Harley-Davidson has been branching out recently, joining the EV hype in a pretty major way. The HD LiveWire: Harley’s first, all-electric motorcycle. With the auto industry making a very pronounced shift towards EV production, it’s no surprise that motorcycle manufacturers have followed suit. With companies like Zero, Royal Enfield, and Honda entering the electric space, Harley-Davidson is at the forefront with their release.
The LiveWire was first introduced as a prototype in 2014, and it’s come quite a ways since then. With Mission Motors of San Francisco, California providing the basis for the powertrain. Prototypes were available for test rides at US HD dealerships later in 2014, and in Europe and Canada in 2015.
Originally planned with a longitudinally mounted motor under the frame, a bevel gear was added to change the direction of rotation to 90 degrees. The bevel itself along with a Gilmer belt gave the drivetrain a sound that was compared to “an oversized vacuum,” a far cry from the roar of a Harley-Davidson that we’re used to.
So, as far as raw numbers go: we start off with 105 horsepower. That’s no joke: the HD LiveWire goes from 0-60 in three seconds. That’s also aided by 86 lb-ft of torque available at 0 rpm, right off the line. Let’s put that into comparison with the YZF-R1: a 0-60 of 2.6 seconds, with approximately 200 horsepower and 83.2 lb-ft of torque at 11,500 rpm. Despite having a massive 1000cc motor, the LiveWire still has more torque, and available at a much lower rpm – namely 0. Beyond that, the LiveWire is faster than the 2020 BMW S 1000RR, a phenomenally capable superbike in and of itself.
As far as the battery goes, it has a city/highway range of 95 miles. While that isn’t the 300+ miles we see on a Tesla, it isn’t completely out of the standard range for bikes, much less electric motorcycles. The battery does bring the LiveWire’s weight up significantly to 544 pounds. Definitely heavier than your average bike, but not nearly as heavy as your typical Harley. A huge benefit of the battery that the LiveWire uses is fast-charging tech: DC Fast Charging makes it so you can fully charge the LiveWire in an hour. You’ll have to keep routes focused around charging stations for now, but the overall range doesn’t take away from a day trip.
Another concern with an electric motorcycle is its rideability as compared to what we all know and love. The HD LiveWire delivers on all fronts – with Range, Rain, Road, and Sport riding modes as well as customizable options, you can manage power delivery to meet road conditions. Throttle response is snappy but smooth, and regenerative braking gives the bike a familiar engine braking feeling.
While the overall weight may be a concern for some riders, the bike is well balanced overall, and you can definitely feel it when cornering. The stock bars allow for a relatively upright position while a relatively aggressive footpeg position allows you to really throw the bike around. The Showa suspension also provides some pretty inspiring confidence all around, and the bike rides like a lot of modern sport standards.
One of the perceived drawbacks is the lack of a gearbox, but once you get past that, the throttle response and reliability makes for an intuitive, smooth, and overall appealing ride that will put a smile on your face, under your helmet, of course.
Is it worth it?
If you’re dead-set on an electric motorcycle from a major manufacturer, yes. The HD LiveWire is not a bike to be trifled with. They do come with a relatively steep MSRP – but in the coming months we expect to see them showing up at Harley Davidson auctions that we hold, and you’ll be able to snag one at a discount. Keep your eyes peeled.
HD has addressed the pricetag itself – stating that this is merely their foray into electric motorcycles, setting the path for a lot of interesting projects to come. In the meantime…
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