Harley-Davidson LiveWire Electric Bike | FIRST LOOK

The Motor Company Builds a Real Electra Glide

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Harley-Davidson

Dyed-in-the-leather Motor Company faithful who had their worlds rocked by water-cooled V-Rods and rolled by made-in-India Street models may want to sit down for this one—Harley-Davidson, that pillar of conventional, conservative, American cruiser-style motorcycles, has built an electric bike. Now we know for sure that pigs—or Hogs, at least—can fly.

Called Project LiveWire, this sleek eBike is sure to send a shockwave through Harley-Davidson's existing consumer base—if not through the entire motorcycle industry. And that's a good thing. Following on the heels of the Dark Custom series and the entry-level Street lineup, Project LiveWire is the latest salvo in Harley-Davidson's both-barrels-blazing effort to attract new, younger, and different customers to the bar-and-shield brand.

"America at its best has always been about reinvention," said Matt Levatich, H-D President and COO. "Like America, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our history, with customers leading us every step of the way. Project LiveWire is another exciting, customer-led moment in our history."

The bike you see in these images is not a final product intended for sale—at least not yet. It's a development prototype intended to gather input about riders' expectations for an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle. (Did you know you had any expectations for an electric Harley-Davidson?) Just like with the Project Rushmore touring bike revision, Harley-Davidson is soliciting an unprecedented amount of consumer input into the development of its first electric motorcycle. All summer long, consumers across the country will be given the opportunity to ride the LiveWire at over 30 Harley-Davidson dealers—or participate in a "simulated riding experience" called Jumpstart, if you're a non-riders—and give feedback that will directly shape the future of Harley-Davidson's eBike. "Longer term plans for retail availability of Project LiveWire will be influenced by feedback from riders along the Project LiveWire Experience tour," the company says.

Very little is known about the LiveWire at this time and Harley shared no specifications, except to promise "tire-shredding acceleration" and a unique "fighter jet" sound unlike any existing internal combustion or electric motorcycle. The design is more naked musclebike than any current Harley-Davidson cruiser, with what appear to be 17-inch wheels, disc brakes front and rear, a substantial inverted fork, and centrally mounted rear monoshock. We know nothing about motor or battery technology except to note that the area described by what we presume is the battery box is quite large, with space for enough cells to provide at least the industry-standard 12-15 kWh capacity, delivering range and performance on-par with well-developed products from Brammo or Zero. Many small details including the triple clamps, rearsets, and unique combination mirrors/turn signals appear to be hand crafted and exquisite. We expect to learn more next week, when we'll have an opportunity to ride the LiveWire ourselves.

This is big news. Who would have thought it would be Harley-Davidson—not Honda or one of the other big four, or even BMW—who would be the first established OEM to announce an eBike? This is just further evidence of how focused Harley-Davidson is on constantly reinventing itself to remain relevant for the next 110 years of its history. We look forward to riding the LiveWire next week, and getting our first glimpse at what the future of Harley-Davidson looks like from the behind the handlebars.

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Rode the LiveWire last week in NYC. If not a sport bike it is at least very "sporting." The seating position is similar to an early '80s-era Japanese sport bike (think GPz750). Riding around lower Manhattan is no where near good enough to make an assessment of this ebike (what was H-D thinking?), but it is VERY strong off the line and very easy to get acclimated to. There is no clutch, and no idling. When you let go of the throttle it slows down NOW. Blip the throttle at a light and you're in the trunk of the taxi cab in front of you. You learn very quickly not to do that. I was not invited to the test ride, but they slipped me in anyway (I had to return the next day). Invitees included the press and members of the NYC HOG. The latter tells me H-D is more concerned about appeasing The Faithful than opening the tent -- for the moment. Makes sense; I really enjoyed my time in the saddle (I'm a sport bike rider), while the HOG members were somewhat less enthusiastic. Read more here: saddlebums.tumblr.com
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