Harley-Davidson has been working on electric motorcycles for a long time now, and MCNews.com.au had a brief ride on a LiveWire prototype in Malaysia almost four years ago. The machine had plenty of get up and go, and due to straight cut gears in the transmission system it even sounded pretty good.
Since then Harley have not only continued electric motorcycle development by themselves, but have also partnered with other companies. The most promising partnership came about early this year with Harley making an investment in cutting-edge San Francisco based electric motorcycle maker Alta. Alas, that partnership must have ended in tears as Harley exited the agreement six months later.
A now seemingly production ready Harley-Davidson LiveWire made its European debut at a press conference held at the EICMA show in Milan this week with confirmation that the LiveWire will go on sale next year in many markets. Australia and New Zealand are currently slated for a 2020 release.
Propelled by the immediate torque of an all-electric motor, Harley claim;
‘LiveWire motorcycle is capable of astounding acceleration with just a twist of the throttle – no clutching or gear shifting required.’
‘A low centre of gravity, rigid aluminum frame and premium adjustable suspension components give the LiveWire dynamic handling.’
‘Performance and range are optimised for the urban street-rider.’
That last sentence suggests that it will be primarily designed as a short range commuter machine, as one would expect as we all wait for battery technology to become compact enough for a touring machine.
The LiveWire motorcycle is powered by a permanent magnet electric motor that produces instant torque the moment that throttle is twisted resulting in incredible acceleration performance for a thrilling ride.
The motor is located low in the motorcycle to lower the center of gravity and help the motorcycle handle well at all speeds as well as making it easy to control when stationary.
The LiveWire model is designed to produce a tone that increases in pitch and volume with speed – a new sound that represents the smooth, electric power of the LiveWire motorcycle.
Powertrain performance is maximised by a chassis designed to deliver nimble, agile handling for confident control on urban streets and a thrilling ride on curving backroads. Combining the powertrain as a stressed member within the aluminium frame to increase rigidity, the LiveWire features high-performance fully adjustable Showa suspension.
The Showa BFRC-lite (Balanced Free Rear Cushion-lite) mono-shock rear suspension is complimented by Showa SFF-BP (Separate Function Fork-Big Piston) up front, balanced to match the performance and adjustability of the rear shock and deliver exceptional low-speed damping control – ideal for composed control in typical urban riding conditions.
To improve the control and performance of the motorcycle further, LiveWire is fitted with Brembo Monoblock front brake calipers gripping dual 300 mm-diameter discs to deliver outstanding power with a crisp feel for confident braking performance.
Confidence when riding is enhanced with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Traction Control System (TCS) – both of which are standard features on the LiveWire model – and co-branded H-D/Michelin Scorcher tyres (180mm rear/120mm front).
The rider can also tailor the performance of LiveWire with seven selectable riding modes – four of which are set as standard from the factory and a further three modes that can be defined by the user.
A colour touch screen TFT display (thin-film-transistor, a type of liquid-crystal display noted for high image quality and contrast) located above the handlebar offers the rider a wide range of information on a screen that’s bright and easy to read. The display unit is tilt-adjustable to afford most riders a perfect viewing angle. The TFT screen also allows the rider to access the interface for Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, music and more.
The LiveWire motorcycle features a RESS (Rechargeable Energy Storage System, or the main battery) composed of lithium-ion cells surrounded by a finned, cast-aluminum housing. The LiveWire motorcycle is also equipped with a small 12-volt lithium-ion battery that powers the lights, controls, horn and instrument display. Charging can be completed using an on-board Level 1 charger that plugs into a standard household outlet with a power cord that stores below the motorcycle seat.
LiveWire can also be charged with a Level 2 and Level 3, or DC Fast Charge (DCFC), through a SAE J1772 connector, (USA), or CCS2 – IEC type 2 charging connector in international markets. All Harley-Davidson dealers who sell the LiveWire motorcycle will offer a public charging station.
The LiveWire’s style is just as stunning as the performance and follows a key Harley-Davidson styling dictum: the focus is on the motor. Just as the V-Twin engine is the most eye-catching element – the crown jewel – of every previous Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the electric motor is the first-look focus of the LiveWire motorcycle. Its bright case and mechanical, muscular shape is meant to convey the power it contains.
In addition, the cast-aluminum case for the RESS has been styled with functional cooling fins the bodywork, finished utilizing advanced paint technology to give the look of anodized metal, flows from a battery cover through to a high, wasp-like contoured tail section, with a rear fender that hugs the wheel so tightly that is almost disappears from sight.
The all-new Harley-Davidson LiveWire will be on sale in select markets next year. For Australia and New Zealand Livewire will be released in late 2020.