By now most of the Harley world has heard of Project LiveWire. If you haven’t, my question is; Where have you been? For those hiding out under a panhead, Project LiveWire is designed to showcase the launch of Harley-Davidson’s first electric motorcycle. While not yet for sale, Project LiveWire is designed for the purpose of finding out what riders, new and old, expect of an electric Harley.
The tour launched in the US on June 24, on historic Route 66 and is not scheduled to come to Canada until sometime in 2015. But. Mountainview Harley-Davidson managed to secure a spot for a ride at LiveWire’s stop at Eastside Harley-Davidson in Bellevue, Washington. After receiving a call confirming the one spot, on Thursday Aug 7th, we arrived at Eastside Harley (after taking the scenic route) a little after 9:30.
Karen, with whom I’d booked the original spot, told me that Thursday was supposed to be fully booked, but some were not showing up for their appointments so she would be able to get both Cam & I on the test ride without a problem. So after filling out the required paperwork, we were ushered into the LiveWire Experience tent and shown an instruction video on the motorcycle operation. Then we waited for out turn.
While we were waiting we had an opportunity to talk to Scott Cook, the General Manager of Eastside Harley-Davidson. He told us that Thursday was supposed to be fully booked by Microsoft but less than a third of the group showed up. “Jeff Henshaw, one of the developers for Xbox who has been a Harley rider for years, learned about Project LiveWire before the dealership and immediately called me. I was actually in the doctors office at the time. He wanted to make a $1,000 deposit so he could buy the first production model to come off the line. This morning, he used three GoPro cameras to record his test ride!”Finally our names were called, “This is a pretty impressive little bike. Make sure you get a chance to test that throttle.” Cook said with a grin.”
What is unique about LiveWire is the motor is mounted longitudinally, under the frame and a bevel gear changes the direction of rotation to 90° to drive a gilmer belt that turns the rear wheel. The same bevel gear gives the drive-train a whirring sound akin to jet plane. The motor produces 72 horsepower and 52 pound-feet of torque and Harley claims they’ll reach around 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds. The prototypes are electronically limited to 90mph and they have limited range. Around 60 to 80 miles depending on what mode the ride selects, distance or higher-performance “power” mode.
The first thing you notice when you get on LiveWire is that it’s light (460lbs) and when you push the start button there is almost no sound or vibration. What you do feel are the fans cooling the electric motor and batteries and there is no exhaust heat or fumes. There is no clutch, it doesn’t need one. The power is continuous so once you twist the throttle it goes. We were warned not to try to “rev” the engine while we were sitting there. There is a single disk, two-piston front brake but once your hand is off the throttle it comes to a rolling stop quite quickly.
With a slight, tentative, twist of the wrist we were off (with one of Jeff Henshaw’s drones following us through the parking lot). LiveWire handles like what you would expect from a sport-bike. The difference is that when you do twist that throttle (and you really want to) the transition from zero to light-speed is almost instantaneous. So much so that I got a bit of a head-rush. When Cam tried it for the first time, something malfunctioned, the LCD screen flashed an error code and the bike shut down. A quick restart got the bike going again and we were able to take enjoy the rest of ride. My only initial complaint would be thatby the time we had completed the short test ride, the sound of the motor was starting to get to me. But, these are the types of situations Harley is looking for and one of the reasons LiveWire is touring the country.
Harley hasn’t said yet when the LiveWire bikes will go on Sale. Spokesman Tony Macrito said they won’t launch during the tour, which still has to tour Canada, Europe and possibly Asia. Pricing also hasn’t been revealed a one estimate was that they will be under $15,000. Harley is trying to reach a more diverse demographic and lower pricing would be one way to get more people on their products.