Electric Motorcycles Go Mainstream With Harley’s Livewire

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 15, 2014 11:57 am


It may not have that same attention-grabbing roar, but Harley’s latest motorcycle has lots of other things going for it: for starters, a non-existent appetite for gasoline. It’s being called Project LiveWire – the first Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle, which was announced publicly in June.

The bike, which is battery-powered with an electric motor, isn’t the first entrant into the market of electric motorcycles. Manufacturers Zero Motorcycles and Mission Motors have been producing electric motorcycles for a while, Businessweek points out. But Harley’s entrance promises a wider spread of the technology, which has been slower to catch on than in cars.

Motoring Forward

The LiveWire boasts a 74 horsepower motor – beating by a fair bit the Prius’s 60 hp. According to Popular Science the bike can go 53 miles between charges and takes just 3.5 hours to charge on a 220-volt outlet. And it can hit top speeds of 92 mph – not too shabby.

It’s not got the grit of a traditional Harley. But, Businessweek says, the company may be taking aim at a non-traditional demographic:

Electric motorcycles are much less intimidating for a novice rider, since they lack the distraction of a clutch and gears. Motorcycle makers, Harley included, are desperately trying to reach women and younger buyers who may lack the traditional rider’s bias toward gas-powered vehicles.

Style and Substance

Harley’s marketing efforts definitely play up a youthful, hip appeal.

“Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar – not an electric car,” Mark-Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Harley-Davidson, said in a statement. “It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric.”

And it’s taking a well-known fast track to iconography: Hollywood. The LiveWire will appear in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron film slated to hit theaters in May 2015, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports.

And for now, the silver screen may be your best look at the bike. It’s not on sale; for the time being Harley plans to tour the bike to dealerships around the U.S. and solicit feedback from riders. Price details haven’t been disclosed.

To see the bike in action, check out the video below:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Technology
MORE ABOUT: transportation
  • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

    The range seems like it would be horribly problematic. I know that when I go out for an afternoon ride on my Kawasaki, I generally ride somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty to seventy miles.

    Additionally, round trip distances even within metropolitan regions can exceed that distance. I wonder how many people commute at least 25 miles to work.

    It certainly can’t be used for travel.

    The charge time means that there is no workaround for these issues on the user’s end. It isn’t like you can get a meaningful charge while you run into the grocery or stop for lunch.

    This product won’t be mainstream even if Harley may now be committed to the concept.

    • Jason Ball


    • Jeff Shepherd

      You say this has poor mileage per charge. Its a Harley-Davidson
      They are all infamous for their thirst.

    • Gbrandstetter

      By the time Harley markets this machine the batteries will have triple the energy density of the Leaf, quick-charge capability and a price drop to 100$/KwH

  • Wih Nerr

    Zero’s go more than twice as long. WAY better bikes too. And American made.

  • James Doemer

    The bike may be all that and a bag of chips, but after 50 years of riding gas powered Harley’s, I’m not going to be trading in rolling thunder for “whinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeee~:

    • Say what?

      So your banking strictly on an emotional argument?

      • James Doemer

        If you don’t ride, you can’t understand. I’m not banking on anything, people will buy what they want to buy. Just saying that it will not be MY PERSONAL CHOICE to buy an electric bike. A hybrid or electric car, maybe, for commuting back and forth to work, but my Harley is an emotional experience, that is what I bought it for. It is my Iron Horse, and an electric motor isn’t going to cut it.

      • James Doemer

        If you don’t ride, you can’t understand. I’m not banking on anything, people will buy what they want to buy. Just saying that it will not be MY PERSONAL CHOICE to buy an electric bike. A hybrid or electric car, maybe, for commuting back and forth to work, but my Harley is an emotional experience, that is what I bought it for. It is my Iron Horse, and an electric motor isn’t going to cut it.

    • Gbrandstetter

      Why not? Being electronic it can sample and simulate any sound you like. Even potato-potato

      • James Doemer

        If I wanted simulated sound, which I don’t.

  • sleepvark

    I would invite the various nay sayers to take a trip over to China and see what an effect the ebike is having over there.
    Motorcycles and scooters have been outlawed in the bigger cities, because they were noisy little polluters in huge numbers.
    The new ebikes are everywhere, quiet, non-polluting, with little battery packs smaller than a loaf of bread that is easily detached and recharged from any wall socket inside a house or building. Essentially, free fuel.
    The biggest problem seems to be that they are so quiet that people don’t hear them coming and therefore don’t know to get out of the way.
    The reduced downtown decibel level and smog reduction is a pair of benefits the Chinese have embraced big time.
    There is something for us to learn from this.

    • James Doemer

      China’s lack of industrial regulation has accounted for the VAST majority of the pollution. The motorcycles and scooters by comparison is like a drop of water in the Atlantic Ocean. Also, ask yourself this, how are they generating the electricity to charge the bikes? Yeah, that’s right, they’re burning coal, diesel, and other fossil fuels. My electric bill says there is no such thing as free fuel.

      • sleepvark

        Come on James, do the math, or take a look at the results from who have done it. The combination of zero emissions and no noise have done a lot to make things better in the big cities.
        The Chinese people are humiliated by the loss of face that they suffer because of the filth in the air they have to breath, and they aren’t just sittin’ on their duffs and doing nothing about it. The ebikes is just a first step in the right direction.
        Shenzhen is a weird place even by Chinese standards. They even talk a funny form of Chinese.

        • James Doemer

          I’ve done the math, and you’re wrong. Gas bikes were banned due to robberies, not pollution. Chinese officials, like most politicians, have not been above lying about pollution levels if it is convenient for them. The facts still are what they are, compared to industrial emissions, motorcycle emissions are the barest fraction of the problems in China. I have actually been to China, they have just now started figuring out that placing heavy industrial factories in their inner-city areas was a bad idea. They have not had, up until very recently, a concept of zoning laws. Those reforms have done more for the cities than banning motor cycles. Why do you think that US Cities are not in that condition? We learned way back in the 1960’s about stack filters and relocating industry out of the urban areas was a better idea than banning the .000001% of the total emissions that motorcycles represented. Additionally, as I mentioned, that electricity in China used to power the electric motorcycles is not from clean sources, it is from burning coal, and other fossil fuels. They are not saving on emissions at all.

          • sleepvark

            Come off your high horse James. You are quite wrong on a number of levels. Not that they don’t have their fair share of corruption over there. But if you don’t think that pollution, both emission and noise didn’t have a lot to do with that decision, you’re on bad drugs. You need to be able to read a bit between the lines, kind of like constitutional interpretation here. When you say politicians, always remember that there was more than one opinion involved. They are by no means monolithic over there. And from what I was seeing during the time I was there, it wasn’t the larger motorbikes that were being stolen so much, it was the smaller and lighter bicycles. Those things disappear faster than a politician’s virtue during election times.
            So what if the source of the electricity is from coal burning plants. The vehicles are second level polluters, and they put their stuff right into your face. The effect is bigger for the folks who have to live with them.
            There is a double benefit to the ebike thing. First, there is an immediate cessation of the second level emission pollution (and the noise pollution too). Secondly, when the primary pollution sources are eventually fixed, you’re already way ahead. It’s important to do something, even if it’s small enough to be lost in the noise level of the data, it’s still something. It’s like the old saying about digging yourself into a deep hole. At some point you just have to stop digging.
            As far as big pollution sources in the middle of the cities, they are actively addressing that as alternatives come on line. Part of that problem has been the rapid growth of many cities as they spread out into their immediate surroundings. Xi’an alone has projects under construction right now that equate to several times the size of Manhattan NYC.
            Polluters are finding now that if they don’t fix things when told, it’s off to jail. The Chinese EPA is getting real teeth and is eager to use them.
            It all bares watching.

          • James Doemer

            “Not that they don’t have their fair share of corruption over there. But if you don’t think that pollution, both emission and noise didn’t have a lot to do with that decision, you’re on bad drugs.”
            So many logical errors in one post, that must be a record of some sort.
            A. I’m going by the Chinese Government’s own published statements on the matter.
            B. In order to read between the lines, you need some evidence that there is text between the lines, and not your personal feelings on the matter.
            C. Your assumption is that the electric motor bikes are somehow less likely to be stolen?
            D. Coal burning plants put out more CO2 and other of the pollutants that causes global warming, acid rain, and many others than Motorcycles could ever dream of emitting. You can probably tell the difference between the thick black smoke of the plants in China (Here in the US it is not so noticeable because we have regulations requiring filters and exhaust scrubbers) compared the exhaust emissions for a motorcycle. Don’t try to compare coal burning plants in China with those here in the US.

            What this is an example of is China going after what they consider to be political low hanging fruit so that they don’t have to rock the boat in their industrial sector, and therefore their economy. This is a pattern that many in China recognize from previous decades.

          • sleepvark

            Ok James, you’re on.
            A. If all you are going on is official government propaganda, you are shortchanging yourself, and your argument. How much credibility do you really want to give them? Much more than the vast majority of the Chinese people I have met, including party members.
            B. Reading between the lines. You are quite mistaken to think that this is just my own little opinion. I arrived at this after long and deep discussions with a number of party member friends, many of whom were watching me very carefully because they mostly thought that I was some sort of spy.
            C, The e bikes are indeed much less likely to be stolen for a number of reasons. First, they are too heavy to just pick up and take away. Second, owners routinely extract the battery in order to recharge the silly little thing. A thief has to come equipped with an extra battery in order to get the bike to work. Anti-theft devises are proliferating, and guarded public parking is ubiquitious. Bicycles, as already pointed out, are a different story altogether.
            D. Not a lot to argue with here, except your assertion that Chinese facilities should not be compared to ours, which you had just done a remarkably good job of doing yourself. You correctly point out the benefits of having an aggressive EPA over here. Now that our 2 countries are talking to each other a lot more than previously, they have been taking notice over there. Their version of the EPA is getting stronger every day, and violators are now facing prison time. This is new for them. We are not yet there, so in this case, we are the ones a little behind the times.
            I do like your political “low hanging fruit” analogy. Well done sir, I could not have said that better myself.

          • James Doemer

            You really are just dense.
            So, we discard all known facts in favor of what is your little opinion.
            Not happening.

          • sleepvark

            Come on James, the only thing not happening here is your thought process, which has suddenly stopped.
            Let off the brakes, and let a little sunshine into your dense skull. I am giving you observations and facts to go along with my assertions and opinions. Your last statement even discards the points where we can agree, which leaves you in an intellectual free fall, cutting off your own valid points.
            Not the way to win points in a discussion.

          • James Doemer

            You’re the same sort of idiot that has the US spending 1.28 units of energy to gain 1 unit of ethanol. You don’t think you have no facts, and you want to run the lives of other people based on your bullshit.
            If you think it’s about points, that only proves your idiocy further.

      • Say what?

        Could you imagine electric batteries charged by solar panels? Would you consider that free energy?

        • James Doemer

          Wide spread use of Solar Panels in China? Not yet, maybe in 50 or so years.

    • James Doemer

      I’ll keep my Harley, thanks all the same.

    • lindamh

      We were told the gas bikes were banned due to robberies – not pollution. The ebikes are “banned” in Shenzhen. The police do confiscations on occasion but ebikes still used and sold in shops! In China you expect anything to come at you at any time, so sound level is usually not a problem because you are looking all the time. The ebikes have a limited range and are no fun to pedal if you run out of battery. They are essential for small businesses and deliveries so the ban doesn’t work. I did purchase a regulation bicycle with a lithium battery (max 20km) built in for spurts of power (hills/tired). The battery never lasted 20 km. Not handy for a business but plenty enough for me.

    • Ed Hughes

      lived / worked in Chongqing Wuhan bejine Hohhot shanghi hongkong all transportation is peddle power no one can a ford e bikes or batteries i own a ebike most i use it for is getting a morning cup of coffee and when the battery is dead its bad news

      • sleepvark

        Old news ed hughes. It’s a very different world over there today. Ebikes are ubiquitous and quite cheap compared to owning a car. Even foreign students are getting them and joining the very large crowds of those things all over the roads and sidewalks.

  • bob

    Sign me up for this little gem when it goes into production. When gas hits 7 a gallon most Will say “why didn’t THEY do something” they being. YoU!

    Get with it and think a . Little longer term

  • Tim Taylor

    I have an ebike but the lithium batteries replacements cannot be found….

  • Antonio Gallardo

    No, thanks. The 53 miles are way too short, and the 3.5 hours to recharge is way too long. Tell me again when it be at least 120 miles and at most one hour and maybe, maybe, I’ll think about it.

  • Jeff Shepherd

    No matter what any one thinks about the e-bike or e-car. Its early days. They will get much better with time. If more people was to buy them, more money will be put into research. Also the big problem is what do with all those spent batteries?

  • chrishallett83

    Typical Harley – lacking in performance. The range and charge time is more than enough for the vast majority of workers to ride to work, charge during the day, and ride home again. And for trips to the store and back. But that’s about it.

  • Ed Hughes

    Just test drove on here in Memphis. Easy on easy off nice
    hug feel Throttle up was louder than expected and throttle down was like
    braking felt a pull. Technology the ESC needs water cooling to deliver
    (control) current It would be nice if the were air cooled or oil cooled.
    Braking was hydraulic sorta old tec. Battery in inbeded in frame needs special
    tools to R&R. Li Ion battery with simple laptop single cells which are
    heavy and lower current density then LiPo but a little safer. Charger is special
    charger elaborate LiPo charger. After ride asked if It could pop the wheel up
    at full throttle Tec / driver said no. Looked like a lot of steel should be
    using PEEK/carbon fiber redesign to lower weight but may give it a more plastic
    feel. Looks heavy feels heavy which is a death blow to Li Ion range.

  • Vic Colicci Jr

    I’m to old and to big to be riding that. @ 6’1″, 270 lb’s my belly would keep me from reaching the bars and the forward seating position would sterilize me.

  • Brandon McMullen with HRHD

    WOW. It is an electric bike. It is a Harley. Who give a flying flip what the hell is going on in China. Ride the damn thing, rubber down people. Nobody is asking you to trade in rolling thunder for this electric bike. Obviously if it is not for you, or does not suit your day to day life, this is not the bike for you. Stop being so closed minded, you are the most non-critical thinkers. bump It is a fun bike, please give the opportunity to ride this thing if you can. you will have a blast!!!!

  • Sebastian Jurkiewicz

    hej how about a 3-D printed tesla free energy coil electro-magnetic motor bikes at the cost of what average joe or jane, spends on gasolin every month, or prehaps our “one and only” ever careing govermant could speare one or two of its hi-tech WAR MACHINES to finance such a far fatched green idea by covering the cost of 3-D printers…..just a thought.


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