Overnight, Harley-Davidson has released the first official images and information on their Live Wire design project, the company’s first venture in to electric motorcycle research and development.
MCNews.com.au consulted with Australian ‘backyard’ electric motorcycle developer and racer, Chris Jones, for his first take on Harley’s approach to battery powered motorcycles.
“I like it a lot,” said Chris.
“I think they have taken a good approach with the simple cantilever monoshock. It’s a trend most e-moto manufacturers are following – it basically allows you to mount a big axial flux motor right in the meat of the bike.
“Looks like they’re tried to keep the motor concentric with the swing arm pivot – always a good idea with belt drives.
“I don’t particularly like the silvery stuff at the base of the battery pack. Unless it’s serving some function, like a heat exchanger, instead it looks like they were trying to make at least some part of the bike look like an internal combustion engine. Doesn’t really add to it.
“I’m curious to know if it’s a cast aluminium frame. Looks good though, it will be exciting to see what a company like Harley-Davidson can bring to electric motorcycle development.” Concluded the Western Australian, who is seen as somewhat of a pioneer in this field Down Under.
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Adam Wright (Director of Marketing for Harley-Davidson Australia) has ridden the bike in America and is enthusiastic about this next development for the brand.
“It is a quick bike!
“We’re talking 0-100km/h times in under four-seconds already at this stage of development.”
With instantaneous torque off idle the major feature of electric motors the stumbling block remains range. Wright indicated that Live Wire makes 75Nm of torque and 55kw of power.
“Live Wire has two modes, power and economy, and on average is returning an 85-90km range between charges.
“Harley-Davidson is using a different supplier for the batteries than other manufacturers already in the market such as Tesla.
“Recharge time is currently around 3.5 hours via a level two charger.”
Mr Wright is unsure at this stage whether the charging unit will be integrated into the machine so it may be simply plugged into a conventional outlet to recharge its batteries, or whether a back-to-base charging regimen will be required.
“Harley-Davidson has re-invented itself numerous times over its 111 year history and it is very exciting to see this next phase in our progression which adds yet another element to the Harley-Davidson brand.” concluded Harley-Davidson Australia’s Director of Marketing.
A 2014 U.S. Project LiveWire Experience tour – kicking off this month with a journey along Route 66 – will see the initiative visit more than 30 Authorised Harley-Davidson Dealerships. In 2015, the Project LiveWire Experience will continue in the U.S. and expand into other regions. Project LiveWire Experience will invite select customers to learn more about the initiative and test ride the electric motorcycle. A cross section of riders will lead feedback, alongside non-riders who will have the opportunity to trial the new technology through a JumpStart™ simulated rider experience.
“This builds on many recent reinvention successes for Harley-Davidson.” said Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
“In just the last few years, we’ve broadened our reach to serve an increasingly diverse society, as well as reinvented our approach to product development and manufacturing. This has resulted in cutting-edge products like the recently launched Project RUSHMORE Touring bikes, Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 models and this reveal of Project LiveWire.”
Blending Harley-Davidson’s styling pedigree with the latest technology, Harley are promising a dynamic riding experience with instantaneous acceleration and an unmistakable new sound.
“The sound is a distinct part of the thrill,” said Richer. “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.”
Whilst not immediately for sale, longer term plans for retail availability of Project LiveWire will be influenced by feedback from consumers involved in the Project LiveWire Experience.
“We offer a no excuses riding experience in everything we do and we are led by what our customers tell us matters most,” continued Richer. “Because electric vehicle technology is evolving rapidly, we are excited to learn more from riders through the Project LiveWire Experience to fully understand the definition of success in this market as the technology continues to evolve.”
With sustainability remaining a core strategic focus for the brand, Harley-Davidson is aiming to ensure that the freedom of the open road – and riding in the great outdoors – is retained in the future.
“Preserving the riding environment is important to all of us,” said Levatich. “Project LiveWire is just one element in our efforts to preserve and renew the freedom to ride for generations to come. As a company that has seen success for 111 years, we think in generational terms about our great riding environments for the next 111 years.”
The pace of performance development in electric motorcycles is building at a phenomenal rate. John McGuinness lapped the Isle of Man TT course on a Mugen Shinden machine at 117mph. Only 15 mph adrift of the outright Superbike lap record at the famed 37 mile circuit.
“It’s so, so enjoyable to be able to ride the bike and be part of a project being driven by such clever people. I missed out on the win last year so it’s great to be have been able to take the win this year and when you consider we’ve lapped at 102, 109 and now 117mph in the last three years, the progress has been unbelievable.” Commented McGuinness after his latest TT victory.
However, range is still the bugbear for high performance machines. Convetional motorcycles race over six laps at the TT, while due to the time and distance limitations on batteries under such duress the electric motorcycles currently complete only one lap at race pace. They could race for six laps, but with current technology those laps would be at a greatly reduced pace in order to make the normal race distance.