May 23rd, 2017 by Nicolas Zart
OK, OK, so when I heard that Harley-Davidson was going to make an electric motorcycle, I laughed, choked it off as bad PR, and simply thought, no way this hulking metal motorcycle “patapatapata” internal combustion engine (ICE) maker would do an electric motorcycle. No way! Well, yes, kinda, sorta, poking the monster with a red hot charcoal bit, the Harley-Davidson Livewire program is growing. Albeit, the program growth is modest, but it is nonetheless growing.
Harley-Davidson LiveWire, Growing By The Numbers — 100 to be exact
No need to introduce Harley-Davidson. You love (or hate) them for the noise they blast. It was probably exciting news for you years ago when the company said it would make — of all things — an electric motorcycle! Gasp, shock, horror.
But since that announcement, little has happened, to the point we might have tossed it out as a bad April 1st joke. But hold on — Harley-Davidson (HD) is adding a few LiveWire to its harem. 100 of them, actually.
Although the venerable Harley-Davidson likes to be heard, I’m not sure we would write “massive product overhaul” with the introduction of only 100 electric LiveWire … “”over the next decade.” But hey, better than nothing. Still, the press release makes mention that this expansion of the product availability will also roll in a “range of electric bikes” over the next decade. But just how many EVs are we talking about here?
According to the company’s vice president, Bill Davidson of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and great-grandson of company founder William A Davidson, there is a confirmed electric bike project as part of its future. In fact, Bill Davidson had the following to say: “We’re excited about our future. We actually showed a prototype of the electric LiveWire [a few years ago] and that project is alive and well. We don’t know yet when we’re going to introduce it but it is progressing well and we will eventually introduce it.”
OK, kinda, sorta good news. But more to the point, what does this mean for EV lovers?
A Loud (Or Not So Loud) Harley-Davidson LiveWire Electric Motorcycle?
It’s easy to recognize a Harley-Davidson from most other motorcycles. What noise does it make? If you answered “Patapatapata” while shaking your windows and the paintings hanging off your walls, you might be right. The only problem is, what does an electric Harley-Davidson sound like if you mute its audio signature?
I personally will welcome the quietness of an electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle, but will it be that quiet? Would it still be a Harley-Davidson if it didn’t make noise? Although most of us reading CleanTechnica would give a resounding yes, I assume Harley-Davidson and its true fans don’t quite see it that way.
Remember the whole “EVs are too quiet for our own health” movement a few years ago?
Does A Harley-Davidson LiveWire Have To Be Loud?
Harley-Davidson concedes that an inherently electric Harley-Davidson would be quiet and lack one of its maker’s key signature, noise. So what’s a loud ICE company to do? Make noise, of course! (While working on ways to ensure it appeals to a new wave of gasoline weary riders.)
It’s a shame because if you actually have heard a factory Harley-Davidson, they’re not that loud. They become the loud decibel shredding and thumping bikes they are after their new owners get their hands on after-sales mufflers. So, Harley-Davidson wanting to protect its loud heritage, is looking into ways to ensure an electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire appeals to a new generation of motorcycle riders with a sound he described like that of a jet fighter. A jet fighter?
Yes, Harley-Davidson has created a unique sound through various technologies available. By seeing what competitors do, or don’t, Harley-Davidson didn’t want a normal-sounding electric motorcycle. Perhaps they went on a Lightning LS-216 electric motorcycle ride to get the idea of fast, powerful, and an insanely fast electric motorcycle with a cool whizzing sound? But that’s not Harley-Davidson. The company wanted something that plays with that Harley-Davidson look and sound. Therefore, a jet fighter sound! Strange, but I never think of a jet fighter when I hear an HD.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire By The Numbers
Using a 7 kWh battery pack and liquid cooled electric motor pumping out 55 kW of power (73.5 HP) and 70 Nm of torque (52 lb-ft), this should make it enough to match on paper Harley’s own 883 Sportster range. On paper only, because once that torque hits — and for an HD rider, torque is really what it’s all about — an electric motor will quickly show the frustrating limitations of a gasoline engine. And in case you should linger with that old worn out “range anxiety” notion, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire can be recharged within a couple of hours and provides a range of around 85 km (~53 miles) at present.
In case you feel like you woke up in an alternate universe, no, Harley-Davidson is definitely embracing the future … slowly.
We’re happy to see the Harley-Davidson LimeWire moving on. Although, we would hope for more than 100 electric motorcycles soon-ish.
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