You are here
Home > Opinion pieces > Harley-Davidson’s Project LiveWire

Harley-Davidson’s Project LiveWire

The LiveWire experience, under this name Harley-Davidson is collecting responses to its electric motorcycle. Electric motorcycles are part of our future and a way to make motorcycles cleaner.

Harley-Davidson has made quite a show. As a kind of travelling circus the company goes all over the world with its LiveWire experience. A slick presentation, an extensive check of your license, the necessary bells and whistles: even before you’ve driven a meter you are  impressed. Now this was not the first time I sat on an electric motorcycle, but it was already a few years ago and one electric motorcycle is not the other. In appearance the LiveWire looks more like a classic motorcycle than most other electric motorcycles. The LiveWire is a bit smaller than we are use to from Harley-Davidson. With the limited range that electric motorcycles have now, the city is his domain and that is where its small size is handy.

Well, after the whole registration process and attending the presentations, watching a dry run on the dynamometer and listening to a comprehensive instructions, we were finally on the track behind the frontrunner. This went quite fast, so we could well test the handling of the LiveWire. What stands out most is the sound. Many people think electric motors are silent. Forget it. Every electric bikes make a sound, although there are differences in the kind of sound and volume. The LiveWire you can really hear coming, because with a rising speed the volume also rises to an almost eerie screeching sound. Harley-Davidson compares it with the sound of a jet. Personally, I associate it more with a noisy subway train. You need to get used to it, but I can imagine that the generation after us can be just as addicted to this sound as we are to the sound of a contemporary Harley with aftermarket exhausts, or the sound of a racer, which it resembles a bit. The second thing you notice is the lack of a clutch and gear change pedal. Remarkable how quickly you get used to that though.

And then the ride. As noted earlier, the LiveWire is a relatively small bike with a low center of gravity. That, and a just right geometry, gives it excellent driveability. It turns out to be an excellent bike to handle, that is also easy to steer with the power throttle. A fifteen minute ride on an exercise circuit obviously does not give you a clear picture of the performance, but the acceleration is perfectly fine, as are the brakes. These brakes are a combination of a strong engine brake and single discs front and rear. For this bike that is more than enough. All in all, it feels like a fully developed motorcycle, ready to go into production. Sufficient for a broad smile after the ride.

That leaves of course the question when we can expect this engine on the market and why Harley-Davidson invests as much and put its neck on the block with the LiveWire project. They maintain that this is only intended to gain experience and feedback (indeed afterwards you’re asked to give an extensive evaluation and even say something for the camera). At the same time they also indicate that there are no electric Harley-Davidsons to be expected on the market before 2020. Given the currently too limited range of the LiveWire this sounds credible. Without a range of 300 kilometres this bike is simply out of the question for most riders. Unlike a petrol bike you cannot just fill it up within a few minutes, so for a little day trip or as in my case a return trip from my home to Brussels you need a bit more range than the roughly 85 kilometres that you may expect now. Still, it would not surprise me if we see a slightly modified version of Livewire in showrooms in a few years.

Written by Dolf Willigers