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Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire

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Harley-Davidson dropped a small bomb on the world Wednesday: they have an electric bike in the works. Not a dirt or minibike like KTM or Yamaha, not a scooter like BMW or Honda. A no-bullshit full size motorcycle, like Brammo and Zero have been building for a few years. Welcome to the party.

Harley-Davidson is exceedingly careful to stress that Project LiveWire is a concept to gauge customer interest and that it is not a production bike. Judging from commentary online, I think they have sparked a certain level of interest. Their Facebook announcement post attracted nearly 20k likes within 12 hours; for comparison, Zero Motorcycles has been selling electric bikes for about six years, and their main page has 10k likes in total.

So what do we know?

Various journalists have had a chance to ride the concept bike, and collectively the basic specifications can be assembled. The LA Times, the OC Register, and CycleWorld have all ridden the bike and come away impressed.

Powertrain

Performance

Chassis and components

At the 8000 RPM power peak, the motor is still producing 48 lb-ft / 66 Nm of torque, so torque is very linear up to this point. Acceleration from a stop is strong in the first ride videos.

Motor and motor controller are said to be designed with some level of assistance from Mission Motors, according to Wes Siler at Wired and Gizmodo. Mission Motors has been rather busy this year, providing components to both the Mission R production superbike and the Mugen Shinden San racebike that just turned in a record-breaking 117 mph lap at the Isle of Man. The LiveWire is not a superbike, but it should have no problems standing with the rest of the Harley lineup.

The ride reviews clearly indicate that the fit and finish of the bike are production-quality. Harley personnel are quick to reiterate the concept-only nature of the bike, but it’s encouraging to see a serious production-quality bike from a traditional manufacturer. Production bikes that flow from the LiveWire concept will not necessarily use the battery specification here; it would not be surprising to see a smaller cafe racer and a larger touring bike. The 300V battery pack is significantly higher than either Brammo or Zero, and should be ready to make full use of whichever DC quick charging standard emerges victorious in 2016. A smaller bike with L2-only charging will be poorly suited for touring, but Harley could certainly build a heavy 200 mile highway cruiser that can charge in 30 minutes on (for example) the Tesla Supercharger network.

Project LiveWire Experience Tour

Starting next week Harley-Davidson will be taking several demo bikes on a 30 city US tour over this year, and Canada and Europe in 2015. They have not announced a final schedule, but their investor relations site has an informative video with an early look at the experience tour roadmap. The tour will have not only the demo bikes, but also a riding simulator for the not-yet-rider market segment at which this bike is aimed. Harley expects to run over 300 demo rides per stop … that is a lot of butts in seats, and it will go a huge way towards shattering perceptions about electric motorcycles.

 

Tentative roadmap for the LiveWire tour

Harley has posted the first set of stops already:

The map appears to indicate that the following cities will also be visited:

I’m looking forward to the Nashville stop.

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