RoadRUNNER Digital Rider

Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire Act

Jun 24, 2014 View Comments by

Harley-Davidson's Livewire ActWith a sound that is decidedly un-potato-potato-like, Harley-Davidson has surprised the motorcycle world and legions of faithful with the first electric motorcycle by a major manufacturer.* Well, it’s not quite a production motorcycle yet, it’s more of a prototype or trial balloon; what Harley-Davidson is trying to do here is gauge whether or not the world is ready for “The Electric Motor Company.”

The rider-oriented materials say nothing about the specs of the bike, probably because they read like a foreign language to most—three phase AC induction motor, a lithium-ion battery pack of unknown kilowattage and weight, Level 2 charging port, a controller developed with the help of Mission Motors (another EV maker), etc. What is known is that the bike makes 72 horsepower and 52 pound feet of torque, which, if it’s like other EVs, is available nearly all the time. Like other electric bikes built with similar technology, the LiveWire won’t have the kind of range that RoadRUNNER readers crave. Could it be a stylish runabout that sits besides your gas-engined bikes in the garage? That’s what Harley-Davidson wants to find out.

How the dealers and current owners respond to the LiveWire is mission critical because Harley-Davidson, more than any other brand, has been able to craft a singular, unifying image that permeates everything they do. They’ve been so successful at honing an image, in fact, that it’s been difficult to break out of their gilded cage with ideas that deviate from the 45-degree potato-potato cruiser (see V-Rod, Buell, etc.).

Picture, if you will, your typical Harley-Davidson dealership in the near future, on a sunny summer day, the curb filled with cruisers, the sound of potato-potato everywhere. Imagine, in that scene, pulling up with the LiveWire, or even just walking in to look at the floor model and being welcomed as a leather-bound brother or sister of the Church of the V-Twin. No, I can’t imagine that either, nor can most if I may hazard a guess. Thus “The Project LiveWire Experience Tour” will criss-cross the country, giving people a chance to see it in the metal and experience the bike (some virtually, some actually).

Scot Harden, VP of Global Marketing for Zero, one of the “major” players in the miniscule electric motorcycle market, says that Zero is excited about the LiveWire because it validates electric motorcycles and signals to the world that “electrics are coming…they are real…” That, as much as anything, is what the electric motorcycle industry needs, validation in lithium and steel, their Tesla, their BMW i3. Could Harley-Davidson be that brand? Stay tuned…

For more info, check out

* Permit us to exclude, for the time being, the BMW C Evolution EV scooter.


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About the author

You know that little boy who stares at you, mouth agape, as you ride by? That was me, thirty-plus years ago. I merged two of my passions, motorcycles and photography, when I became a contributor to RoadRUNNER.