Back in 2014 Harley-Davidson got a lot of attention by daring to show an electric motorcycle prototype, called Project LiveWire. Today at the EICMA show in Milan Italy, Harley-Davidson unveiled the production-ready 2020 LiveWire due for shipping in 2019. The LiveWire bike shown in 2014 was a big yawn in terms of performance, since companies like Brammo and Zero Motorcycles were way beyond Harley-Davidson in that regard. Specific information on the 2020 LiveWire is scarce, so we do not know if this one is also yawn-inducing. However what’s important is that a major motorcycle manufacturer is talking seriously about taking an electric motorcycle to production, and is making big claims about becoming a major electric motorcycle maker, especially considering Harley’s unequivocal connection to obnoxiously loud gasoline powered motorcycles.
A key statement in today’s press release is:
As part this accelerated plan, Harley-Davidson intends to be the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles, and is aggressively, but wisely, investing in electric vehicle technology. Harley-Davidson is excited about the future of electric motorcycles and expects to deliver a full portfolio of electric motorcycles by 2022.
Currently there is a handful of small scale electric motorcycle manufacturers already in the market. The leaders are Zero Motorcycles, in business since 2007-8, Energica, in business since 2011ish, and perhaps Lightning Motorcycles, in business since 2009 or so. While each are achieving significant things in electric motorcycles, they pale in size to the scope of Harley-Davidson and its world-wide fan base.
If Harley accomplishes this goal it will accelerate electric motorcycle adoption, bringing it closer to the mainstream. But we should note that Volkswagen has been making similar statements for years and has not properly stepped up to the plate to deliver. In other words we won’t know if Harley’s promise is hot air, or reality, for a couple years.
The press release, despite promising it contains specifics, is short on the more interesting specifics like speed, power, and range. But there is still a fair amount of information to digest.
It is powered by a permanent magnet electric motor. The motor is located low in the bike, which is claimed to help keep center of gravity low for improved handling, and the motor is a stressed member of the frame. For suspension the LiveWire features premium 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. For brakes, it has Brembo Monoblock front brake calipers gripping dual 300 mm-diameter discs but nothing is said about rear brakes. There is a cornering-enhanced Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Traction Control System (TCS).
For riders there is a color touch screen TFT display located above the handlebar offering an information system. This gives the rider access to Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, music and more.
The traction battery is called RESS for Rechargeable Energy Storage System, and is composed of lithium-ion cells surrounded by a finned, cast-aluminum housing. The LiveWire supports charging at AC level 1 and level 2 for use at any power outlet or regular charging station, and it supports DC Fast Charging via the Combo Charging System standard. This should enable LiveWire owners to take long road trips.
There’s a lot of details left out here, such as power, speed, acceleration, battery pack size, and range. The press release promises that in January 2019 we’ll get more information, and that pre-ordering will open at that time.
Harley-Davidson has released a video and a bunch of pictures below.
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Thanks for providing a forum for some thoughts re this bike:
1. Good for HD (whose sales numbers a re tanking).
2. With EVs, nothing matters but KW and KWH and weight.
3. It’s called a battery pack. RESS? Really?
4. Weird engine configuration, requiring gratuitous frictiony bevel gear.
5. PM motor? Not straight induction? A little more efficient, but costlier and less revvy.
6. Great components. In fact, expensive overkill. Two 300mm discs are probably one more than needed.
7. I like the idea of using an engine as a stressed member, but engines can afford to flex. Motors, which typically have tiny airgaps, can’t afford to move (see, e.g., Zero recall).
8. If you’re going to have a bevel gear, why not use that for reduction so that the chain/belt size can be kinda normal?
9. Fast charging!
10. Oh yeah, and it’d be good to have the last key spec: the price. This has expensive stuff on it. I’m guessing $15K.