to enter the EV spotlight with what will be the iconic brand’s first-ever electric motorcycle: the LiveWire. Expected to arrive at dealerships starting in August 2019, the powerful little bike may be Harley’s biggest gamble.
Here’s what we know so far about the Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is an electric motorcycle that has amazing power, commendable traveling range, and mobile phone connectivity. Here’s a break down of all of its basic features.
The LiveWire is not stingy when it comes to speed. With a twist of the handlebar, you can go from 0 to 60 mph in an asphalt blistering three seconds. This is due to its permanent magnet electric motor which produces 100 percent of its own torque within nanoseconds.
Want to take it higher, from 60 to 80 mph? That takes just 1.9 seconds more, which means you can merge onto a highway and cruise the speed limit in mere seconds.
There’s no clutch and no gears to sift through. The simple single-speed transmission has a short learning curve, especially for motorcycle newbies.
On a full charge, LiveWire will take you up to 140 miles on city streets. You’ll travel about 88 miles if you combine city and highway driving. This is an improvement over the original 110 miles reported for the traveling range.
Charge it with a standard household outlet (provided you leave it plugged in overnight) or by using a compatible Level 2 or 3 charging station. A public charging station will fully juice the battery up in an hour or give you 80% capacity in 40 minutes.
This Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS) runs on lithium-ion cells protected by an aluminum casing. Lift up the seat to find the recharging plug. A separate 12-volt lithium battery supplies power to the lights, instrument display, and horn.
The LiveWire is lightweight with an aluminum frame that delivers nimble handling. You also get an adjustable Showa suspension—just dial it up or down depending upon road conditions and your personal preferences.
The riding position is a little more forward than on traditional Harleys. The handlebar position is upright while your feet sit at mid-body.
An Electronic Chassis Control (ECC) system manages an anti-lock braking system, traction control system, and drag-torque slip control system. These features all help minimize slippage and enable you to navigate corners with confidence.
The bike comes standard with 17″ Michelin Scorcher Sport tires that enhance the riding experience.
Technology and Mobile Connectivity
This is also a highly connected bike. LiveWire offers H-D Connect service, which delivers info to your mobile device via an app. You’ll know how many miles are left on your current charge and the progress of your battery’s charging.
Most importantly, H-D Connect sends security alerts to owners if their bike has been moved or bumped. It will show you the GPS location of your bike and help you locate public charging stations.
The LiveWire features a liquid crystal touchscreen dashboard. The display can be customized to play music, provide turn-by-turn navigation, and more.
Color Options and Price
The LiveWire will be available in three color options: orange fuse, yellow fuse, and vivid black. Harley is currently planning custom accessories such as a speed screen blade and hand and foot controls.
The starting price is $29,799. This is on the higher end compared to other electric motorcycle brands such as Fuell Motorcycle Company (ironically started by Eric Buell, the man behind H-D’s subsidiary company Buell Motorcycle Company.) By comparison, Fuell’s main model, the Flow, is expected to be priced at just under $11,000.
What Does it Sound Like?
One of the LiveWire’s most polarizing qualities is sure to be the sound of the engine. While this machine’s sporty style calls to mind Buell’s models, the bike doesn’t sound anything like a gasoline-powered Harley-Davidson.
Instead, the LiveWire’s engine has a futuristic wind-up whine to it, making it sound more like a vehicle from a Star Wars or other science fiction movie. Harley purists who love a motorcycle’s deep throttling will probably be turned off by the distinctive sound.
But the company is also willing to bet that the bike will appeal to a whole new demographic of riders who previously weren’t interested in the brand. These customers weren’t raised on hogs. They’re also more open to embracing the physical attributes that come with modern technology.
Harley is promoting the lack of eardrum-shattering exhaust as a good thing, with the tagline “The loudest sound you’ll hear will be your heart racing.”
And if you want to imagine that you’re fleeing storm troopers through Endor’s forests, this bike can fulfill that fantasy for you.
How Soon Can I Get It?
Expect the LiveWire to start sweeping in dealerships in August 2019. North America and Western Europe locations will be the first to receive the model; additional markets not specified by H-D will follow.
Right now you can sign up for email alerts about the LiveWire at the Harley-Davidson website, or locate a dealer near you where you can pre-order one.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire: Game Changer or Gamble?
Harley-Davidson is willing to take a risk with this bike. Its U.S. sales were down 10% in 2018, marking the fourth consecutive year of lukewarm profits. Can the LiveWire turn things around for the American motorcycle manufacturer?
The Pros and Cons of Owning a LiveWire
There are pros and cons to owning this bike. The motorcycle is quick, responsive, lightweight, and easy to maintain. Without spark plugs, engine oil, clutch, air filter, and a primary drive, the cost of maintaining the motorcycle is cheaper than caring for a gas-run bike.
The motorcycle can tell you via a mobile app how much mileage is left on the battery’s charge, and if someone is tampering with the vehicle. Plus the bike has a sporty stance that makes it look ready for action.
Negatives include the hefty price, particularly when you can purchase other electric motorcycles or gasoline powered ones for a fraction of the $30,000 price tag.
Also, the H-D Connect service is free for only the first year of ownership. After that time frame is up, LiveWire owners will have to pay a subscription fee to keep the service active. As of this writing, the Harley-Davidson site doesn’t specify how much that will cost.
Then there’s the love-it-or-hate-it sound of the engine which is unlike anything you’ve heard on a hog before. Those who are new to riding motorcycles may find the unique turbine-like whine really cool, while traditionalists will be turned off by it.
And although 140 miles of battery life is more than enough range for daily commuting and local trips, this bike probably isn’t suitable for long distance motorcycle trips. That is unless your route gives you access to public charging stations.
It’s obvious, however, that the company is hoping to appeal to younger and newer motorcycle enthusiasts who never considered owning a Harley-Davidson before.
If you’re unsure if the LiveWire is right for you, we suggest carefully weighing the pros and cons and exploring options from other bike companies.
For Harley-Davidson, the LiveWire is Just the Beginning
Whether the LiveWire is a boom or bust for Harley-Davidson, one thing’s for certain: this model is just the first of many for the motorcycle maker.
Harley’s research and development facility in Silicon Valley is where LiveWire was born—in 2014, under the name Project LiveWire. And there are currently more electric models being built and tested at the plant.
Harley has photos of two such unnamed bikes on its website. The plan is that these electric vehicles will be operated without a motorcycle license. There’s no clutch and no shifting required for either concept vehicle.
The company will also be installing Level 3 chargers at its dealers that will carry the LiveWire. This means they’re serious about a commitment to making and showcasing future electric motorcycles.
It appears that Harley-Davidson, with the introduction of the LiveWire, has its eyes firmly planted on the future and the growing popularity of electric vehicles.
Learn More About New Motorcycle Models
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire marks an exciting new phase in the brand’s century-old history. We’re curious to see how the public reacts to the LiveWire and if it helps boost Harley-Davidson’s sales going forward.
Here at Biker Report we strive to be your authority site on motorcycle news, events, equipment, and more. To stay updated about the newest bike models hitting the market, check out our new models posts.