Harley Davidson used to be synonymous with gas-hogging classic choppers. While this ubiquitous American motorcycle company still produces plenty of classic models, this past year it has gotten more attention for its innovation than its appeals to tradition.
The Harley Electric 2020 LiveWire is the company's first electric motorcycle, but is it an anomaly or a hint of what's to come? Read on to find out.
A New Harley for a New World
Let's face it: fossil fuel is on its way out. Unlike some vehicle manufacturers, Harley Davidson is on the front lines when it comes to innovating for the future, which means accepting that alternative fuels and electric vehicles are here to stay. The idea of a quiet-riding Harley may put off some traditionalists, but those who are willing to live without that low grumble as they step into the future have already touted it as a fantastic addition to the Harley lineup.
Riders who want to skip right to the finish line and find out how it feels to ride the world's first commercially viable, full-size electric motorcycle for themselves can learn more at cleanharleys.com about pricing and options. Those who prefer to hedge their bets and get an idea of how viable the iconic motorcycle manufacturer's first attempt at an all-electric bike really is will be happy to know that so far, the LiveWire has gotten rave reviews.
Instead of altering one of its standard models, Harley Davidson built the LiveWire from the ground up, so its electric motor isn't the only thing that sets it apart. Everything from the platform to the frame to the wheels and tires screams innovation, but although the styling is more modern, it's still got that Harley flare.
The LiveWire's all-new Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor is located right beneath the rider. It produces a surprising amount of power at 105 hp and 86 lb-ft of torque, and riders will love that peak torque is available from 0 rpm.
LiveWire is also equipped with a Renewable Energy Storage System (RESS), a replaceable 15.5 kWh Lithium-ion battery capable of powering the bike for up to 145 miles without a recharge. The company has already offered a five-year unlimited mileage warranty on the batteries, but Lithium-ion batteries are known for their longevity and ability to withstand the elements and the test of time, so riders should have nothing to worry about there.
The bike is also equipped with a separate 12.8-volt battery to power lights, gauges, and other accessory functions. Both batteries have DC Fast Charge (DCFC) capabilities built-in, so charge times are low and riders can recharge their batteries from zero to full using DCFC in just an hour. Traditional charging using a 120-volt power cord takes longer at 12.5 hours to full charge, but it means riders can charge-up at home.
What modern full-electric vehicle would be complete without tech capabilities? Harley Davidson's response was a definitive, “not the LiveWire.” It features a USB Type-C port, a 4.3-inch color display, and integrated Bluetooth connectivity for easy access to the infotainment system.
Beyond these basics, the LiveWire also has four built-in riding modes and three custom modes that riders can access through the easy-to-use touchscreen dash. The four built-in modes are Sport, Road, Rain, and Range, with the last of them designed to take full advantage of regenerative braking to extend battery life. Riders can also create custom riding profiles by raising or lowering the power, throttle response, traction control, and regenerative braking to levels that suit their styles.
Electronic Rider Aids
The LiveWire comes standard with a variety of electronic rider aids, referred to by the company as Standard Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS). They include a drag-torque slip-control system, a cornering enhanced traction control system, and a cornering enhanced anti-lock braking system.
The Body Design
The LiveWire may not appeal to traditionalists looking for a loud, beefy chopper, but it's certainly something to behold. Since it's manufactured by Harley Davidson, few riders would expect it to sacrifice fashion for function, though, and it doesn't. Unlike lesser-known electric bikes, the LiveWire has a low center of gravity for improved steering and stability, especially around turns.
Some riders describe hesitation when they first get on the bike's 30-inch tall seat and start getting a feel for its weight at a stand-still. Thankfully, all that hesitation will go out the proverbial window as soon as they start riding. This bike can go from 0-60 in three seconds flat, and all torque available all the time means zipping up and down from 30 to 70 on the highway is a breeze.
Embracing the Future Without Abandoning the Past
Harley's move toward embracing electric vehicles shouldn't be seen as a break from its storied history. Rather, it is a step forward that respects every other aspect of the motorcycle manufacturer's journey to provide a better ride. While grizzled veterans of Harley's earlier lines are unlikely to jump on board with this new trend, the LiveWire will almost certainly change at least a few minds about electric vehicles.
So far, it's received a good reception among technologically minded motorcycle enthusiasts. Its hefty price tag makes it a less-than-perfect beginner bike, but those willing to make the switch to all-electric vehicles will wind up saving money and a lot of hassles in the end as gas prices continue to rise and conventional fuel becomes scarce.
The company's comparatively early decision to embrace the future of alternative fuels means there aren't many serious contenders yet when it comes to competition. Chances are, that will change soon. American riders know Harley Davidson's well-earned reputation, though, and they can trust that the manufacturer has come through yet again.
The Bottom Line
Not everyone loves electric vehicles, but for those willing to accept that the future of energy use on this planet will not be held back by fossil fuels, the LiveWire is like a breath of fresh air. The best way for riders to find out what all the fuss is about is to head to a dealership and take one out for a test ride. Most won't be disappointed.