Right now, it’s onerous to guage Harley-Davidson’s techniques with out framing them towards the stiff challenges the company is dealing with. If it’s not tariff wars, it’s the truth of an growing older demographic. And then there’s similar wrestle every other manufacturer has within the USA: reaching new riders.
However within the midst of this, the Motor Firm has simply delivered on one in every of its largest and boldest guarantees: launching an electric motorbike. And the LiveWire signifies that Harley-Davidson is the primary major OEM to release a battery-powered sports bike.
The brand new Harley-Davidson electric is in contrast to anything available on the market. On one hand, it’s an electric car from a company that built its heritage on petrol-powered V-twins. On the other, it’s a targeted and fast naked from an organization that usually builds cruisers.
It looks like an eccentric move, nevertheless it’s calculated. Harley say they need to ‘build riders’ quite than ‘build motorcycles’—and the corporate execs see electric motorcycles as an avenue to succeed in new clients. And let’s not overlook the rumors of some nations planning to ban petrol-powered automobiles. Any firm not wanting into electric power is going to be caught napping.
Harley isn’t betting the entire farm on the LiveWire though. It’s a halo product: the highest finish of a complete range of electric automobiles to be released over the subsequent few years. (We’ve already caught a glimpse of a number of the smaller concepts they’re toying with.)
So is the primary Harley-Davidson electric motorbike successful or a miss? I traveled to the famously bizarre city of Portland, Oregon to seek out out.
Out there in orange, yellow or black, the LiveWire is a hanging machine in the flesh, and visually in contrast to anything from the Bar and Defend. Aside from a number of delicate hints of the XR750 within the tank and tail strains, there’s actually not a lot within the styling that ties it to the Road Glides that sell by the truckload in Middle America.
From the wraparound aluminum frame, to the mono-shock swing arm and aggressive stance, it’s the kind of sporty normal that many individuals have been waiting a very very long time for Harley-Davidson to build.
Although there’s no chunky V-twin here, the LiveWire’s designers nonetheless needed to make the motor a focal point of the design. They’ve named it ‘Revelation,’ and completed it in silver to differentiate it from the rest of the elements.
It makes 105 horsepower, and 116 Nm of torque, all over the place in the rev vary. H-D claims it does the dash to 60 mph in three seconds, 60-80 mph in 1.9 seconds, and has a prime velocity of 110 mph. The primary drive makes use of a spiral bevel gear, with a belt sending energy to the again wheel.
Juice comes from a 15.5 kWh Lithium-ion battery with a five yr limitless mileage guarantee. Vary is quoted at 146 miles (235 km) within the metropolis, or 95 miles (152 km) of mixed stop-and-go and highway driving.
Hiding beneath the LiveWire’s faux fuel cap are two cost ports: one for a daily Degree 1 wall charger, and one for DC quick charging. The common wall charger cable is tucked away underneath the seat, and provides you a full charge in 12.5 hours, however DC Degree three charging will prime up the battery in one hour flat.
All Harley dealerships promoting the LiveWire may have DC chargers out there. And within the US, Harley has partnered with the charging company Electrify America to put in another 800 DC stations, with a complete of three,500 particular person DC chargers in almost 30 metro areas.
This setup carries a hefty weight penalty although. The LiveWire sits at 549 pounds (249 kg), and certainly one of Harley’s engineers informed me that roughly seventy % of that’s the battery and motor. For the remaining, H-D has used surprisingly mild elements—like a modular forged aluminum frame that wraps around the battery, using it as a burdened member.
The body’s truly constructed of multiple items, with a separate steering head, and left and right sections. That modular design is in all places on the LiveWire; the subframe’s simply removable too, and all the electrical elements are very neatly tucked beneath the ‘tank.’ So customization must be a cinch—as ought to adapting the LiveWire platform for various purposes.
Match and finish are impressive too. There’s not a single messy weld in sight, or a single half that looks misplaced. The bodywork is all plastic, however it doesn’t look or really feel dinky. All of the lights are LED, and there’s hardly any seen cabling or plumbing.
There are a couple of bits to nitpick although. Whereas the seat is nicely formed, the upholstery between the rider and passenger pads (and the seize strap), is misaligned and wobbly. And despite the fact that the upholstered part simply behind the ‘tank’ serves an ergonomic function, it jogs my memory an excessive amount of of the leather tank covers you see on cruisers.
Up in the cockpit, all the wiring runs inside the handlebars—so the spindly wires operating into the turn alerts stick out like sore thumbs. The LiveWire makes use of the very same switchgear design as the rest of Harley’s range, which is OK, since it really works nicely and feels strong. Nevertheless it additionally makes use of the identical mirrors and grips as each other Harley, together with the ever present Sportster—and I’m unsure I’m cool with that.
Minor gripes apart, the LiveWire is a gorgeous motorbike, electric or not. And it’s operating some critical hardware too. There’s absolutely adjustable Showa suspension at each ends, and Brembo brakes with twin 300 mm discs up front. The tires are 17” Michelin Scorchers—120 mm broad up front, and 180 mm out back.
H-D has also packed a substantial quantity of performance into the LiveWire’s TFT show. Velocity and battery charge take middle stage, however ‘widgets’ on both aspect let you flick by way of every thing from distance and operating temperatures, to how a lot battery power’s getting used underneath acceleration and deceleration.
It’s a touch display unit, which is beneficial for diving into the menus and changing settings without having to fiddle with buttons. It’s a small unit although, and although it’s actually clear in various mild circumstances, the widget areas really feel cramped.
The LiveWire also integrates together with your smartphone by way of a proprietary app. The app provides you the bike’s vitals, exhibits you where the closest charging station is, and even sends you a push notification when somebody tries to tamper with it. It’s also possible to name up navigation by way of your telephone, with turn-by-turn directions popping up on the display. And you may flick by means of music, by adding a Bluetooth helmet system into the combination.
Sadly the bikes we rode at the launch have been pre-production models, which meant plenty of that functionality was lacking. (It also meant that I had an occasional gremlin when beginning my bike.)
The LiveWire’s start sequence is bizarrely uneventful. You flick the kill change and ensure the aspect stand is up, then hold down the beginning button till a pair of yellow LED strips on either aspect of the dash flip green. The drive system is now lively and able to go, with out as a lot as a burp.
H-D have built a haptic suggestions function into the motor, which principally simply generates a intermittent throb to let you recognize the bike is ‘on.’ It’s a fantastic concept, however the effect is way too obscure, and truly kind of off-putting. With slightly refinement, it might truly be a very neat function, however I just couldn’t gel with it.
Pulling away is fairly trippy too. With no clutch or gears to interact, rolling on the throttle is all it takes to get shifting. It took me a short while to acclimatize to the throttle’s pickup, however finally it’s a very clean system, and for those who whack it extensive open, the surge of power actually is sort of thrilling.
H-D has clearly hung out getting the LiveWire’s engine mapping right. There’s a regenerative braking system too (which effectively regenerates power as you close the throttle), and it feels quite a bit like regular engine braking.
There’s additionally a full complement of rider aids, together with cornering ABS, rear-lift mitigation to maintain the rear wheel planted during heavy braking, traction management, and an anti-slip system to stop rear wheel lock underneath regenerative braking.
The Harley-Davidson electric has seven rider modes on board: four presets, and three which are customizable. Every determines the extent out there energy, plus regenerative braking, throttle response and traction management. And there’s a separate change to disable traction management altogether.
The preset modes are pretty self-explanatory: Sport, Street, Rain and Range. ‘Road’ mode is probably one of the best, providing clean performance for day-to-day driving. ‘Sport’ mode opens the LiveWire up for extra enthusiastic driving—however that additionally means the throttle is a bit snatchier, and the ‘engine braking’ a bit more durable.
Our driving route took us from inside Portland’s city limits, into the rolling forest-lined hills of the Pacific Northwest. Harley has pegged the LiveWire as a metropolis bike, nevertheless it’s one hella good canyon-carver too.
For starters, the ergonomics are rattling close to good. From the upswept bars, to the rear-set pegs and cozy seat, it’s the setup that bikes just like the H-D Road Street and Roadster ought to have come out with. You’re upright sufficient for good visibility in the city, tucked enough for faster rides, and there’s ample leverage to push out and in of corners.
The PNW provided up some sweet corner sequences, and hustling the LiveWire by means of them was buckets of fun. That’s partly because it handles so nicely, and because those Showas do a superb job of holding a line, whereas additionally absorbing unexpectedly bumpy sections of street.
Nevertheless it’s also because there’s no clutch or transmission to fuss with, and no have to maintain it at the right RPM. With wonderful modulation from those Brembos, I found myself braking deep into corners, pitching the LiveWire over, and then seamlessly rolling on the throttle to launch it out the opposite aspect. Within minutes, using the graceful traits of the electric drivetrain had develop into second nature.
You’re shifting loads of weight around although, so I’d call the LiveWire surefooted slightly than nimble. And with the marginally extra aggressive throttle response (and regenerative braking) in Sport mode, pushing it exhausting did tire me out after some time.
There wasn’t a lot open street to check any prime velocity claims, but I did manage a ton a minimum of as soon as (anything north of 100 was a pressure). And the eerie whir from the motor while pinning it between forests immediately ticked my Star Wars Land Speeder packing containers.
We acquired caught in visitors the second we headed back into city, however once more, the shortage of a clutch or gearbox made crawling from mild to mild less painful. And in contrast to the combustion Harleys that have been driving with us, there was no niggling warmth construct up from an exhaust or motor. I did notice the LiveWire’s weight again in actually sluggish maneuvers, but at rolling tempo it was much less of a problem.
I left South Africa hoping deeply that the Harley-Davidson electric wouldn’t suck—and it really exceeded my expectations. It’s not solely a strong electric motorbike, but in addition a sport bare with whip-cracking acceleration and respectable handling.
The only factor holding the LiveWire again could possibly be its worth. At $ 29,799 it’s not low cost, and the Zero SR/F in full spec trim gives extra efficiency and range, for round $9,000 much less.
However then again, none of the specialist electric motorbike brands have the supplier community that Harley-Davidson does. The LiveWire’s set to hit 250 North American and European showrooms in September, each with a DC fast charging station and two years of free fees.
I’m unsure how I really feel concerning the vary either, however finally my opinion of the worth and vary matters quite a bit lower than particular person use case situations. These numbers could also be bitter tablets to swallow for some riders, however for others, the prospect to own a premium electric motorbike from a serious manufacturer simply may outweigh the drawbacks. And whether or not vary and charging are points or not, depends solely on your way of life.
There’s a notion that LiveWire sales will make or break Harley-Davidson’s future, however I don’t assume that’s true at all. Halo products exist to juice up a brand, push their engineering departments to their limits and shatter perceptions.
The LiveWire has completed simply that, and has me excited for no matter Milwaukee has in the pipeline next.
Harley-Davidson | Facebook | Instagram | Pictures by H-D and Alessio Barbanti
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