LiveWire, the one-time harbinger of Harley-Davidson’s electrified future, was relaunched last year as a standalone original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with the titular name of ONE gracing its only model offering. The financial repercussion of this seismic rebranding was an MSRP decrease of $7,800 from $29,799 to $21,999 for the ONE. That’s still a gagging spoonful to swallow for a glorified urban commuter but at least it’s trending in the right direction.
The New Electric Company
It’s been a minute since I last straddled an electric motorcycle. During the interim, some manufacturers have faded into non-existence while others keep forging ahead. With last December’s announcement of a collaboration between LiveWire and Taiwanese two-wheel giant Kymco, alongside plans for LiveWire to become the first publicly traded EV OEM in the U.S., LiveWire appears to be on fiscally solid ground and a good bet as a long-term contender in the vanguard of electric motorcycle companies.
An official announcement of a new model, the Del Mar, is scheduled for the second quarter of this year. According to LiveWire literature, the Del Mar will be the first model built upon the new S2 Arrow architecture, which promises to be modular, allowing for multiple future models to be quickly brought to market.
What does all this have to do with the current ONE model? Outside the aforementioned price drop and an expanding LiveWire dealer network (21 states and counting), not much. Performance-wise, the ONE produces five fewer horsepower (100 vs. 105), two fewer lb-ft of torque (84 vs. 86), and weighs 13 more pounds than the H-D version. While the power figures are negligible, the extra 13 pounds bring the curb weight of the ONE to a hefty 562 pounds.
LiveWire bills the ONE as a metropolitan motorcycle and requested the ONE be tested as such. Fair enough. To not test a Honda Gold Wing in its natural habitat on open stretches of highway would be similarly askew. So, mountains and canyon roads be damned, we’re sticking to cityscapes.
Considering these testing parameters, I applied the best pseudo-scientific method I could by laying out a 21-mile commuter test course. I picked this distance because if I did commute every day, this is the real-world route I’d take and, barring any differences in traffic flow, would ensure a consistent topography as well as consistent freeway-to-surface street mileage. The idea was to determine what, if any, differences I’d see in battery life riding the ONE in each of its preset riding modes (Road, Rain, Sport, Eco), and a custom mode of my own.
The outcome of my experiment in battery depletion was surprisingly trivial, with only 3% separating the Eco mode from both the Sport or my Custom mode. At the end of my 21-mile commute in Eco mode, the 4.3-inch TFT color display showed 75% battery life. I was expecting a much greater discrepancy when ridden in Sport or, especially, my Custom mode, but upon completion of the route, battery life stood at 72% for both settings. While this leaves me confused about the benefits of an Eco mode, the result also means you can enjoy all the performance the ONE has to offer without worrying about inadvertently stranding yourself.
Astute readers have already calculated, based on the above information, that if ridden to its conclusion the ONE is only good for about 84 miles before running out of battery. Most commutes, including mine, are a combination of city and freeway miles, and when ridden in this environment, LiveWire claims 95 miles of range. I’ll admit to riding a little more ham-fistedly than I normally would. Had I not been rolling the throttle to stop when leaving each and every red light, the mileage-per-battery life would have improved, bringing the outcome closer to the claimed range of 95 miles. But I couldn’t help myself, because it’s just so exhilarating!
Smooth Like Butter
There is one common thread among all electric motorcycles that is undeniably addictive—immediate, seamless acceleration. In a whoosh of near silence, the ONE jettisons to the other side of an intersection in a split second. No clutch to slip, no revs to build, just instantaneous gratifying speed. LiveWire claims a 0-to-60 acceleration of three seconds and that’s on a bike weighing nearly 600 pounds! Just think what it’ll be like when battery technology enters a weight loss program.
Even when riding in my Custom mode with power and throttle set to 100%, the ONE’s forward thrust can be smoothly applied via the twistgrip. No matter what electronic aides are outfitted to an internal combustion engine-powered (ICE) motorcycle, none can match the ONE in terms of smooth acceleration. And, while passenger accommodations are Spartan, without gears to shift the ONE provides a better two-up experience simply by way of not having the passenger’s helmet constantly tap the back of the pilot’s.
In a racetrack environment, I enjoy how some ICE-powered motorcycles allow you to reduce the amount of engine braking, because I prefer to freewheel into a corner while using the brakes to shed speed. Riding the ONE on public streets, I found the opposite to be true. Cranking the regenerative braking to its highest setting and using it to slow the bike instead of the brakes became a game to see how well I could anticipate coming to a full stop. The amount of battery juice being fed back into the system seems insignificant, but—considering the bike’s limited range—every little bit helps. The only time full regen becomes problematic is when navigating a U-turn. Think of performing the same task on an ICE bike in first gear with no clutch. Not impossible, but reducing the regen makes it easier.
Reality Of Ownership
One afternoon, after finishing my 21-mile loop, I stopped for lunch. Afterward, I was compelled to ride down the coast and enjoy some beautiful southern California February weather. Upon reaching Huntington Beach, a glance at the gauges told me there were only 35 miles of battery life remaining. Having already stopped to eat, I was in no mood to find a quick-charge location and drink coffee while the bike charged enough (80% in 40 minutes with a DC Fast Charge) to continue my ride. So, I returned home.
This is one concession any electric motorcycle owner has to contend with. Planning stops in close proximity to quick-charge stations can extend a ride indefinitely, but the current state of motorcycle battery technology makes impromptu decisions to keep the party going challenging.
For the enthusiast with multiple motorcycles, or one who doesn’t mind dropping $22 large just to bomb around the streets of San Francisco or New York, little justification beyond desire is required. As for me, I’m in lockstep love with the promise of future battery performance. When that arrives in the form of quicker charge times, longer range, and reduced weight and cost, count me in.
2022 LiveWire ONE
+ quiet and fast forward thrust, minimal service requirements, instantaneous power production
– limited range, heavy, expensive
Engine: Revelation permanent-magnet electric motor
Power: 100hp; 84lb-ft (claimed)
Transmission: Motor output shaft mates to a single-speed gearbox, 9.71:1
Curb Weight: 562lbs
Seat Height: 30in
Riding Range: 70mi highway, 95mi combined, 146mi city
Charge Time: Level 1 and 2: 13 miles for each hour of charging, DC Fast Charge: 0-100% in 60 minutes
Battery: 15.5 kWh high-voltage battery
Colors: Liquid Black, Horizon White