Harley Davidson Livewire 2019 On the road
Harley-Davidson is the first major motorcycle manufacturer to launch an electric bike; the Livewire. How good is it, what is the range, should I buy one?
So far in the history of electric motorcycles, almost all everyday electric bikes have come from a specialized manufacturer - Zero and Energica are the obvious examples that come to mind. However, the arrival of Harley-Davidson's LiveWire marks the first mega-brand to launch an all-electric motorcycle in the context of a huge dealer and support network. It's a no-brainer to think that almost every other major manufacturer must be furiously working on their own electrical plans, but what's insane is that Harley-Davidson, given all the things it stands for, is the first of the greats to push a vehicle. electric by the factory gates.
You have to step back and wonder how a conventional manufacturer's product ends up being when compared to a niche manufacturer. Electric motors seem to be a bit leveling - they don't have much of a personality and they all sound roughly the same, in contrast to internal combustion engines (ICEs). It is not uncommon for you to set out to buy an ICE motorcycle having decided on the engine configuration and nothing else. Both Harley-Davidson and Ducati are known for the V (and L) twins, Triumph is known for the triples, and a whole narrative surrounds Royal Enfield's recent move towards twin-cylinder engines (gasp!).
Harley's solution to this, it seems, is to try to inject a bit of internal combustion engine-like behavior into its electric motors, with the goal of recreating a bit of character and drama. That would seem like a good idea; after all, we tend to relate to the personalities on our bikes. The question is, has it worked?
There is no point beating around the bush. A Harley-Davidson Livewire will set you back £ 28,995 plus costs on the road. That's a good chunk of anyone's money, and to put that in perspective, that's a total of £ 10,505 more than Zero's new SR / F, and roughly £ 9,000 more than Energica's Esse Esse 9. £ 28,995 is enough to buy a Ducati Panigale V4 S and a Honda Monkey 125, with a thousand pounds in change to spare to blow into a 65 "4K Smart TV or you could bag around 3 bitcoins, depending on what's in anyway you get the idea: ... it is very expensive
from Of course, it was always going to be unfriendly to the wallet. The target audience is presumed to have money and are happy to pay a premium, and as a sector, EVs still are in the early adoption phase (especially in motorcycling). Although arguably the rate at which that is eroding will only accelerate as time goes on.
Harley-Davidson certainly has an aggressive plan to get its back investment in electric vehicles, and will invest that money in new models and continue with R&D. Livewire is just the first in a long series. And all that money will also go to rds equipping the dealer network with all the knowledge and the tools to tackle these electric bikes. 12 distributors in the UK and 250 worldwide will be able to start. No longer will it be a case of just two dealerships across the country, if you're lucky, to repair your electric vehicle; How about almost all the HD distributors out there?
You will be able to make use of the UK government EV grant, which will give you a 20% discount up to a maximum of £ 1,500, so you can bring that heartbreaking price down to £ 27,395, which is a little less. Those £ 1,500 saved will give you a bag of around 10,000 kWh, which is roughly 500 full charges, which could work out on around 5,000 miles of 'free' mileage. Better than a kick in the teeth or a wasp in your jacket.
As always, there is a catalog of parts that you can start pulling at the Livewire, but compared to the usual Harley-Davidson parts catalog provided on the doorstep, it's a bit complicated, for now only fiberglass parts. carbon. More are coming, says Harley-Davidson.
105 hp is the magic number at 15,000 rpm, and there is 85.6 lb-ft (116 Nm) of torque available from zero revs, as you would expect with an electric motor. The pair is delivered like any other electric bike, in a continuous, relentless and completely linear fashion. Twist the throttle and you'll fast forward in a way that in no way suggests how fast you end up traveling; Looking at the speedometer can be a surprising experience after you've bitten into the dash and stretched out imaginary throttle cables.
There are four pre-programmed throttle modes: Sport, Road, Rain, and Range, which are configured to offer different levels of power, regenerative braking, and traction control.
Harley-Davidson claims 0-60 in three seconds and 60-80 in two seconds. And those claims are more or less verified by BikeSocial's rear benchmark; absolutely walk away from the lights. Since there is no clutch or gears to worry about, you will win literally every traffic light GP game you want to participate in. Of course, it comes in handy at other times as well: throwing yourself into traffic gaps or annihilating whatever is overtaking on the road. After about 90 mph the acceleration slows down a bit, but it still finds its way pretty fast at 115 mph and stops about there.
It's kind of entertaining, even if there's no actual theater, just a drone from the broadcast. The throttle is wonderfully predictable and mega smooth, and really easy to handle.
In addition to the hard-coded throttle / power modes, there are two more customizable modes (Custom A, Custom B) where throttle response, regenerative braking, and power can be independently set in 1% increments, and traction control is set to low, medium, or high. TC can also be completely disabled in either mode, and there's more than enough push to lift the front wheel if you want.
The motor is manufactured by an outside company in Italy, but Harley-Davidson was heavily involved in its design and development, employing full-time electric motor engineers at its headquarters in Milwaukee. The engine itself, like Harley's V-twin engines, is seen as a motorcycle feature and for that reason is proudly and deliberately bolted to the bottom of the battery case for the world to see. ; It should be obvious, but if not, it's that silver cylindrical thing.
In the resting state, the motor beats with a heartbeat. Lub-dub. It does this by sending only a jolt of energy to the motor, which kicks it in, but not close enough to move the bike. In fact, I really liked this; You can feel it through the seat, pegs, and bars, and it keeps you focused when you wait at traffic lights. It definitely seems to give you the feeling that the bike is alive, rather than dead, when you're not touching the gas.
As far as we know, the Livewire is the first electric bike to create a proper visual characteristic of the motor. Other manufacturers place the motor behind the battery or swingarm pivot where it is usually partially hidden.
The trade-off with making the motor so visible is that Harley-Davidson has had to convert the motor's rotation from longitudinal to transverse, requiring a bevel gear. But that in itself is useful; That set of bevel gears is almost 100% responsible for the Livewire's noise, which is a metallic whirring noise similar to a turbine. It is a good noise and it is very present in the driving experience, even with earplugs. If you've ever ridden or listened to a Zero and an Energica in a row, it sounds more like the first than the second. The reason for that, I suspect, is that Energica uses a single speed gearbox and chain final drive, while Zero uses belts and doesn't use any gears, like Harley-Davidson.
Here's an interesting fact for mechanical nerds: the belt follows a 'serpentine' track. If you look at the right side of the Livewire, the design could mislead you into thinking there are two belts. There is actually only one and one tensioner for the belt to work properly. All of this is necessary due to the location of the motor - placing the motor elsewhere would eliminate this bit of complexity, but overall it doesn't seem to have any real downside.
Another piece of information revealed by the Harley-Davidson team at launch is that the motor and battery are designed as modular elements, meaning that in the future it may be possible to upgrade them ...
First service is 1,000 miles with subsequent services every 5,000 miles. The battery has a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, and the rest of the bike carries Harley's standard two-year unlimited mileage warranty.
This one is fun, since the Livewire doesn't have a liquid fuel source to play with. The on-board meter showed 160 watt-hours per mile based on our 66-mile drive around Portland, Oregon, which was, I guess, 70% fast winding back roads, 30% slow driving, and well behaved on the city.
Harley claims 140 miles of well-mannered driving and only in the city. I fully believe that is possible. Combined urban / rural, the claim is around 100 miles, and again, based on our 66-mile drive in Portland, Oregon (a combination of super fast rural and sensible urban driving), I think that's possible too.
Take a fun ride though, and you'll get 70 miles if you drive hard, and possibly 55-60 if you drive like you like prison food. You can literally see the battery meter on the dash getting more and more drained with big handfuls of acceleration between the corners.
Charging is done from a normal household electrical point and each hour of charging will result in a range of 13 miles. There is also a DC fast charging port that will charge to 80% in 30 minutes or 100% in an hour with the appropriate public charging station.
There is a genuine ability to corner with the Livewire. It may have a long 1,490mm wheelbase (for reference a Triumph Street Triple 765RS measures 1,395mm) but there is real potential lurking and it doesn't take much to persuade you. Show him a fluid set of corners and he will lick them. And it will easily keep up with all but the most powerful 1000cc + bikes, which will only create a gap at the longest straight parts.
If you go beyond LiveWire's comfort zone, you'll complain during really fast transitions and start to resist, really needing to fight around corners.
Squeeze the brakes hard enough and Harley-specific Michelin tires will give up pretty quickly; ABS kicks in protest. Likewise, sufficient action of the right wrist when coming out of the corners will cause the CT to wake up. All of this could easily be solved with a bit more grippy rubber.
In one sentence, 'really good'. The fixed (non-floating, contrary to the official spec sheet) dual 300mm discs are bitten down hard by two Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers with what feels like a pretty aggressive compound. There is also adjustable regenerative braking (0-100%, configurable in 1% increments), which further aids braking effort. Annoyingly, the front brake lever is a typically Harley-esque fat unit and it's not adjustable either.
On winding roads, and indeed even around city roads, you don't need to touch the brakes as much thanks to the regenerative braking system; its behavior is completely different from a conventional propulsion motorcycle in this regard, since disengaging the throttle simply activates the regenerative system. But when you need to grab an absolute handful, there's a proper feel and a great deal of stopping power available. At no point did I feel like I wasn't sure what the front-end was doing.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that at 250kg the Livewire must have plenty of stopping power, and fortunately Harley-Davidson has; one finger braking is all you need. Its long 1,490mm wheelbase certainly helps here too.
The rear brake is a large 260mm disc with a Brembo caliper with two potentiometers. It is modular and is not at all attractive or stabbing; ideal for dragging around corners with great precision if necessary, or for fine-tuning the city at low speed.
I have a 60kg race weight body so unfortunately I am rarely the best test when it comes to comfort issues as I don't have much weight on my ass or wrists. The bars are medium width and the grip circumference is typical for Harley-Davidson in proportion: large. You're leaning forward in a pretty determined position with a medium reach to the bars, but there's still a decent distance from the seat to the footpegs, which are rubberized and quite big and grippy.
The seat unit itself is pretty slim, and hopefully those who eat a lot of pies can start to have comfort issues with that after a few hours or 100 miles ... but you'll have to stop for at least an hour after 100 miles from anyway, you will need to fill that battery with juice.
I would not like to be an escort; It's a small seat back there, and also relatively thin padding. There is a good amount of leather-lined padding around the base of the tank where the knees and thighs grip, adding a bit of comfort and grip for the rider.
Being electric, it emits almost no heat at all. After a well-paced ride, the radiator was barely warm to the touch, and the engine and battery revealed what felt like ambient temperature, confirmed by the dashboard reporting 29 ° C. The hottest thing will be the brake discs. Of course, this makes for a great deal of comfort - riding around town in hot weather is much more tolerable, and you're less likely to be tempted to filter to keep the air moving over you. It's a laid-back affair, altogether, but this is common to all electric bikes. On the subject of cooling, the engine and battery are cooled by a shared system.
Finally, a Harley with tons of electronic toys! ABS and lean angle sensitive cornering traction control are complemented by rear wheel lift and slip control. Everyone knows about ABS and TC curves, and they make perfect sense, but slip control is particularly important to the LiveWire due to the regenerative braking system.
Interestingly, despite having a six-axis IMU, Harley-Davidson has not deemed it appropriate to allow the gauges to self-cancel. Ironic when many other Harleys have them.
There is cruise control as standard, operated from the left handlebar, and otherwise you enter the setup menu by holding down the mode button or using the TFT dash, which is a touch screen. Since it's something you can tap and poke with your fingers, the handlebar has been kept free of annoying up / down / left / right / enter style buttons. Why hasn't anyone else created a touchscreen bike dashboard yet?
In the menu system there is a range of options you can look forward to: the ability to switch the display to dark, light, and auto modes, which adjust to ambient light conditions. You can also customize the dash display, switch from digital to analog speedometers, as well as display auxiliary information like acceleration / braking graphs, battery and temperature gauges, etc. I suspect most people will leave everything as standard, except perhaps the backlight setting.
One small disappointment with the 4 "TFT dash display is that it is not a high resolution unit like you will find on the latest BMW, KTM and Ducatis, there is definitely room for improvement here in future versions.
Harley-Davidson has thought of including a USB Charging Plug, but have decided to a) convert it to a USB-C type, which will be a hassle for anyone except the latest Android phone users, and b) placed it behind the headlight cover ( 'Bullnose'), which means you can't just tuck the phone under the seat and let it charge.
The mirrors are pretty useless - they're too close to the handlebars, so in addition to giving a great view of your elbows, they They get in the way when you reach for the levers. Oh, and there are some badly terminated cables. They told me they were production bikes, but I can't imagine customers receiving their machines with covers cut off.
Building an electric vehicle when or are you Harley-Davidson is not an easy job. Think of it like this: Your perspective on motorcycling, like Harley-Davidson, is historically possibly the least compatible with electric vehicles in the two-wheeler world. Big displacement, big noise, Americana. That presents you with two challenges. First, you have to build an EV that appeals to those who are in the EV market. Second, you have to build an electric vehicle that appeals to those who want a Harley-Davidson. Those two things together are a tough nut to crack.
Has the motor company done it? I think, after all, it has. The chassis is decent and the 250kg mass doesn't really notice its presence until you drive it too fast. The speed of the engine and the nice touches to inject a bit of personality are actually quite convincing, which sets the LiveWire apart from its competition. There are tons of electronic aids for the rider and the hardware bolted to the bike (Brembo brakes, Showa suspension) is top-notch. So as a motorcycle you're checking all the right boxes, and it's even better to see a Harley rocking this type of gear.
To be honest, it feels like a normal bike that turns out to be electric, which is exactly what you want. For starters, it looks good too: the muscular posture of the bike with the tank and the headlight cover are very close together and on the same visual level it looks epic and unusual.