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Meet Project LiveWire: Harley Davidson's first-ever electric motorbike

By

June 19, 2014

The Project LiveWire electric Harley Davidson

The Project LiveWire electric Harley Davidson

Image Gallery (11 images)

Harley-Davidson is a brand so iconic as to be known worldwide, and by people with little or no interest in motorbikes. For H-D to break with tradition in any major way, therefore, would be to make waves. Today, it has done just that by unveiling Project LiveWire, its first ever-electric motorbike.

The idea of an electric Harley was publicly floated by the company's COO Matthew Levatich speaking at its 110-year anniversary celebration in Milwaukee last year. "I am sometimes asked … whether there will be an electric Harley," said Levatich. "People would say 'hell no.' But why not? Our engineers are quite intrigued with the idea of what an electric Harley would look like, sound like and feel like. And would it be visceral, would it be emotional, would it be luscious. And there’s a way to do that I believe, and it would be very exciting."

And lo it has come to pass. From next week, the Project LiveWire Experience will tour Harley dealerships in the US, offering people the chance to test-ride the new LiveWire bike. The tour will be expanded to Canada and Europe in 2015. The bike itself will not be available to buy. Instead, the tour is aimed at gauging public response to and expectations of an electric Harley, before deciding if and when to bring an electric Hog to market.

The Project LiveWire bike will not be not available to buy, but will be used to generate f...

Harley is keen to emphasize that consumer feedback will shape any such commercially available electric offering. "Project LiveWire is another exciting, customer-led moment in our history," says Levatich in a press release. "Because electric vehicle technology is evolving rapidly, we are excited to learn more from riders through the Project LiveWire Experience to fully understand the definition of success in this market as the technology continues to evolve."

Few technical details have been released about the LiveWire. Harley says that it will feature a longitudinally-mounted electric motor and will be shaped to allow the rider to "hug" the bike. According to the company, the Livewire "blends the company’s styling heritage with the latest technology to deliver a new expression of the signature Harley-Davidson look, sound and feel." It promises quick acceleration and, intriguingly, "an unmistakable new sound."

Those keen to experience the LiveWire but who do not have a motorbike license will be able to try a simulated experience of it called JumpStart.

The video below provides an introduction to Project LiveWire.

Update 20 June 2014: Harley-Davidson has now shared some of the bike's specs with us.

The LiveWire is powered by 3-phase AC electric induction motor, which produces 74 hp (55 kW) and 8000 rpm. Peak torque is 52 lb.ft (70.5 Nm). The bike maxes out at 92 mph (148 km/h) and accelerates from 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in 4 seconds. A full recharge takes around 3.5 hours and its average range so far has been 53 miles (85 km).

Source: Harley-Davidson

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
29 Comments

Price?

Range?

Acceleration?

Top Speed?

I'd like to see:

price - (sub $20K)

Range - (100 real-world miles)

Acceleration - (0-60 in sub 4 sec)

Top Speed - (85+ mph)

Milton
19th June, 2014 @ 10:28 am PDT

Quite Surprising! No comments yet??

Has this left people so speechless!?

I think this is amazing.

Gyan Prakash
19th June, 2014 @ 10:29 am PDT

oh, I'd also like to add:

This thing looks BAD-ASS!

Hope the bottom chrome section is a form-follows function thing though,

because if that's just there as a throw-back to gasoline engines... arg!.

Milton
19th June, 2014 @ 10:30 am PDT

Not your potato... potato....potato....potato

Unearthly wail, as your eyes try to catch a glimpse of the electro-demon that just flashed past you...

Clean, simple, twist it open and release the F5 tornado and disappear...

Bob Flint
19th June, 2014 @ 11:26 am PDT

The bottom chrome section is the electric motor. I assume everything above that is mostly battery. I kind of like it.

Daishi
19th June, 2014 @ 12:00 pm PDT

Does it come with clothes-pins and playing cards to put in the spokes to make it loud? lol

Matthew Bailey
19th June, 2014 @ 12:15 pm PDT

This would sell very well. Being wider and lower also means it can take a bigger battery.

Re: Matthew Bailey

There are ways to add fins to the motor/drive and change the air intake that would make this thing much louder and give it that helicopter turbine spooling up sound we all want. With little additional friction.

Nairda
19th June, 2014 @ 04:48 pm PDT

Seems to have more akin to a Buell than a regular H-D, but nonetheless an interesting development and a sure sign of the future.

Range is more of an issue than performance, but that will undoubtedly improve. Not sure If I like the idea of seeking out an electrician every time it needs a service, or a hop up......

Martin Hone
19th June, 2014 @ 06:12 pm PDT

Finally! A Harley I want to own! The cool whistle is light years (literally) ahead of the terrible racket that makes the engineer in me shudder in sympathy.

The electric wave is building nicely.

Mike Sayle
19th June, 2014 @ 10:55 pm PDT

Ah Electric Glide.....is it available in blue?

Nigel Bolton
20th June, 2014 @ 12:29 am PDT

Presumably it will have 'unbalance shafts' to make it vibrate and a P.A. system with a recording of a cement mixer.

Sheldon Cooper
20th June, 2014 @ 01:39 am PDT

The power, torque, and speed are better than mostly everything else Harley sells but the range is kind of low. It makes more HP than the recent Zero but the 14kWh Zero has a 160 mile max range. From their website it also takes 9.9 hours to fully charge (compared to 3.5 for the HD) so I assume the HD is probably using a 5 or 6kWh battery.

They could have done that to keep weight down on the test bike or something but I assume moving to a 10-12kWh battery with 100+ miles of range would be easy.

Daishi
20th June, 2014 @ 05:18 am PDT

I think the Live Wire gives electric motorcycle a macho look. I think it is really nice and will definitely go on my wish list.

If it does not match with the H-D image, perhaps H-D could revive an older no-longer-being-produced motorcycle name / brand? I think Henderson could be a candidate, IMO.

BigWarpGuy
20th June, 2014 @ 05:47 am PDT

I like the looks of it, and it would be a fun commuter bike. I'd still need another bike I could do 1000+ mile days on, though.

Joe Henderson
20th June, 2014 @ 08:43 am PDT

So the difference between this and the 650+cc scooters made by BMW, Piaggio and Suzuki that can hit 105+ MPH and have ranges in the 180+ miles area with CVTs (essentially automatic transmission) is... oh, yeah, it's cooler to ride on a "motorcycle". That H-D is behind the curve of Zero and others is no surprise - what does Buell say in his mock advertisement on Youtube? - "Harley Davidson - 1947 technology at 2010 prices" - seems like this is more of the same mindset...

(the video is found as "Honest Harley Davidson Commercial" - it's a fun watch)

f8lee
20th June, 2014 @ 08:53 am PDT

Finally, the noise pollution fixer bike.

Robert Thom
20th June, 2014 @ 09:03 am PDT

It looks like HD is trying to discourage interest with that horribly ugly design! There's no reason they couldn't make it pleasing to the eye instead of that atrocity.

sailr
20th June, 2014 @ 09:46 am PDT

Obviously none of the commenters here are Harley owners who would rather eat shit than be seen on one of these high-tech contraptions and Harley Davidson risks offending these cash cow customers that they have spent decades cultivating.

This does not mean that Harley couldn't create a whole new segment but new products themselves are always risky let alone whole new counter-branding strategies.

Harley Davidson is an iconic American success story; once a great leader, then suffering a near-death experience from superior competition and then miraculously resurrecting itself through the sheer power of marketing.

But Harley owners are more like a Cult, an Iron Age group united by their deification of chrome, leather and a whole lot of noise.

Their rides are Rolling Altars to Art, defying all rational thought or considered civility. But these guys love the freedom of wind in their face and the Thundering Roar of Zeus between their legs as they careen down the road, middle fingers held high, striking abject terror into the poor sods left floundering in their wake...

and a whining, battery-powered scooter is simply not going to cut it.

Jay_Wilson
20th June, 2014 @ 09:48 am PDT

How many gas engine hardly davidsons are illegal? Straight pipes, noisy, and ponderous. Now this trifle. There are several other choices, purpose built electric motorcycles with superior styling, range and ability. Hardly is as usual too late entering the market.

steveraxx
20th June, 2014 @ 10:06 am PDT

Sweet! I've leaned toward the Victory bikes since they came out, but this would change that.

That having been said though, they need to work on both the 0-60 time (which nearly any electric car can beat) and that pitiful 53 mile range. Not sure if anyone will like the 92 mph limiter, but it would be stupid to go any faster than that on a bike anyway.

Work on that 53 mile range and maybe the 0-60 time (not that important to me personally) and you'd have me.

I can guarantee you the "loud pipes save lives" set won't like it, unless it comes with some beefy "fake" sound options.

Dave Andrews
20th June, 2014 @ 10:12 am PDT

Brilliant sculpting, and that silvery lower part is Steampunk- simply the ultimate in styling.

mookins
20th June, 2014 @ 10:40 am PDT

love this!!!

billybob1851
20th June, 2014 @ 01:50 pm PDT

I can see it now, a special Harley Davidson V-Twin edition of the SoundRacer.

Gregg Eshelman
20th June, 2014 @ 07:19 pm PDT

Continuing the Harley tradition of being all about show not go.

nutcase
20th June, 2014 @ 08:30 pm PDT

Brilliant!

Technology is one thing, public acceptance another.

Harley's endorsement of electric bikes is excellent news for the industry.

The Livewire is probably the best conceived electric bike out there.

Can't wait to try one out.

Chris Pellett
21st June, 2014 @ 01:39 am PDT

Looks like a performance bike, but isn't.

No place for the saddle bags, but you aren't going very far anyway.

Honda will come out with something better at half the price.

I could see this appealing to non Harley riders who want an electric motorcycle but the typical Harley rider will scorn it. Even with a card in the spokes and a built in vibrator on each hand grip, it just won't be the same. I can just visualize ten of these at the local tavern with a big red extension cord running to each one. The only plus might be how many beers you can drink in 3.5 hours before heading to the next tavern. Poker runs will become a month long event.

Bob
21st June, 2014 @ 08:14 am PDT

Looks? Nailed it! Artistic interpretation? or Engineering masterpiece? Form vs. Function. The 'TESLA ' of motorcycles? Many a question, awaiting answers. Regardless, would look great in the den.

WhyEyeWine
21st June, 2014 @ 04:18 pm PDT

Finally I don't need a ZZ Top beard to ride a Harley

GR
23rd June, 2014 @ 02:23 pm PDT

I just bought a ZERO-S electric that has all the performance wanted here. BUT it is styled as a "café racer" rather than a low rider comfortable cruiser. There is a market for that Livwire, especially if you rig it for passenger too.

S. Willey
24th June, 2014 @ 03:32 pm PDT
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