Project Livewire: Harley’s New Electric Motorcycle

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June 23, 2014 | By: Scott Holton

Harley Live WireI’m sure most of you have heard the bombshell that Mother Harley has introduced their first electric powered motorcycle. What a shocker (pun intended)! Today, we are going to look at this new, interesting design and share what we have been able to glean from the information available. I’m fortunate enough to know someone who has intimate knowledge of this fascinating project from whom I can get real, accurate answers to my questions.

First things first, let’s establish that HD has not gone into production on this. They have produced a number of initial offerings to trek across the country to gauge customer interest.  There will be no loaners and these initial offerings are never to be sold. Their sole purpose is to get input from customers. If they build an electric bike it will be designed based on feedback from this project. That said, they have an ambitious schedule to present these on both the East and West Coasts. They did Demo rides in New York over the weekend, the beginning of the east coast tour. The west coast tour starts at the HD Museum this Thursday afternoon, June 26.

Here are some of the details for this machine. There is no clutch or transmission on this bike. To operate it, you simply turn it on and select the mode (power or range). If the side stand is up when you press the start button for a second or so, it starts up. You can hear the pumps spinning at this point (oil and coolant) oil for the main reduction gear box, and coolant for the Motor controller and case. Then when you roll the throttle the bike goes. No gears to shift, just amazing torque and acceleration.

When you roll off the throttle,  it has regenerative braking, so it slows down without brakes faster than conventional Internal Combustion Engined bikes. Of course it has great front and rear brakes. It is amazingly easy to ride and very, very, quick in Power Mode. It’s direct drive through a gear box and 2 belts. The motor and drive train are always engaged with each other.

I’d love to see the innards of this set up. Powered by a big Lithium Ion battery (like your cell phone only WAYYYYY bigger) and a small 12-Volt battery, recharge times according to my source are not outrageous.

I asked my friend a couple of specifically pointed questions, such as “what is the range of this bike? And what is the recharge time?” As of now, I don’t have his answer regarding range, and at 60% battery level, an hour of charging tops off the battery.

He adds that to drive the motorcycle ” it is about the instant torque you get from an electric motor, even with my large size it goes 0-60 in under 4 seconds. It has great low and high speed handling.”

Sounds very exciting to me! In my opinion, Harley has knocked it out of the park, and it will be very interesting to see how the public receives this.

How about it readers?  Is there an Electric Motorcycle in our near future? We’d love your feedback. As we get more information, we will update regularly. Do you have any specific questions we can direct to Harley?

Comments (74)

For some reason my comment got deleted; apologies if it sounded a little rude or anything. :)

My point was that at least the MoCo isn’t being a stick in the mud. Sure, some would long for the signature “potato-potato” but regardless if this endeavor would be worth it for HD I’d say we should give it a chance.

The only beef is that we still have a long way before electrics would become the norm. Barring objections from the petroleum industry, range issues are something electric bike firms should work on.

inb4 “LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES” rhetoric lol.

Seriously though, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the MOCO venturing into electrics. Even for a rather conservative company like them it wouldn’t cut it for them to be a stick in the mud.

That being said unless if electric vehicle companies can come up with a way for motorists to go on a long haul, the whole electro stint is still in its infancy.

Why not? My granddaughters seen to enjoy their Power Wheels…

Not ready to jump on a short ride commuter bike yet – but for the croch rocket crowd where it is all about short ride performance it sould be a big hit and when technology gives the bike a decent range then I think it might become a green contender ie when gas gets over $10.00 a gallon
but till tehn its a 90 FLHS and a 86 Sporty

I am an old timer, so I don’t think this bike will be available in my riding lifetime. That being said, I like the idea that HD is getting ahead of the curve on electric motorcycles. Unfortunately, they will not be practical or wanted until the range, recharging times, and price are reasonable. Most people I ride with want to put 300-500 miles a day on their bikes while touring. Unless Harley-Davidson has some fast track to making an electric machine that will do that, I don’t see this project going anywhere for a while. Keep working on it though, it’s an idea whose time has come.

It’s a great start to the slow movement of greener, cheaper, more efficient ways of the transportation industry. Can’t wait to see how it all develops over the next couple decades! How about ones that operate like a mini helicopter so we can have our own “roadways”? Trains, planes, boats, cars, even peddle bikes get their own! Subways, street cars, buses, emergency, animal crossings, atvs, snowmobiles…..pedestrians!!!

I have ridden for 50 years, and I ride to enjoy the experience of the exhaust rumble, and the torque of that gasoline powered V-Twin engine !!!
An electric bike of this type should really be made under the Buell label. This electric bike might appeal to the Japanese road rocket crowd. Since the V-Rods have been in production, I have only ever seen a few of them all total on the streets.
To a brand new rider, electric might be of interest. To me, a “real” motorcycle uses gasoline, oil, a CARBURATOR, and a KICK STATRER.

How about giving a price? The Tesla is a cool car but I sure as hell can’t afford it. I get off on the torque and electric motors have it, but the price stops me from owning and experiencing it.

I would like to ride one once , just to say I did , like all harley riders I have to have the v twin

Harley is one of 3 American Motorcycles, Polaris which owns Victory Motorcycles and Indian are really putting a bite into Harley in the US, Victory has been in Business since 98 and is a bulitproof motorcycle, they just don’t break down at all, just ask anyone who has one. They purchased Indian in 2011 and came out with the new 2014 Indian with 111 Cubic Inches, Victory has 106 Cubic Inches, both have much more horsepower than HD, both are much better, but I won’t knock Harley as they are mostly American made and parts, still a good bike. About time they did something different though.

Maybe new customers will dig the H-D electric bike, but I don’t see the traditional, current, H-D owner as being much interested in riding around on a quiet machine that pretty much limits you to a 30-miles-and-back riding experience. Plus, if anyone is a big fan of electric power, they can take my buddy Buster”s advice…”Buy a new washing machine!”

I think it’s a step toward the future that Harley must be involved in. With that said, my concern is what the cost might be. Electric cars and other model bikes are very expensive. The cost might come down as the improvement on the batteries evolves, which it will. My one other concern is the sound. It sounds like a mini jet engine, which at first is intriguing, but after some time in the saddle, I think it will become annoying.

Would be nice to haul on the motorhome for running around town. A large bike is A pain to stow on A coach.
Bikes owned:1938 Knuck
1969 BMW R/69s
1976 FLH Electra-Glide

I think its sort of cool,hope they give it a good sound system and sound effect C.D. of a stright piped harley,hell,I might buy one to put with my FXE Heritage,and Crossbones

BEEN A H-D RIDER SINCE ’72 AND I PREFER THE V-TWIN. I KNOW H-D HAS TO KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES AND ATTRACT THE YOUNGER CROWD LIKE THEY DID WITH THE V-ROD. BUT TILL THEY CAN CORRECT THE PROBLEMS OF CHARGING TIME/CHARGING STATIONS/RANGE I WILL STAY WITH GAS POWER.

I think it’s a good idea an electric bike. I can’t see it for a long distance ride but I think it would be good for local areas within the battery range. I wuld love to test drive one of these.. I think solar powered are’nt too far behind. But I still enjoy the rolling thunder of my softtail.

You know what’s on the other end of the cord you plug into your “green” bike, car etc.? Coal fired electric plant!

Doesn’t anybody know what’s on the other end of the electric cord that you plug into your “green” bike or car or whatever to charge it up??? A COAL FIRED POWER PLANT!!! HAHAHAHA

maybe if they stager the spokes and put a card in them . they might get the potato potato potato . I think I’ll stay with my Fatboy

I’m sick of all the whiners that are more concerned with how their bike sounds than having a good bike. I’m sure this electric bike is not meant to replace your Glide but to supplement it. I’m sure it will do the same effective range as some of those radical hardtails out there. Its not for touring but scooting, commuting and bar hopping

Think its time Harley graduated out of the sixties….A Sportster owner…

I’m sick of all the Harley whiners who are more concerned with “Harley Sound” than a sound motorcycle. The electric is not meant to replace your “Glide” but to supplement it. Its not meant to tour but to scoot, commute and to bar hop just as all the radical choppers are and some Sportys . BTW I’ve earned the right to my 2cts. I’ve owned 4 Harleys, my brother 4, my father 3, my great grandfather also.

Electric just took and made records pikes peak
Blew second place away

Electricity is raw power
From Bonnieville to Indy racing electric will lead

Funny I posted earlier and it disappeared? This is a waste of research money. Battery life, the expense of charging, toxic waste from the battery after it’s spent. Plus, short distance travel and length of time to recharge. Really doesn’t make much sense to almost all bikers. On top of the fact that Harley is using the premium price we pay for bikes and parts to finance this nonmarketable two wheeled Prius.

I think those deep thinkers at H-D saw an opportunity for some green credits which may be used to ‘offset’ the emissions adherence by the EPA. THis would allow them to produce their much loved and desired air cooled V-twins for a few years longer without having to choke them up with valve timing recirculation gases and liquid cooling for tighter tolerances and reduced emissions. Way to go H-D!!

Good point, but I hope you are wrong. Any company who ignores the very real possibility that gas powered vehicles are in their final days will be left out of the marketplace. I believe that gas powered vehicles will all but disappear within the next 25 years.

Really The beginning of the END. Please remember where HD came from. Simply don’t do it. Enough said .

53 miles I could cover in about 35 minutes. It is a cool bike and I think there will be e-bikes in our future. But until the battery problem is solved, (which is the solution to ALL our driving problems), I will not spend money on one. Fact is the world overproduces electricity by about 50-75% but we have no storage capacity. When the battery problem is fixed, we wean of foreign oil and air gets cleaner. But batteries stands in the way of this.

Like the idea and would seriously consider it if the mileage increases some.
The time is fast approaching for this technology and as battery life increases
so will the distance it travels. Of course, the Iron Butt ride I did on Fathers Day would be
out of the question.

Looks awesome! A cross between a V-rod and a bobber. Where can I test drive it?

To be honest, it should have a big basket on the front, for groceries… As for enjoying the sounds and feel of a Harley there’s nothing better than V twin.. Electric bikes should be used for short runs for beer or food..that’s cool..

Electric will work for my commute (3 miles). Not practical for much with the reported 53 mile range though. Always the problem with electric vehicles. It will have to make better noise too. Sounds like George Jetsons car in the clip I saw. Between myself and my wife we’ve had 7 bikes. Five were Harleys. First thing we did was change to louder pipes. Loud pipes save lives.

Ahh, the answer to a question no one asked. Here you have an incredibly expensive inefficient bike that will cost more per mile than a standard motorcycle and that is incapable of being used for travel, with long recharge times if you travel any distance. So, all the Harley riders pay a premium for the bikes they ride and parts they buy, for this. Not impressed!

GO HARLEY GO!!!

I saw the 50 mile range also…..A…WASTE …OF…MONEY!!!

I saw a piece on Fox news and the range was 53 miles between charges. It will make cross country rides just a tiny bit longer. I can see why Harley is doing this…I mean since electric cars have been so sussessful! I’ll stick with my Fatboy thanks.

I saw a piece on Fox news and the range was 53 miles.

Great idea! `Bout time. Heard a guy on a Wing ride up to a poker run w/ a cassette blaring a Harley motor over his speakers. Novel idea for the time. Will definitely need some noise… And actual stats to review.

Sounds good, but it is just not for me. I love my Big V-Twin engine and the feel and sound that this engine makes going down the road. I believe you will get a few of these “I LOVE MY GREEN”, but not me.

LOUD AND MEAN.

I think with all the raping ,the government /oil company have done to THE PEPOLE . There has to be an alterative, way for transportation . So it is a good thing that an American company steps to the plate! I WOULD BE GLAID TO TEST A ELECTRIC BIKE FOR THEM !!!

Gotta think HD blew it with the Buell fiasco (shutting it down). A Buell inspired motor with that Trellis style frame (look at the electric bike) could go a long way for the American Fast Bike movement. In the absence of that, go Motus !
uh, sorry this was supposed to be about the electric bike…

A home run, there is a good market for this. Wont replace my streetglide but people are looking for this

Not for me. Love my Harleys rumble.
Nothing like it.

Now HD make electric speed boats, Jet ski’s next. I like to see HD electric bike have speed to 160 mph. Long distance on a charge 500 miles. And some decent storage.

I have been a Harley man since 1972. If they want to give electricity a round, hell I’m all for it. Not that I would buy one, after all the sound is half the bike!

I think Harley is doing the right thing, despite the whiners on all the social media. I think the founders would have jumped at this chance. Harley has an R&D program obviously aimed at market share their competitors have taken for granted. This in my opinion includes the new Street 500 & 750 bikes. For FAR too long the japs have copied and picked away everything they could from Harley, using significant resources to copy the leaders. Now they will have to re-focus some energy and time to defend what they thought was theirs alone. Add to that, Harley is in the electric game now…..

Must admit I was surprised that Harley was getting into this market, I’m glad they are – the more competition the better. As larger companies get involved there would be a push for quick charge technology and battery exchange stations.

Seeing the picture, the look of the cycle is excellent.

I think Harley Davidson has a great idea with this motorcycle and it might just be the answer to some riders that don’t have a long ride from point a to point b. I don’t think I would necessarily buy one because I like riding long distances in a day. The same reason I wouldn’t buy a Tesla automobile… I don’t want to have to wait several hours to charge the batteries to continue a trip.

I believe Harley would be foolish to drop this project…If they do,,, the Foreign companies will …Look at Telsa Cars…4oo h.p. and looks good,,,my jeep is only 210 hp. …Harley i say go for it….

I think a electric motorcycle is a great idea!
I would love to own one!
I own a electric bike and it is a lot of fun!
But a electric motorcycle would be even better!

Great idea! good move for a big name bike maker to take the lead in the new technology. Now if they can only improve the range on these and all other battery powered vehicles then the cost would be worth it.

I’ll see this torque producing hot rod tonight at the HD museum in Milwaukee. I like the looks! Styling is great. I’m not big on electric vehicles, BUT from what I have seem in pictures this is something I could consider. I’d have to have a range of 250-300 miles. Less than 200 would be a no-go for me. I ride a Sportster and a Road Glide and this could be a great third bike. Price is also a major consideration.

What a joke

Electric won pikes peak race
Fastest at Bonnieville
Electricity is raw power
Stay in the stone age with your carberator
Electric is so fast Indy will be electric also

Hey, this rider is very interested in it as a commuter-bike. My daily trip is 25mi each way. Riding for 40+ years. It’s the only product from Harley this Gold Wing owner would buy…
I like it, and look forward to following it’s development!

In the last couple of years, Congress has been looking at legislation to require electric cars to make a “car like noise” so that blind pedestrians can hear them coming before attempting to cross the street. You can go on-line and listen to your available choices. It will be interesting to see what sounds will be available for your electric bike. Safety First!

Yep. That’s what it needs. Harley noise. Two levels, loud and louder, but you could turn it off when you are on the long road and want some quiet time.

I suppose all types of bikes have their place, but does it make any noise??
I think I will stick with my bagger, the RB Racing 2 into 1 exhaust I have is loud, just the way I like it, let’s all the idiots in their minivans know that I am passing them :-)

I would like to be. A test rider in Chicago split the difference between east&west coasts???

I think its something that is going to happen so the co might as well get on it. I remember watching the new version of Star Trek when Kirk was riding an electric bike to the shuttle and I thought to myself then that its only a matter of time. I would love to have one. And I am a guy who likes the old stuff.

My line up is: 2 1957 Panheads, 1980 Ironhead, 1968 Indian, 1989 Wideglide, 1998 honda shadow (was my wifes), 1977 4×4 GMC lifted on 35′s, 2 1965 vw bugs, 1968 vw bug, 2001 vw bug. I tend to prefer things that have carbs and can be fixed with a screwdriver and a set of pliers lol. Although I do have a damn fine multimeter :-]

This bike looks awesome! I’d buy one in a heartbeat for my daily commute…but I need a range of 150-200 miles for it to be practical for me. However, I’m somewhat concerned over the quiet nature of electric vehicles when commuting on a motorcycle. Can we get an option to have it generate the sound of your favorite motorcycle (complete w/shifts based on current speed) comparable to what they are doing with guitar amplifiers today that simulate all of the old legacy amp tones. I think I’d really like the silence of the electric on long solo rides…but would like people to know I’m around when splitting lanes during commute hours here in California.

I’m glad to see Harley making this move. You can bet all of the othe big bike people are doing it.. You’ve been able to build your own for more then 20yrs, it it the future for some.. The things I’ve read and seen, these electrics can kick every ones butt. You have a need for speed, this is it

I only ride a Harley because of the sound it makes. I don’t see electric in my future, but for all you other guys who only go from bar to bar it’s perfect!

I totally agree Laurie I also ride for the rumble the pleasure and the experience I don’t believe in drinking and riding that is just asking for trouble

Who rides anything just for the sound it makes? Seriously?
Nothing could be more ridiculous.

Any REAL biker will tell you that wind noise at speed is much, much louder than virtually any HOG on the market.

You may well not actually even own motorcycles.
So far as I am concerned there are two kinds of motorcyclists: motorcyclists who love motorcycles, and idiots.

I literally never met a motorcycle I didn’t like for one reason or another.

Back on topic: the Livewire is bitchin’ & I can’t wait to ride it.

How far will it go on a single charge in power mode and how far in range mode?

Sounds neat for local get around. Spent many an hour on high powered golf cart at 35 miles an hour. cre free charging. Hope they price it reasonably.

It would be nice to see a solar powered charger incorporated in the tank and fenders. I really like the idea of an electric bike for commutes

There are many ways to get away from fossil fuel, but not with a Harley motorcycle. I wouldn’t buy one…
I believe (my opinion) motorcyclists in general want an internal combustion engine that produces great sound. If not noisy enough, they change the exhaust. Check with the exhaust manufactures as to why people change exhaust. Sound is a major reason!
Maybe electric ATV’s, snowmobiles and maybe some that foreign motorcycles. But not American Made Harley Davidson! HD may regret this one idea…

I think it is a smart move by Harley. A large company like them could probably advance, and stay at the lead, of this new frontier, by forming an all electric motorcycle racing association. This could result in a competition that H-D would be perennially in the lead of. It could also result in the development of longer ranges mingled with the advent of convenient battery exchange design in the bikes that is compatible with the springing up of battery exchange stations. By doing so, H-D, if successful could inspire the car industry, lower our dependence on foreign oil, and take us into the future.

Having said that……..I still want a gas powered Harley. But when they offer these for sale, and if I could afford it, I would buy one for around town errands or even track days.

Awesome looking!!! Looks fast just sitting there. This would be a great cruiser around town, with no pollution. I could see me using this to commute between work. I just need a plug at work to recharge. Price will control whether or not this bike will make it in the market. With no incentive, other than the cool looks, who would pay more for one of these when you could buy one of HD’s gas powered bothers.

I believe that this is the future. Whether we like it or not. I don’t believe this will replace the touring bikes, but it will be an interesting addition to the lineup.

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