Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle Built By You

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Harley-Davidson Livewire

Harley-Davidson announced its plans for its first fully electric motorcycle, Project LiveWire. The official unveiling is June 23, 2014 in New York, but there’s a catch: You can ride the bike, but you can’t buy it just yet, as Harley wants your pre-production input. 

The 2001 introduction of the V-Rod was a huge leap for Harley-Davidson, based around the company’s first water-cooled engine, the ’Revolution Engine,’ but still wrapped in a low-seating position, tall handlebars with plenty of rake bike. The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is not just a fully electric engine, but an entirely new motorcycle unlike anything Harley has ever built. Single, center-mounted rear shock, short rake, independent rear fender, and exoskeleton frame, it looks more like a sport bike than a FatBoy. No V-twin, exhaust, transmission, or clutch, the LiveWire is Harley’s first fully electric bike, that isn’t really a bike just yet. Rarely have manufacturers taken the consumer’s opinion in such a massive scale.

If you’ve noticed it’s called Project LiveWire, as it’s not in fact a ready-to-sale bike, but an experiment. A handful of prototype LiveWires are going on simultaneous East and West coast tours starting in New York on June 23rd. The general public will get a 20-minute test ride on the bike and give feedback around the country, which will then alter the final product we will see on dealers’ floors. According to Harley, they don’t have information on price, availability, etc. for the production model as they intend to make changes based around what you say. 

Harley-Davidson Livewire

The Ride 

Electric engines have instantaneous torque, but top out quickly. The LiveWire is projected to max out at a disappointing 92 mph, but get there quickly with a 0-60 of 4 seconds flat, faster than any Harley on the market. It’ll do that with no emissions or transmission.

 Climb on the bike by straddling the electric motor and lithium ion batteries stacked on top. Covered with billet aluminum and a trellis frame, the bike looks nothing like a traditional Harley and doesn’t sound like on either. The push-button ignition switch starts the oil pump that cools the motor as well as a water pump that cools the electronic control unit. Twist the throttle and you’ll hear the whine of the pumps, not a big thumbing V-twin. The sound resembles that of a jet engine, which was intentional according to Harley. “The sound is a distinct part of the thrill,” said Mark-Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market.” 

When riding, select between “Power,” for a harder accelerating, bar-hopping experience with a 30-mile charge or “Range,” which almost doubles your output to 53 miles, while sacrificing acceleration. The cool thing is, every time you either brake or roll off the throttle, the bike takes that kinetic energy and recharges the batteries. If the battery is completely dead it takes 3.5 hours to recharge from a 220-volt charger. 

LiveWire is definitely a lot cooler than a Pruis or Volt, but electric motorcycles that have been on the market since 2008 being produced by niche manufacturers. This is a bold move for Harley as electric street motorcycle sales made up one percent of the market last year. Compare that with Harley’s domination of the entire market with 44 percent of road-motorcycle sales last year, according to the OC Registry.  “Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar – not an electric car,” said Mark-Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric. Project LiveWire is a bold statement for us as a company and a brand.”

Harley expects feedback from 300 riders at each Harley-Davidson dealership stop across the country. Starting in New York, they’ll get to Orange County and LA in late October. Next year, Harley will take the tour through Canada and Europe. 

Specs: 

Powertrain: 55-kilowatt, 3-phase A/C induction electric motor, lithium ion batteries, and direct drive

Horsepower: 74 @ 8,000 rpm

Torque: 52-lb.-ft.

Top speed: 92 mph

Range: Roughly 53 miles

Recharge time: 3-1/2 hours

Wheels: 17-inch rear (180mm), 18-inch front (120mm)

Suspension: Monoshock in rear, adjustable front fork

Frame weight: 18 pounds

What do you think? 

To the author, Harley is trying to gain the attention of the import market and non-bike riders with this project. Non-motorcycle news sources like Road & Track have already reported on it. Harley is trying new things, which branch away from the pushrod, V-twin platform they’ve always had.  You can’t build a bike like this overnight, it took time and major investment and so whether it fails or not I, personally, commend Harley for trying something different. 

What do you think? Comment in the comment section below and tell us: Is this just going to be like a lame Pruis? Will you attend a demo ride? Do you like it or hate it? 

Tour Dates 

The Project LiveWire Experience will be officially unveiled in New York, June, 23rd, and then hit the road for the East coast tour. Only the first few dates have been announced, but check ProjectLiveWire.com to see when the bike comes to your town. 

June 24 – June 25

New York

June 27 – June 29

Boston, MA

July 17 – July 19

Philadelphia, PA 

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  • Benjamin Reynolds

    Wait, no Wi demo? What the eff, isn’t that where this company is based out of?

    • chris ordanez

      Check the last paragraph.

    • zion

      They’re announcing more dates and locations next week.

    • jlxn

      Available in Milwaukee June 26 – 29.

  • Mark D

    I love that Harley is the only manufacturer of motor vehicles who actively encourages its used to ride them to bars, drink, and ride them around. On the fastest setting.

    • Libertatem

      Which is not very fast to be honest;)

  • 480272

    Looks good for a HD, since they are using Mission tech you would think the range would be a lot better. The price will probably be high. I’d still prefer a Mission-R.

    • Mark D

      I think that since this is just a sort of test-mule, they went light on the batteries and power just to get the bike out to people as soon as possible for evaluation. I would hope that the specs would be a bit higher in a few years. Pricing might well be around $20k, though.

  • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

    Great job on this article. Nice full information piece. Love that of all the big manufacturer ms HD, considered the least engineering and technical, has come to people with an electric bike for everyone.

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    I think it is cool that they have a female rider in that short video. I have to be honest and say that I am really liking this so far. It is a good looking motorcycle. Most Harley riders in Little Rock only ride to Buffalo Wild Wings and back to the house anyways. Question though: How are they going to please the ‘throttle twisters’ with this? You know the guy; he is the one on the LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES Harley at the stop light constantly revving his engine WHILE he has those crappy iPhone earbuds in his ears.

    • eddi

      That part of HD’s customer base will never know Livewire exists. This is aimed at a whole ‘nother bunch of potential riders. I’m not optomistic but HD has deep pockets and can afford to create a test bed that will show results ten years down the line.

  • mike

    At least this Harley won’t leak oil

    • Zandit75

      It has an oil pump and cooler, so don’t hold your breath!!

  • JT

    This thing is brilliant looking.

    I don’t want this 2 years from now, 2 months from now, 2 weeks from now. I want it right now. No delay, no jerking around. This is the electric motorcycle I’ve been waiting for. I do not like Harley Davidson motorcycles. I would love this one however.

    • eddi

      You are the kind of rider this whole experiment is looking for. If there are enough of you and ya’ll vote early and often, it could happen.

    • Dan

      I went to the launch party in NY this week. The bike is pretty cool. Very small, too, even compared to a modern sportsbike. I only “rode” it on their little test rig (stationary), but I can say that the noise on accelleration is sweet, just like in the teaser video.

      I’m not crazy about the seating position. My riding experience is all UJMs, nakeds and sportbikes, so I’m somewhat biased. But that said, to me the riding position felt like a real compromise. It’s like an engineer said “you can’t have power and handling in a cruiser position” and a marketing guy said “yeah but we can’t sell bikes with a sporty position” so they met in the middle. It’s upright like a naked, but the pegs feel far foward, robbing the confidence that the upright position usually instills. Also, the “tank” is extremely narrow, so there is nowhere to lock your knees into.

      Anyway, minor complaints about seating position aside, the bike is cool. Glad to see they’re trying something new.

      Also, I want to see the electric power train in one of those X-Games street tracker bikes. If you can swap the packs, racing is one of the few places where a 50 mile range might not be a huge liability.

  • taylor

    anyone know where in ny on the 24th? i’ll gladly park my ducati and test ride it. .

  • JetpackPaulo

    The sound is incredible (assuming it hasn’t been edited for the video). If this is how electric motorcycles can sound, I’m happy. In fact, I’d buy one just to sit there and listen to it.

  • LS650

    Except for the range, I could actually see riding one of these. I wish them luck with this project.

  • Charles Quinn

    Well this is the biggest motorcycle story in a generation. If Honda or BMW had done this it would be big news but not hugely surprising. The mere fact of it being H-D will get people talking about electric bikes like nothing else could. I take my hat off to them.

    • LS650

      Agreed. I always figured the first motorcycle manufacturer to mass-produce a large electric motorcycle would be Honda, maybe BMW.
      Coming from Harley this is a bit of a shock. Then again, this is only a prototype, and I would not be surprised if we don’t see anything in production for two or three more years.

      • Paul Willis

        I have to agree as well. Never thought Harley would be the first major MC mfgr to go electric. And that they are doing it with a bike that almost looks as good as Moto Guzzi Griso kind of blows me away. Not so sure about the underlying tech, though. Mission and Brammo see no need for oil and water cooling

        • Jeff Hood

          FYI H-D is using a Mission motor and my 2013 Brammo Empulse R is water cooled.

  • Zandit75

    They should also put a normal engine in one of these, and sell them side by side.
    It is a good looking design, but the range is the killer for me.

    • eddi

      A water-cooled V with about 1000cc? May as well, the standard current HD customer won’t look twice at this design anyway. May as well make some bucks with a known quantity while waiting for the big battery breakthrough.

  • Andrew Leung

    Congrats to Harley on finally making a HD I actually want.

    • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

      You want a $20k bike with a ~50 mile range that can’t recharge without stopping for four hours?

      • ssdajoker

        You really think they would put a top of the line battery pack in an experimental bike? There are electric bikes that get 200 miles of range, and to think Harley is not aware of that would be folly. I drive a leaf, I never stop for hours, not even 30 minutes. The final product would be much much better.

        • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

          What current production electric motorcycle do you know of that gets 200 highway miles on a single charge? The Brammo Empulse tops out at 100 miles (for $18k!) and real-world tests show the range to be less. The only way you’re going to get 200 miles out of an electric bike is by making it the size of a Gold Wing, throwing in a car-sized (Tesla) battery, and charging close to $40k.

          • ssdajoker

            Mission Motorcycles builds it feel free to check it out at https://www.mission-motorcycles.com/r.

            REAL WORLD RANGE:

            140 miles

            CITY RANGE: 230 MILES

            ZERO – 60:

            3 seconds

            TOP SPEED:

            150 mph

            • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

              I’d like to dispute that 230 city mile claim, but nobody on earth commutes on a $50k electric race bike so there aren’t any real numbers. And that essentially confirms my suspicion about the price point of that range capacity.

              • http://protomech.wordpress.com/ protomech

                “Production” might be a little debateable, but Brutus sells a cruiser electric that claims 210 highway miles in its largest battery configuration. The smaller battery model starts at around $32k, no pricing for the big battery but I would guess well north of $40k.
                http://brutusmotorcycle.com/brutusV9.html

                Zero’s largest battery S has 170 miles of city range, 88 miles of highway range and costs $17.5k.

                Add a Vetter-style aero fairing to the Zero – about $3k – and you’d increase highway range to 120-150 miles. Add a bit more battery – say $5k worth – and you’d have a $25k 200 mile electric.

                • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

                  That’s cool, I hadn’t seen the Brutus before. They certainly have a unique sense of style. :)

      • Campisi

        That tiny range implies a smaller (and thereby cheaper) battery pack. I’m expecting this to hit the market somewhere around twelve to thirteen grand, well-placed in regards to both other electric competitors and the pricing structure of the current Harley range.

        • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

          Ow… you’re making my brain hurt. The Brammo Empulse gets 100 mile range for $18,000. You’re predicting that Harley will release a bike with twice the range for 70% of the cost? If that happens (without some kind of crazy subsidy scheme) I’ll buy a hat and eat it. Also, can you provide some info on those supposed “other electric competitors” who offer a 200 mile range at a $12-13k price point? I’m guessing not because they don’t exist.

          • ssdajoker

            I never said they will be at a low price point, It seems Harley is waiting for the batteries to become more cost effective. But if the Giga Factory gets built, along with Tesla’s mass market vehicle then you can bet that the prices for batteries will fall something like 40%. This bike may be 3 years off, so is the Second generation Mission Motorcycle, so is the Tesla mass market, so is the giga factory. If you factor in all these events happening at once or even in the same decade, the price of batteries will fall substantially. Nothing is concrete, but if that Giga factory get’s built, you can’t say it wont be a game changer at the least.

            • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

              I didn’t say YOU did- Campisi said he’s expecting the H-D to be “around twelve to thirteen grand”. The Mission bikes start at $30k, so there’s roughly a zero percent chance H-D can make an electric bike with a 200 mile range for half that price as a 2016 model. If there are advances in battery technology and mass manufacturing, maybe in the next several years. And if that happens, awesome- I’m all for the idea of an electric bike with a killer range at an affordable price. I just don’t think you’ll see that before the end of this decade.

              • ssdajoker

                Same page then.

              • Blake Bryce

                off topic, awesome MXPX avi!

          • Campisi

            The Zero S ZF8.5 sells for $12,995 and has a ~100-mile range. I’m expecting Harley-Davidson to sell a bike with half of that range for the same amount of money. A larger-capacity pack will likely be available, for a significant price increase; this is Harley-Davidson, after all.

            • Alpha_Geek_Mk2

              H-D isn’t going to sell a bike with a 50 mile range, that’d hurt their image too much. This is a lifestyle brand, if they’re going to do something controversial it’ll have to be good. Which means the base model willl be around $20k with a 100 mile range, just like the Empulse. Or it’ll be closer to $30k with a ~200 mile range and weigh as much as a Gold Wing.

  • Tom Gabriele

    I think this will work out for them. A technically inferior bike with a good design and the HD badge seems to be Harley’s winning combo so far.

  • StreetfighterX

    “an entirely new motorcycle unlike anything Harley has ever built” looks like it has some Buell XB influence to me

    • Richard Gozinya

      More Sportster and V-Rod. The Buell element is basically just the rear shock.

  • daveinva

    This is awesome, but I’m still surprised they put out a bike– even an R&D test mule– with that awful range in it. Considering how much more range the topline Zero, Brammo and Mission bikes can get– often with better performance than the HD!– this just screams “rush job” to me.

    Because, honestly, most lay people are going to hear that 53 mile range and immediately dismiss electric bikes, failing to note that there are already *production* bikes for sale today that best the Harley’s range and performance.

    That all said, I’m rooting for this. It’s a radical departure, but a welcome one, and if anyone can crack this nut, HD has the resources to do it (do they have the *commitment*, though?).

    • zedro

      They shouldn’t have published the range of a concept bike.

    • eddi

      Livewire is a testbed. It doesn’t need range since the riders will not be going that far. HD can’t do anything about batteries, but get the best when they roll out the finished product. For now the real questions are looks, handling, detailing and is anyone interested?
      The review of the Zero line http://rideapart.com/2014/06/review-2014-zero-sr/ showed range and power at the expense of handling. HD is starting from the other end.

  • Slowtire

    It’s interesting how many people on here criticize HD for being behind the times, etc. Many have said that they should explore electric bikes and more modern designs. So they do it, and this is not the finished product, and the schmexperts all resort back to the same old immature HD bashing. Grow up.

  • juliansr

    I’m a classic harley hater, but at lest they are finally playing the game. A large faction of Harley riders wont go 50 miles a day.
    I can see where for the real road-hard 1 per-centers this wont even make them blink, but for the average guys…perfect…

  • Peter Johnson

    Limited range electric doesn’t really work for me, weekend rides are 200-300 miles round trip, please put one of the new Harley v twins in that chassis. I would gladly ditch my yamaha to buy a Harley like that.

  • zedro

    What’s worth the title ‘built by you’? HD marketing speak? I don’t think i had anything to do with it.

    • Charles Quinn

      It will be “built by you” in that how the bike eventually shapes up will be based on feedback from the demo rides. At least that’s how I understood it.

  • Slowtire

    You know that Zero, Brammo and other E bike manufacturers are not happy to see this. When this bike(s) goes to market, HD’s financial and marketing strength will no doubt be the end for some of them.

    • Jed Wheeler

      Zero did a press release in response to this announcement welcoming HD to the electric bike industry and saying they think having a manufacturer with Harley’s scale doing electric can only help the industry.

      Of course that’s secure in the knowledge that thing has such a ridiculously low range it cannot even hope to compete with their bikes. If HD can address the range problem, that may change.

      • Slowtire

        Remember…” it’s not in fact a ready-to-sale bike, but an experiment.” HD has the deep pockets to get the latest and greatest technology to make this bike viable. With that being said, competition is healthy and I would hate to see any of them disappear. Then again, HD may focus on just one or two segments. I would bet there will be at some point, sport E bikes, cruiser E Bikes etc. Pretty exciting.

  • Davidabl2

    “First Electric Harley”….I’m just surprised that the announcement didn’t come on April 1st.
    Especially given the part about the fifty mile range…

  • KeithB

    While I’m not keen on Harley, I am very pleased to see they are attempting something this advanced.
    Yes, the range is crap but it will get better.
    More power to them!(for better range…)

  • Sportbike Mike

    They need to bring this out just how it is now. Don’t rake out the front end don’t drop the seat 10 inches, don’t put ape hangers on it. Leave it just like this, and I’ll see you when I graduate from school, HD. If you want a younger crowd, this is the way to do it.

  • charlie

    Tour? More like short roadtrip

  • charlie

    This feels outsourced

    • Richard Gozinya

      Part of it was. They went to Mission for help with the drive train. Though they are looking to hire EV engineers.

      • charlie

        So it’s a Mission bike with a Harley badge since the design is also very unHD-like. Probably a European company.

        • Jed Wheeler

          Mission is based in San Francisco.

          • charlie

            I know. I said the design is probably European.

  • Justin McClintock

    Hope they bring it to the Atlanta area. I wouldn’t mind putting it through the paces a bit.

  • Jed Wheeler

    It looks more like an Electric version of the Ducati Diavel than it does like anything off the Harley lineup – and that’s a good thing. The downside is a max range that’s less than half as long as you’ll find in electric motorcycles from Brammo or Zero that are already available for sale at actual dealers. 53 mile max range, seriously? Are they joking? And only 33 if you actually ride the damn thing?!!! Numbers like that will only serve to (unfairly and unjustifiably since other electric bikes don’t have this issue) predjudice people against electric motorcycles, which is a damn shame.

    But then I suppose pretty and impractical is par for the course for Harley.

    They want feedback? Tell their engineers to go intern with the startups that have been pushing and developing this technology for years. Brammo has their riders competing in races against Gas bikes and winning for gods sake! Harley has a lot of catchup to do.

  • Ray

    They may bring an economy of scale to it that makes the whole segment possible and improving battery performance…really a bold move, seizing the day and reinventing the brand as a utilitarian American standard…

    • Ray

      And it looks very individualize-able.

  • Tom Boland

    Replace that electric motor with a badass V-twin, keep the lines of the bike and I would think about it.