Harley-Davidson LiveWire

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Harley-Davidson’s target consumer is paraphrased as “an early adopter of technology, with a highly developed personal style and an aspiration for premium brands, who wants to add excitement to their life by riding a motorcycle.” LiveWire is an attempt to offer this hypothetical consumer a high-performance motorcycle with all of the latest technology.

The LiveWire is powered by a 15.5kWh high-voltage Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS), aka lithium- ion battery, enclosed in a cast-aluminum, finned, heat-sink housing. Small air scoops duct cooling air to the upper portion of the RESS, which is positioned inside the cast-aluminum frame, contributing to the overall rigidity of the chassis. There is a secondary 12-volt lithium-ion battery, which provides starter power and key fob recognition. The RESS has a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. The liquid-cooled Revelation motor is positioned below the battery, as both a focal point and as the most direct route to the final drive. When activated, the silent electric motor produces a subtle pulsing, resembling a heartbeat, and the dash displays two green bars, to let the rider know the throttle is live.

Output is transitioned 90 degrees in an oil-cooled gearbox via a spiral beveled gear, engineered to make a distinct whir on acceleration, like a jet engine. There is no shifting, simply twist the throttle and hit 60 mph in about three seconds, with a claimed 105 horsepower and 85 pound-feet of torque from go. It should outperform every other stock Harley-Davidson off the line. We hit the speed limiter at an indicated 114 mph. Power regeneration is accomplished when rolling off the throttle, creating an engine braking effect. The level of regeneration varies between the four standard ride modes, including Sport (full performance), Road (blended performance), Rain (more electronic intervention), and Range (smoother throttle, more regen).

Power delivery, regeneration, throttle response and traction control can also be adjusted manually and saved in three custom ride modes, selectable on the fly. LiveWire includes high-performance running gear, including a Showa big-piston fork and monoshock, fully adjustable front and rear, plus Brembo monoblock front brake calipers and dual 300mm rotors. Co-branded Michelin Scorcher Sport tires are another nice touch (180mm rear and 120mm front).

The technology package includes cornering ABS, which considers lean angle when limiting wheel slip. The ABS sensors and six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) also manage rear-wheel lift during heavy braking, preventing stoppies. Cornering traction control prevents the rear wheel from spinning under acceleration and limits front wheel lift, preventing wheelies. The anti-wheelie traction control can be disabled in all but rain mode, with a TC switch on the left handlebar. A drag-torque slip control system (DSCS) further manages rear wheel slipping or locking during regenerative braking, which may occur under deceleration.

The H-D Connect app will allow access to the bike anywhere via cellular network, showing charging, range and service status notifications, riding statistics and security, including vehicle location, tamper alerts and tracking. Double opt-in is required for sharing data with H-D. The app also includes a charge station locator, including 150 U.S. Live- Wire dealers (250 worldwide, at launch).

Connectivity is free for the first year, then will require a monthly service fee. A 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen offers a bright, easy to read display. The speedometer, range and battery percent remaining are always shown, but the display can also be customized to indicate how much power is being used, which ride mode is selected, the time remaining to full charge and Bluetooth connectivity info. Bluetooth connects to a smartphone and wireless headset, to display and listen to music, accept incoming calls and hear turn-by-turn navigation instructions from the H-D Connect app.

Onscreen functions can be controlled with joystick controls at each thumb. Each LiveWire dealership will have at least one 24kW DC Fast Charge (DCFC) charging station, and U.S. customers receive free charging at dealers for the first two years. Additionally, 500 kilowatt-hours of free charging will be available at Electrify America charging stations, via partnership. The standard SAE J1772 connector is compatible with any Level 3 DCFC station, providing a 0 to 80 percent battery charge in 40 minutes, or 100 percent in 60 minutes. A Level 1 charger plugs into a standard 120V household outlet, using a special power cord stored under the seat, for overnight charging in your garage. Level 2 chargers will work, but only charge at the slow Level 1 rate. Range is limited to about 70 miles at freeway speed, but tops out at 145 miles in urban stop-and-go riding, thanks to regen and reduced motor operation and heat.

We tested a mixed-use scenario of city and fast mountain sweepers, and range was about 1 mile per 1% of battery on a 75-degree day (100-mile range from full charge). With access to a good DCFC network, it would be possible to stop after 60 to 90 minutes of riding for a leisurely lunch and recharge, then be able to cover a similar number of miles on the way home. Handling was stiff, as the chassis doesn’t flex much, and suspension was on the firm side. The bike felt heavy when leaned into a corner, but it leans a lot farther than any other Harley, at 45 degrees. With some tire and suspension tuning, and perhaps different handlebars, it would likely feel a lot more stable overall.

A 30.7-inch seat height and narrow profile means it will fit a lot of rider inseams. Many existing H-D parts and accessories will fit the LiveWire, including hand and foot controls, mirrors and decorative lighting. Mechanical and consumable maintenance items include the drive belt, gearbox oil, brake fluid and pads, and tires. MSRP is an astonishing $29,799, but the LiveWire is a “halo” product, designed to get people talking, cater to early adopter brand enthusiasts and prove that Harley-Davidson can make a fast and thoroughly modern bike. In that, it has succeeded. MCN