Harley Davidson Project LiveWire - The Motor Company plugs in

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Perhaps the end times are nigh, Harley Davidson is building an electric motorcycle. Called Project LiveWire, it is being presented as sort of a beta test:

... select consumers across the country will be able to ride and provide feedback on the bike, helping to shape the future of Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle.

Undisguised LiveWire on Avengers movie set

Undisguised LiveWire on Avengers movie set a few months ago

Interesting. Several months ago, I saw a photo of this bike, shown above, completely undisguised, on a sci-fi movie set, (The Avengers) and dismissed it as their attempt at movie placement to show the Harley name, as a viable company that still existed, in the future. I incorrectly assumed it was a standard bike with some bodywork to cover a conventional engine. I have to hand it to them, what better way to hide it than in plain sight?

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

They're feeling their way slowly here, probably a good thing, and it's far too soon to say whether they've got it right or if it's going to need a major rethink.

One thing they are highlighting is the sound. Play the video below and listen to it, it's just what you would expect from some futuristic, high tech, jet powered motorcycle running on nuclear fuel, ... or something. Don't get me wrong, it sounds really cool and it might be what electric motorcycles should sound like to capture a new generation's attention. Young kids today may care little for a V-Twin rumble, but this? It's got potential.

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

It has a three-phase AC motor, 74 horsepower and 52 foot pounds of torque with 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds. Range? Recharge time?

Price is unknown and until the final production form is set, can't be determined.

A few added thoughts:
There are going to be lots of electric motorcycle enthusiasts saying wonderful things and praising the company for being so bold. How many of them will actually buy one? This is a whole new market. Is there any crossover between the average Harley customer and the person ready to pay real money and ride off on one of these.

What was that about Harley's core?

Remember Harley's "core," something they stressed they would focus on back when they jettisoned Buell? Here's their PR speak explanation:

As riding in the great outdoors is one of the best elements of motorcycling, sustainability remains a core strategic focus at Harley-Davidson. (emphasis mine)

“Preserving the riding environment is important to all of us,” said Levatich. “Project LiveWire is just one element in our efforts to preserve and renew the freedom to ride for generations to come.

So, "sustainability" is a core strategic focus for Harley Davidson now and electric motorcycles are the way to promote it? Did the folks at Harley think that one through? Does that mean gasoline powered internal combustion engines are unsustainable and destroy the environment? Oops! Who in Harley management or the PR department decided to go there?

Why not just say the company thought electric motorcycles were getting interesting and they believed they could build a good one that would appeal to a younger generation of riders? Simple, straight forward, no sustainable politics involved, no conflict with current products.

Well, I doubt the Harley faithful expected this one.

Press release follows:

HARLEY-DAVIDSON REVEALS PROJECT LIVEWIRE, THE FIRST ELECTRIC HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE
H-D Invites Consumers to Ride, React and Shape the Future of this New Bike

NEW YORK (June 19, 2014) – Innovation, meet heritage. Today, Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) reveals Project LiveWire – the first Harley-Davidson® electric motorcycle.

In keeping with the company’s customer-led product development approach, starting next week select consumers across the country will be able to ride and provide feedback on the bike, helping to shape the future of Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle.

While not for sale, Project LiveWire is specifically designed for the purpose of getting insight into rider expectations of an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“America at its best has always been about reinvention,” said Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “And, like America, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our history, with customers leading us every step of the way. Project LiveWire is another exciting, customer-led moment in our history.”

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle

Spurred by this heritage, the Project LiveWire Experience invites customers to test ride, provide feedback and learn more about the story of the motorcycle. Even those who don’t yet ride will have the opportunity to feel the power of Project LiveWire through Jumpstart – a simulated riding experience.

A 2014 U.S. tour – kicking off with a journey down Route 66 – will visit more than 30 Harley-Davidson dealerships now through the end of the year. In 2015, the Project LiveWire Experience will continue in the U.S. and expand into Canada and Europe.

“This builds on many recent reinvention successes for Harley-Davidson.” said Levatich. “In just the last few years, we’ve broadened our reach to serve an increasingly diverse society, as well as reinvented our approach to product development and manufacturing. This has resulted in cutting-edge products like the recently launched Project Rushmore touring bikes, Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 models and this reveal of Project LiveWire.”

An Innovative Approach to Advance the Possibilities of Personal Freedom
This exciting new ride blends the company’s styling heritage with the latest technology to deliver a new expression of the signature Harley-Davidson look, sound and feel.

“Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar – not an electric car,” said Mark-Hans Richer, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric. Project LiveWire is a bold statement for us as a company and a brand.”

The bike offers a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable new sound.

“The sound is a distinct part of the thrill,” said Richer. “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market.”

Longer term plans for retail availability of Project LiveWire will be influenced by feedback from riders along the Project Livewire Experience tour.

“We offer a no excuses riding experience in everything we do and we are led by what our customers tell us matters most,” said Richer. “Because electric vehicle technology is evolving rapidly, we are excited to learn more from riders through the Project LiveWire Experience to fully understand the definition of success in this market as the technology continues to evolve.”

Helping Preserve and Renew the Freedom to Ride for Generations
As riding in the great outdoors is one of the best elements of motorcycling, sustainability remains a core strategic focus at Harley-Davidson.

“Preserving the riding environment is important to all of us,” said Levatich. “Project LiveWire is just one element in our efforts to preserve and renew the freedom to ride for generations to come. As a company that has seen success for 111 years, we think in generational terms about our great riding environments for the next 111 years.”

Fans can learn more about Project LiveWire, as well as specific dates and locations for Project LiveWire Experience stops at projectlivewire.com. Harley-Davidson also invites anyone who is interested in the possibilities of the future to follow and engage with the company on its social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Comments

  1. Clive Makinson-Sanders says

    Harley davidson… electric.. but it wont make the harley sound. Maybe they will have a recorded loop playing through speakers “potato-potato-potato-potato”

  2. Yeti2bikes says

    I don’t know if I can be called a H-D “core” customer or not just because I own one as I also own a Buell and have enjoyed riding every motorcycle I’ve ever thrown my leg over. I’m definitely not a Harley or nothing type and I am VERY interested in an electric motorcycle for my daily work commute.

    I’ve been looking at the Brammo and Zero as some time in the next 18 months (barring any emergencies) my motorcycle fund will be big enough that I’m going to purchase my first electric. I’m not interested in brand name or image because I’m just going to flog it to work so competitive pricing is going to decide it for me.

  3. Nicolas says

    The “faithfuls” may not appreciate this, but it doesn’t matter because here HD is redefining and re-inventing the faithfuls.

    Way to go HD !

    • GenWaylaid says

      Also the bulk of the “Harley faithful” are probably nearing the age where they buy their last motorcycle. At least when the demographics said it was time to innovate or die, Harley chose “innovate.”

  4. Eric S says

    [i]”Why not just say the company thought electric motorcycles were getting interesting and they believed they could build a good one that would appeal to a younger generation of riders? Simple, straight forward, no sustainable politics involved, no conflict with current products.”[/i]

    Well stated. Stay consistent, Harley– PC BS will only ensure a lukewarm reception to the project; we all know the sissies who speak that way aren’t riding. Instead, make the message something like, “This is an exciting, emerging technology, it’s important that America lead. And H-D is at the forefront, creating new bikes you’ll be proud of.”

  5. Jack says

    This quote is odd:

    “This exciting new ride blends the company’s styling heritage with the latest technology to deliver a new expression of the signature Harley-Davidson look, sound and feel.”

    Are they referring to the XLCR?

    • Mister X says

      Good call, and why on earth did they wait until now to release something interesting like the XLCR?

  6. Dr Robert Harms says

    Sign me up. I should meet their qualifications as a Brammo owner.
    Over and above the electric power, the frame is great looking . Sort of what Confederate should be doing, rather than the ugly crap they have been pushing lately

  7. Joe says

    Strategic blunder?!!
    Good looking bike but they should have left the Harley Davidson name alone and created a new division of the company for this kind of product line.
    If a pure sportbike like Buell was an awkward fit within the comany image, this is surely repugnant to the thundering, leather-clad, roughneck soul of the company.
    Cool bike. But it’s not a Harley.

  8. Paulinator says

    Smart move!!! An electric with attitude that isn’t performance-limited by the traditional V-twin architecture. As Paul points out, they’ll patent the high-pitched whine, bottle it and sell it.

  9. JR says

    I wonder if Harley will seek a copyright on the “Zzzipp” sound that only a true Harley electric bike can make.

    • GenWaylaid says

      Yeah, they make a big deal about the sound but it sounds just like every other high performance electric motorcycle at speed. I guess Harley will spend time tweaking the sound of their electric motors because they consider sound design a core competency, but there’s not as much they can do without shock waves and resonant pipes.

      Compare the sound to this insane footage this year’s Isle of Man TTXGP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlxZs2-gICc . That’s John McGuinness taking an electric bike around the course only a few mph slower than the current gas record.

  10. Thom says

    All I can say is, I have been the most vehement anti-Harley spokesman I could be, and I genuinely like this bike. That’s saying a lot, though. If it goes into production, I would actually consider buying one, in spite of my predisposition to hate anything with the Harley name on it.

    • says

      I can’t say I am vehemently anti-Harley, but I have never seriously considered owning one. I also have never seriously considered owning an E-bike. At 51, I am one of the “old white guys” this is specifically NOT targeted toward. So the Livewire should have three strikes against it in my book, but I could seriously see myself getting this to commute on. Purchase price is the big tipping point, of course.

  11. Bicho says

    WOW great design,it just needs the V-ROD motor in it,and a 15.000$ price tag……..that would be a global bestseller! Harley´s Monster,if you wish…

    • Paul Crowe says

      If Harley’s designers can create a bike like this with electric power, why haven’t they drawn up something similar with an internal combustion engine? Maybe something other than a V-Twin would fit best and they didn’t want to dilute the message, but since they’ve gone the electric route, why not turn ‘em loose on lots of different designs with all variations of power plant? It looks like the design department is capable, they just need the go ahead. Of course, then they get into that “core” thing management brought up a few years ago.

      • Yeti2bikes says

        I don’t know Paul, That bike looks kind of “Buell-ish” to me. I’d say they already had one with an IC motor and let it slip through their fingers.
        Personally I think the only reason HD showed Erik the door is because he used a non-Harley motor in his flagship bike the 1125.

  12. charmingdragon says

    I’m not against electric motorcycles, but they are more electric than motorcycles. RANGE RANGE RANGE and INFRASTRUCTURE are what keep me from taking these projects seriously. If it can not offer the same option of, hop on and go, I just don’t want it. Waiting 3 to 6 hours to ‘refill’ is going to kill my road trips. YMMV

    • Paul Crowe says

      That’s the point I made over 4 years ago when I said:

      Many of us look at electric motorcycles from a purely practical point of view, but, proponents keep offering the qualifier “carbon free” to excuse the shortcomings. It’s right on the home page of companies selling them and the TTXGP itself was founded as a carbon free race. Carbon free is beginning to sound more like an excuse than a plus because electric motorcycles, with all of the time, money, effort and tax credits thrown their direction, still don’t perform like a bike you or I would ride on a daily basis without constantly modifying our riding habits to make sure we don’t deplete the batteries at an inappropriate time. Forget “carbon free.” The best way for electric motorcycle enthusiasts to promote their carbon free bikes is to offer a “no excuse necessary” electric motorcycle.

      Though the press release above substitutes “sustainable” for “carbon-free” which begins to go down the excuse road, it also has this interesting quote: “We offer a no excuses riding experience,” almost as though they were responding to my earlier observation. Does LiveWire do that? I don’t know, but I have a hunch it’s a lot like the other electric motorcycles out there, looks good, great performance, but you have to be very aware of where you are and how far you’ve gone.

      Elon Musk is planning a battery “giga-factory” to build huge numbers of batteries to bring down costs and his batteries seem to be better than most. Maybe that will help all electric vehicles get closer to this “no excuse” experience, but until the range and recharge time issue is well and fully dealt with, we’re going to keep building nice looking, high performance e-bikes that don’t quite make it.

      • says

        It might serve the naysayers and “range and refill” mantra chanters to un-focus upon their own limited point of view. H-D certainly isn’t marketing this as a cruiser. There’s more than adequate performance for a city/urban commuter, but they aren’t calling it a ‘Busa killer, either. They obviously recognize that a) there is an emerging market, and b) not all riders flog a hog.

        For an electric, it’s got the look. Perhaps H-D did learn something from the Buell experience that everybody else is missing…they didn’t call it a Harley, didn’t imbue it with the mystique of the marque. Perception is reality, and for the politically correct and eager to impress younger crowd, if it says H-D it is H-D.

        I agree the opening core value and hedge the bet statement on Eco-freindliness is a bit lame, so I hope they use the roll-out testing phase to redefine the mantra to exciting, fun, and not yo ‘dady’s Harley. Maybe a few Kia Rats rollin up to Applebee’s on the LiveWire?

        And yes, I do own an H-D in my stable and I’m a couple of decades past my 21st. I can see myself adding this to my collection as a real twist and go ride for 6 pack or to the dentist. I have bikes for tearing it up, and some for distance, and some for weekends in the dirt. Why do so many insist that one bike should do it all?

        • Bicho says

          You do realize,that the majority(99%)of motorcyclists around the world own 1 bike,right…!? I guess you are in the 1%……

        • Paul Crowe says

          Why do so many insist that one bike should do it all?

          Maybe because with an ICE, it usually can and does. You might also re-read this post about some guys that made one bike work pretty much everywhere.

          • Yeti2bikes says

            I agree with you to a certain extent on cross-over bikes that work in multiple environments, however “can do” and “does well” are two completely different things. My thoughts go back to one of my first bikes, an old ’73 Yamaha DT360 Enduro. Yes it went on the street and it went in the dirt… But did neither well.

            • Paul Crowe says

              I have a Ford F-150 4WD. Can I drive it in a crowded city? Yep. On the freeway. You bet. Country roads? Of course. Off road? Sure. In deep snow? Absolutely. Is it the ideal vehicle in any of those situations? No way, but I can’t afford, nor do I have space for, four or five cars or trucks to do everything perfectly, so I make do with the truck and my wife has a car.

              In the world of motorcycles, there are certainly bikes that are perfectly suited for each situation, but if you only have one motorcycle, as so many do, I don’t think it’s a great idea to pretty much rule out some aspects of riding. If you have the money and room, then buy all of the specialty bikes you want and right now, an electric bike would be suited for short range commutes with lots of parked time available for recharging. Long weekend rides? Forget it. Touring? Nope. They’re fine for what they do, but there are still too many things they don’t do. Maybe in the future, but not yet.

  13. B50 Jim says

    When Harley-Davidson gets serious about electrics, you know EVs have gone beyond concept and are poised to go mainstream. All the arguments pro and con, discussions about viability, are they any “greener” than IC vehicles… out the window. The Motor Company sees a market and big profits, and that is enough to solidify the idea of EVs in consumers’s minds. The infrastructure for EVs in general is being put into place — not always properly but it is happening. We could be seeing a great many electrics on the roads very soon.

    Love the sound! It’s what an electric bike should sound like.

  14. Hawk says

    Two thoughts come to mind:

    How much benefit if they got together with Elon Musk?

    Amazing what happens when Willie G. retired.

  15. Joe says

    I’m not trying to pour cold water on the whole project but this bike marks the beginning of a completely different company image. One that has little, if any, connection to the image that Harley Davidson has always held.
    Love em or hate em, Harleys have never been about cutting edge technology and certainly not about social propriety and sensitivity. While engineering advances have been necessary and welcome, they’ve kept the “soul” of the v-twin, cruiser, hard edge intact.
    I think it’s a mistake to try this kind of image fusion.
    It may very well be important for the new product line’s success to a new generation of riders, but it will be achieved at the expense of harming the image, mistique and appeal to the existing and near-future customer.
    I hope the bike is a success. But call it Livewire or Shock or some other name. Just not a Harley Davidson.

  16. says

    Ok, I’ll bite. It seems that hell has frozen over twice in my life time! In 1991, Harley came out with a 5-speed. Now they present us with an electric bike! Wow! AND, it doesn’t even look like a Harley, which to me is the best part. However, as far as “Atracting young buyers”, seems to me, all they want is rat-cafe bikes or rat-scrambler bikes or some cobbed together piece of crap that nobody ever thought to throw together in “That” combination before. Not sure how many “Young” buyers have the $10K+ that a current electric bike costs or they’ll have the extra $3-4K HD will probably charge due to the fact that it’s a Harley. That said, this bike, as little as you can make out in the photos, detail-wise, looks very cool and I for one, am totally behind the electric bike possibilities. It all biols down to battery development which seems to be moving along at a pretty fair pace. I just put a sub-2lb battery in a pumped-up motor’d Sportster that trimmed 11 lbs and starts the bike so fast you can hardly get your finger off the button fast enough!! We’re gonna get there. Downside? It’ll probably be like going in to a Harley shop and asking questions about a Buell. The Harley guys just ain’t gonna be that into them.

  17. steve w. says

    They will need to take it somewhere besides a dealership to get decent feedback. Not many Harley faithfull will be able to come to terms with the riding position. Looks cool but maybe they need to go back and make another one in more Harley style. Then they can attract both crowds. But really do I care? I’ll be dead before they get popular. Yep I’m one of those OF’s

  18. Cameron says

    Looks like a 10000rpm oil cooled motor with 90degree jack shaft and a short belt or gear drive to the swing arm pivot connecting to a belt drive. I’m a little disappointed at the low torque numbers but I’m sure it will be enough. Nice to see H-D found some upside down forks somewhere. I think the bike looks modern and stylish.
    It appeals to my 21 year old. He wants a TRON bike (WTF??) with 6 different power levels from economy to ‘beat the Lambo’ and a range of electronic sounds (stealth silent, jet plane,tie fighter, big rig diesel etc). We (old) just might be missing what H-D marketing department sees as their future.
    As for range anxiety (never forget the peanut tank!) I see recharging stations like Starbucks. One on every corner. The owners go recharge their rides, do their work on their electronic devices, meet, socialize, have a mocha latte whatever, and leave to their tiny 400 sqft micro suite. Looking through the eyes of my 21 year old, this makes sense. I don’t get it but I’m not 21.

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