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Project LiveWire: Harley Electric Motorcycle

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Harley shot a friendly salvo across the bow of the electric motorcycle world after announcing it has produced an e-bike as part of its Project LiveWire. The prototype Harley LiveWire will be used to test the waters and see how well an electric Harley will be received as Harley gives a cross-section of riders an opportunity to ride it and provide feedback as it embarks on a cross-country tour to 30 Harley-Davidson dealerships.

“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.

Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire Photos 

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. Harley-Davidson makes its first foray into the electric motorcycle market with its prototype LiveWire. Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
Harley promises the LiveWires electric motor will have a distinctive sound of its own. A closer look at the display screen of Harleys LiveWire. The LiveWires frame adds to the machines sporty stance.

Harley LiveWire First Look Gallery
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steveofthenw   June 26, 2014 08:16 PM
Probably the best looking Harley I have ever seen. So much better than the clownish noise-converter parade floats they've been turning out for the "Hell's Licensed Contractors" crowd for the past, oh, 30 years. Performance-wise, this bike & their new 750 will smoke any "Ridiculous-Glide" in their inventory. Looks like Harley's finally going to start building real motorcycles instead of lifestyle accessories.
Poncho167   June 26, 2014 02:55 PM
I don't see this fitting in with the Harley lifestyle.
.357 Magnum   June 25, 2014 09:06 AM
Will somebody please help spyglass out with his basic physics? The batteries just STORE the electricity. The electricity can still be GENERATED by fission reactors, fusion reactors, hydro plants, wind turbines, or by turning a crank with your own muscles while sitting in the garage listening to your brother-cousin play the banjo. That's the point: you don't have to rely on any one source any more. You want green? Use a green source. Don't care about green? Use an un-green source. Want a wimpy bike? Use a wimpy source. Want a badass bike? Use a badass source. Electric bikes give you the options, whereas ICEs do not.
themountain   June 21, 2014 06:36 PM
Probably the first Harley ever I would consider riding. :)
spyglass   June 20, 2014 08:28 PM
But, but Magnum....if it's nuculur (as W would say), it's not "green" anymore. How're ya gonna cool the rods? And if the bike hasta have a tank for the heavy water, well, that's gonna cause some real hickeys, no? No, battrees are better, even if they don't make "look-at-me" noise....
.357 Magnum   June 20, 2014 07:19 AM
Spyglass, this bike can be powered by NUKES! What's more "badness" than being powered by atomic fission? How about atomic FUSION! And this bike can run on that too, if we can ever get the technology to work. That's the nice thing about electricity: it can come from any source, which makes us less dependent on foreign sources. Hell, the REALLY tough do-it-yourselfers can charge it in their backyards, with their own home-grown electricity. Just a word of advice: if you have such grave problems mustering your "image bad" image, it's because you lack creativity and ingenuity... and if something that subjective is so important to you, then you probably ought to stop advertising such a failure in public on the internet. :)
spyglass   June 19, 2014 08:38 PM
Hmmmmm.....us H-D afficianados are gonna have a time with this one. How can it generate "badness"? Granted, F-16's and the like are "bad", but it's a different kind of "bad".....deadly bad vs "image bad". Maybe better to make it sound like a diesel-electric locomotive. (Although, I gotta say, it's not a bad looking unit....)
jvlivtriple   June 19, 2014 06:46 PM
Over 40 years of motorcycling, and I have never had the urge to visit a Harley dealer. When this bike gets to town, I will go and check one out. Did Harley show some courage presenting this bike? Absolutely.
wwiddy   June 19, 2014 11:06 AM
Is that a bird, is that a plane, no that's .... Harley jumping from the past into the future in a single bound! I never saw the "reinvention" they talk about so far, but this one certainly qualifies if it takes hold. Certainly a good idea for them to tour the bike and get a feel for what their customers (current or new) would like.
Bully   June 19, 2014 09:50 AM
Bold steps Harley I must commend. Emphasis being on turning electricity into forward motion and not petrol into sound is a good concept. Whether that satisfies the specific market I am doubtful no offence intended. It is really defeating the identity
sloppy   June 19, 2014 09:38 AM
This is not surprising. I am sure that all of the manufacturers will make an electric car to get the US government off of their backs. I doubt they expect to sell many but it is a PC move more than anything else.
woodco100   June 19, 2014 08:21 AM
The only purpose I can think of for this "thing" is to drive away customers. Surely HD is not that out of touch with its base.
Delvmax11   June 19, 2014 07:00 AM
Love the looks of the bike. Not sure I would buy an electric bike though. With a nasty Vtwin that would be an awesome machine. I would like to hear the sound they are talking about. Maybe that would sway me.
leward18   June 19, 2014 05:55 AM
Wow, I would never expect this from HD. Incredible.