“America at its best has always been about reinvention,” said Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, in the company press release. “And, 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.”
Project LiveWire is the latest evolution of Harley-Davidson’s consumer-led approach to product development. Starting next week, the electric Harley will begin its 30-dealership tour, beginning with a journey down historic Route 66. Harley said it intends on continuing the project into 2015, expanding into Canada and Europe in addition to the U.S. For specific dates and locations, go to projectlivewire.com. Harley is also looking for as much feedback through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
While pictures Harley provided reveal a motorcycle that appears ready for production, Harley emphasized that this motorcycle is not for sale as “Project Livewire is specifically designed for the purpose of getting insight into rider expectations of an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle.”
For a company whose established a devoted following by producing familiar, V-Twin-based motorcycles, releasing an electric motorcycle could potentially ruffle the feathers of loyalists. But Harley didn’t become a company with an 111-year-history without making savvy business decisions, and as range, speed and recharging technology has rapidly evolved, so has acceptance for electric motorcycles. With zero emissions and a low carbon footprint, electric motorcycles are touted for their reduced environmental impact.
“Preserving the riding environment is important to all of us,” said Levatich in PR. “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.”
While the latest Harley might be powered by an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries, blacked-out bits and a V-Rod Muscle-style tank should appeal to the Harley faithful. The front sees an upside-down fork teamed to 10-spoke wheels offset by racy red trim. A single-disc and apparently radial brakes are assigned braking duties and we’ll wager the package comes with ABS. In between the tapered bars and underslung mirrors resides an electronic display that most likely will serve as a speedometer and provide basic diagnostics like battery strength.
The electric Harley Livewire features what appears to be an aluminum beam frame, but its power source and battery packs are concealed under panels and no specifics have yet to be provided. With as much bodywork as it has, we’re wagering it has some form of liquid cooling similar to what the Brammo Empulse runs. On that note, we’re surprised Harley didn’t equip it with a gearbox like Brammo’s Empulse to make it even more appealing to its core riders, but there’s no clutch lever on the handlebars. A stout coil-over shock teamed with a double-sided swingarm will anchor the rear suspension, the tail section small and tidy and the rear fender tire-hugging. Based on its tire size, rake angle, and wheelbase, the Harley LiveWire looks like it should be able to tackle turns aggressively.
And while Harleys have long been defined by the sound of its exhaust note, the sound of the electric-powered Harley is said to be “a distinct part of the thrill. 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,” said Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
“This builds on many recent reinvention successes for Harley-Davidson,” concluded Levatich. “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.”
Motorcycle USA contributor Mark Gardiner, The Backmarker himself, is headed to New York City this weekend on our behalf where he’ll be attending the press unveiling of the Harley Livewire. So check back soon for more detailed info in addition to a riding impression or two as the unveiling comes with the promise of a little seat time around NYC and a chance to talk to Harley execs and engineers.