Ahead of its US market release later this year, Harley-Davidson has released further details on their LiveWire electric motorcycle.
The bike presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January was much closer to the production version of the ‘Project LiveWire’ prototype that dates back to 2014.
Displayed alongside two other Harley-Davidson electric concepts (see breakout), the LiveWire was described by the Motor Company as the first of a “new portfolio of motorcycles that provides an all new two-wheel experience”.
“We’re at a historic juncture of the evolution of transportation, and Harley-Davidson is at the forefront,” said Harley-Davidson CEO, Matt Levatich.
“Innovation that moves the body and soul has always been at the heart of our brand, and this next chapter in our history is about creating products and opportunities for existing and aspiring riders of all ages and walks of life.”
While Harley presented more details on the LiveWire’s performance and features at CES, a full specification list is still forthcoming, so the nature and size of the electric motor, as well as the type and kWh capacity of the battery pack, is yet to be revealed.
Some sources say this reluctance to release full specs is down to testing still being conducted on the battery and motor in the prototypes, so further changes may be made before release.
What we do know is that the electric motor is a permanent magnet type and actually sits underneath the battery pack for what Harley says is easier handling due to a lower centre of gravity.
Labelled as the ‘H-D Revelation’, the electric powerplant will, apparently, propel the LiveWire from 0-60mph in under 3.5 seconds, which would equal a 0-100km/h time of slightly more than 3.5 seconds.
Being electric, maximum torque is available from launch and throughout the ‘rev range’, while the lack of a conventional transmission means the bike is a clutchless twist-and-go operation, too. Harley-Davidson believes this factor will make the LiveWire attractive for new riders.
One point to note here is the engine’s sound. While electric motors can be almost entirely silent, Harley have added a note to the LiveWire that’s best described as being like that of a jet engine – look up videos online to hear the distinctive noise.
A power regeneration function recovers energy during braking to add charge to the battery – similar to the KERS used in Formula 1 – with the range listed as 110 miles (177km) on the ‘MIC urban-use’ cycle.
There are three options for recharging the battery, starting with a conventional household outlet that’ll deliver 13 miles (21km) range per hour of charging: essentially needing an overnight charge to reach full capacity from empty.
Option two uses a Level 2 commercial charge unit, but this doesn’t offer any faster charging than a household outlet. The third option is a Level 3 (aka DC Fast Charge) unit that’ll generate 192 miles (308km) per hour, which based on the LiveWire’s listed range, means full charge can be achieved in a little over half an hour.
All these figures will likely change as the LiveWire enters its final development phase
As it will be a premium model in Harley-Davidson’s range (priced above everything except the top-end tourers and CVO models in the current lineup), the LiveWire is equipped accordingly, with high-performance Showa suspension, Brembo brakes and Michelin tyres all fitted as standard.
The suspension is fully adjustable at both ends, while the ‘Scorcher Sport’ tyres were apparently developed by Michelin specifically to suit the LiveWire.
Other standard features include electronic chassis control with cornering-sensitive traction control and ABS, while instrumentation will consist of a state-of-the-art colour touchscreen display that’s configurable and can also be used for navigation, music and alert information.
On top of all of this, the LiveWire will be what Harley calls their most “connected” motorcycle ever. Using a development of the Harley-Davidson App called ‘H-D Connect’, LiveWire owners can link to their motorcycle remotely through their smartphone, enabling battery charge status and remaining charge time to be accessed when away from the motorcycle.
The other benefits with H-D Connect include SMS alerts if the bike is being tampered with, while GPS tracking will limit the potential for loss through theft. H-D Connect can also locate charge stations, send reminders for upcoming scheduled servicing and even ‘map’ your bike’s location, so it’s easier to find in a packed parking area.
In North America, H-D Connect will be via subscription that’s free to LiveWire purchasers for the first year, after which fees will apply.
Powertrain and tech features aside, what’s notable about the LiveWire is that it’s probably the closest Harley-Davidson has come to a genuine ‘sports’ bike for some time.
While some styling features are true to Harley’s cruiser aesthetic, there’s more of the streetbike in the LiveWire’s appearance, as evidenced by the high and compact tail section and headlight fairing. Riding position, too, is more ‘over-the-tank’ than anything in Harley-Davidson’s current line-up.
The styling, including the bulky appearance of the engine and battery pack, won’t be to everyone’s taste, and Harley will have a job on their hands convincing existing riders to embrace the LiveWire, but the Motor Company are chasing new riders and those outside of the ‘traditional’ motorcycle market, so the bike’s lack of adherence to motorcycle styling norms isn’t as much of an issue.
Launch colours for the LiveWire will be the familiar Vivid Black from existing models, as well as all-new Yellow Fuse and Orange Fuse.
US in 2019, Aus in 2020
To be released in the North American market this August as a 2020 model, the LiveWire will be priced from US$27,799.
Australian and New Zealand pricing is yet to be revealed, but delivery to both markets has been confirmed for late 2020.
The concepts presented alongside the LiveWire at CES brought to life two of four renderings that were presented as part of the ‘More Roads to Harley-Davidson’ presentation last year.
Those renderings consisted of a small capacity motorbike, a mountain bike and conventional bicycle, as well as a scooter, all with electric motors.
The scooter and mountain bike renderings were presented in concept form and drew as much attention as the LiveWire.
Virtually no details were provided on either concept, other than to say the pair are part of the new ‘Electrified’ chapter of Harley-Davidson and have been developed to “explore the potential of urban mobility and two-wheeled adoption”.
With a USD front fork and monoshock rear, interesting features on the mountain bike include a belt drive and a compact electric motor that appears to be a structural member of the frame.
There’s also a belt drive and USD front end on the scooter concept, with what looks like old-school BMX handlebars above. The makeup of the rear suspension isn’t apparent, but the low-slung electric motor and battery pack continues the LiveWire’s theme, with the abundance of space between the powerplant and the seat presumably for holding shopping or small luggage items.
A halo headlight features and, in place of footpegs, there are footboards made up of what appears to be a skateboard sliced vertically and bolted to the frame!
While a mountain bike is all-new territory for Harley-Davidson, the Motor Company does have form on the scooter front. Between 1960 and 1965, Harley-Davidson offered the ‘Topper’; a compact scooter powered by a 165cc 2-stroke engine, with lawnmower-like pull starting and a CVT transmission.
With its pressed steel frame covered in a fibreglass body, the Topper was Harley’s response to a scooter craze in the US that had been driven largely by the popularity of Honda’s Super Cub.
Less than 3,000 Toppers were built, but despite their rarity, they are amongst the least-collectable Harley-Davidson models today.