Harley-Davidson Announces Electric Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson Announces Electric Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson takes its first steps into the electric vehicle market with its first prototype electric motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson has announced its first electric motorcycle, Project Livewire. Harley-Davidson revealed the new electric motorcycle prototype on June 19. The bike is not yet in production, but invited guests will get a first look at demonstration models at an event in New York on Monday, June 23. The electric motorcycle will then tour the US, Canada, and Europe to get feedback from motorcycle riders taking test rides. Based on feedback from fans, Harley-Davidson will decide whether to bring the bike to market.

Electric motorcycles aren't uncommon, but most are scooters or smaller motorcycles aimed at commuters. Harley-Davidson's prototype is a full-size, high-powered electric motorcycle. The electric motor runs silent, lacking the rumble of a typical gasoline-powered Harley, but meshing gears make the bike sound like a jet engine taking off. The prototype goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds, but its battery power will limit the distance it can go without recharging. Typical batteries require recharging at a supercharger station after about 130 miles. The prototype also features a touchscreen display between the handlebars.

"Racing was a key inspiration for its design," says Harley-Davidson in a statement about Project Livewire. "We wanted the machine to make an aggressive statement on the adrenalin-packed thrill of pure power. And, just as in our internal combustion bikes, the engine is the jewel of the motorcycle - the visual centerpiece. The Project LiveWire Motorcycle's longitudinal powertrain is inspired by the superchargers used on top fuel dragsters."

The current demand for full-size electric motorcycles is small. Zero Motorcycles, a full-size electric motorcycle manufacturer, expects to sell only 2,400 electric motorcycles this year. Compared to the 260,000 conventional motorcycles sold by Harley-Davidson last year, the full-size electric motorcycle market is tiny. However, enthusiasm for electric vehicles is growing, supported by electric car manufacturer Tesla opening up its patents and Google's electric self-driving car prototype, so demand could soon grow considerably. Plus, the more electric vehicles there are on the road, the more demand there is for supercharger stations to recharge them and make longer trips feasible. While the only motorcycle I'm planning to ride any time soon is an Azeroth Chopper, I can see the appeal of an sleek-looking electric bike that sounds like a jet.

Source: Harley-Davidson via Seattle Times

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Now you can act like an asshole in traffic AND save the environment!

Sorry, but how is it still a Harley without the sound?

I'd get that. It'd be like riding a stealth bike. I could pretend I was Street Hawk.

This will not sell, it just does not match their demographics or their fanbase. Harley's appeal mostly to middle aged baby-boomers who have enough nostalgia and disposable income to buy a $30,000.00+ motorcycle (and the hundreds upon hundreds more to get the matching HD jacket, HD t-shirts, HD boots, HD bandana, HD socks, HD bumper sticker, HD coffee mug, etc.). This is Harley Davidson folks. They tried to make a more powerful cruiser with a liquid cooled engine developed for them by Porsche (the infamous V-Rod), and it was a sales disaster.

This is the company that to this day sells technological dinosaurs. Harley still uses air-cooled narrow V-twin engines with pushrods (which if you were to ask an engineer to design a less efficient engine, they would be hard pressed to do so); these engines were out of date more than half a century ago. You buy a Harley for the sound, and the brand.

If you want power, you go somewhere else.

If you want speed, you go somewhere else.

If you want reliability, you go somewhere else.

If you want convenience, you go somewhere else.

If you want cutting edge, you go somewhere else.

If you want environmentally friendly, you go somewhere else.

Their entire appeal is built upon their archaic nostalgia. Not only is the electric bike market a small niche, it is one that appeals to almost ZERO fans of Harley-Davidson.

I mean, hell, look at the guy riding the thing; it's a standard (with the pegs below the rider, as opposed to behind on a sportbike or the feet-forward position of a traditional cruiser)!

The sound of the bike reminded me of the Jetsons

sushkis2:
The sound of the bike reminded me of the Jetsons

Jane, stop this crazy thing!

OT: Funny, this doesn't seem like a Harley sort of action, more like Kawasaki.

Not really the same without the noise. Isnt that the iconic part of the bike?

I'm positively surprised at the milage at around 130 on one charge. My 88' Honda Magna does the same distance (although it has a pretty small tank) at optimal speeds. I'm guessing they'd both have similar milage for city driving, where chargers are plentiful anyway. As for being enviromentally friendly.. as all other electric vehicles, there's a huge problem with the resources needed for the batteries and so on.

The touch screen sounds interesting as well and I'm very surprised that we haven't seen a lot more of those in general in vehicles. Obviously there are the built-in GPS' and so on, but an actual touchscreen dashboard is something I'd like to see.

EvolutionKills:
This will not sell, it just does not match their demographics or their fanbase. Harley's appeal mostly to middle aged baby-boomers who have enough nostalgia and disposable income to buy a $30,000.00+ motorcycle (and the hundreds upon hundreds more to get the matching HD jacket, HD t-shirts, HD boots, HD bandana, HD socks, HD bumper sticker, HD coffee mug, etc.). This is Harley Davidson folks. They tried to make a more powerful cruiser with a liquid cooled engine developed for them by Porsche (the infamous V-Rod), and it was a sales disaster.

This is the company that to this day sells technological dinosaurs. Harley still uses air-cooled narrow V-twin engines with pushrods (which if you were to ask an engineer to design a less efficient engine, they would be hard pressed to do so); these engines were out of date more than half a century ago. You buy a Harley for the sound, and the brand.

I wrote a post earlier that got deleted (due to my own ineptitude) that wrote some of what you did, but I'm glad, because you summed it up a lot better. My first thought was the failed V-Rod as well. Not only is it a sales disaster, it's an extremely expensive technological disaster as well.

Besides, if this thing has the same quality of Harleys usual machines, it'll be one of the most expensive bikes in the world to maintain.

I'm glad you brought up the sound as well. I hate the roaring (usually modded) Harley's, but I have to admit that people do hear you coming and the somewhat stupid motto "Loud Pipes Save Lives" is an accurate one.
What do you think of silent bikes like these?

We've already seen some countries force manufacturers to add speakers to electric cars for safety. It seems almost necessary to me to add something similar to electric motorcycles, if not for the safety of scatter brained pedestrians, then for the safety of the rider due to other motorists simply not noticing you.

edit; One thing about Harley's, their comfort is pretty good. I rode 4000 kilometers on a Fatboy over the course of ten days and I felt better on it than I do in my office chair.
I've gone about 1500km over two days on a CB600 Hornet which is close to standard, and it was not bad at all either, so I'd wager the comfort of that bike is pretty decent, don't you think so?

While Harley Davidson is an... odd company to push this out, I would consider picking up an economical but still capable of highway speed electric bike in the future.

*shrugs*

Till then, I'll keep driving my Versa. Don't really have a choice. XD

It needs a feedback mechanism for recharging the battery. 200KMs is almost nothing. I go that far on mine in a short ride.
I would totally buy one of these!
Engine sound complaints? Pfft

I'd ride the hell out of that bike. Too bad I know it's going to be out of my price range.

Good on them and in before someone complains about it not being "traditional sounding," well there good sir, let me present you with some knowledge:

image
This one didn't sound like a Harley either

This is a good thing. If we bitch and moan about it being the "wrong company" to do something like this then we are just delaying what needs to happen. Every auto-mobile company needs to go electric at some point. A company such as Harley Davidson is exactly the type of company who needs to show that anyone can do it.

Ill tell you what this bike has on other electric bikes though. its engine is appealing to look at. the others look like they have a boxy shaped body which isnt as appealing to the eye as this one. They literally just look like someone took some car batteries and stuck them into the frame of the bike.

This looks good.

Also I ride a harley and there pretty damn reliable machines. The old piston pushrod mechanism has been going longer than servicemen using the 1911 as a sidearm for a reason. Also alot of companies use that not just harley.

If it actually sounds like what it did in the video, I think I could live without the traditional Harley noise. Sounds like a fuckin jet bike. I'd be interested in knowing what kind of price they'd be asking for it if they end up going into production.

Smilomaniac:
I'm positively surprised at the milage at around 130 on one charge. My 88' Honda Magna does the same distance (although it has a pretty small tank) at optimal speeds. I'm guessing they'd both have similar milage for city driving, where chargers are plentiful anyway. As for being enviromentally friendly.. as all other electric vehicles, there's a huge problem with the resources needed for the batteries and so on.

The touch screen sounds interesting as well and I'm very surprised that we haven't seen a lot more of those in general in vehicles. Obviously there are the built-in GPS' and so on, but an actual touchscreen dashboard is something I'd like to see.

EvolutionKills:
This will not sell, it just does not match their demographics or their fanbase. Harley's appeal mostly to middle aged baby-boomers who have enough nostalgia and disposable income to buy a $30,000.00+ motorcycle (and the hundreds upon hundreds more to get the matching HD jacket, HD t-shirts, HD boots, HD bandana, HD socks, HD bumper sticker, HD coffee mug, etc.). This is Harley Davidson folks. They tried to make a more powerful cruiser with a liquid cooled engine developed for them by Porsche (the infamous V-Rod), and it was a sales disaster.

This is the company that to this day sells technological dinosaurs. Harley still uses air-cooled narrow V-twin engines with pushrods (which if you were to ask an engineer to design a less efficient engine, they would be hard pressed to do so); these engines were out of date more than half a century ago. You buy a Harley for the sound, and the brand.

I wrote a post earlier that got deleted (due to my own ineptitude) that wrote some of what you did, but I'm glad, because you summed it up a lot better. My first thought was the failed V-Rod as well. Not only is it a sales disaster, it's an extremely expensive technological disaster as well.

Besides, if this thing has the same quality of Harleys usual machines, it'll be one of the most expensive bikes in the world to maintain.

I'm glad you brought up the sound as well. I hate the roaring (usually modded) Harley's, but I have to admit that people do hear you coming and the somewhat stupid motto "Loud Pipes Save Lives" is an accurate one.
What do you think of silent bikes like these?

We've already seen some countries force manufacturers to add speakers to electric cars for safety. It seems almost necessary to me to add something similar to electric motorcycles, if not for the safety of scatter brained pedestrians, then for the safety of the rider due to other motorists simply not noticing you.

edit; One thing about Harley's, their comfort is pretty good. I rode 4000 kilometers on a Fatboy over the course of ten days and I felt better on it than I do in my office chair.
I've gone about 1500km over two days on a CB600 Hornet which is close to standard, and it was not bad at all either, so I'd wager the comfort of that bike is pretty decent, don't you think so?

Actually, I used to have an 86' VF700C Magna, but now I have a 93' CB750 Nighthawk (and I can't say I miss the old 2.5 gallon tank in comparison to my Hawk's almost 5 gallon one).

Part of what make's the Harley's sound unique is the engine's crankshaft offset. In an inline-4 engine designed for efficiency and power (like my aforementioned Nighthawk) the cranks are at 180 degrees to each other, so that as one set of pistons is rising while the other set is being blasted back down; this way the momentum of the pistons helps the engine because they're working in unison. However some motorcycles, whether by design choice (some of Triumph's modern parallel twins) or by necessity (the geometry imposed by a narrow V-twin) have their crankshaft aligned in such a way that the pistons spend a certain percentage of their travel time in opposition to each other. This results loss of fuel efficiency and power, but with an increase in engine sound and vibration; which would be terrible in a sportbike, but are seen as positive attributes in a cruiser. Now the ironic thing here, is that Honda Shadows share the exact same offset measurement as Harleys, meaning that you can get them to sound almost identical (but the Shadows are liquid cooled at least).

I'm personally split on the sound bit. My Nighthawk has a modified exhaust, but it's still a relatively quiet bike. I'm sure that my horn has been far more useful in getting attention that my exhaust ever has. Then again my father's massive VTX1800 has a set of Cobra pipes on it, and when he pulls in the clutch and cracks the throttle it sounds akin to a shotgun. But combine that with the doppler effect, and I'm still not sure if extra noise is the way to go. Keeping your head on a swivel and just assuming that no one else on the road notices you has been a far more effective safety policy for myself than relying on noise. So I wouldn't have a problem with the electric bikes for a safety reason, I'd just miss the sound of the engine. I'd be more concerned with being able to judge engine response and RPM for shifting by sound than I would be worried about possible safety benefits of a loud exhaust.

So I might be interested in an electric bike, but certainly not from Harley. They've done nothing, for as long as I've been aware of them, to instill any confidence in their engineering chops; and every reason to doubt their reliability and affordability. If they do manage to bring this to market, I'd expect just another DOA bike like the V-Rod (which has the best Harley engine ever, because it's the only liquid cooled one they make and it was developed for them by Porsche). Especially compared to Honda's new lineup of smaller, more affordable, and cheaper 500cc to 700cc range of motorcycles they're pushing. The oversized cruiser fad is over. Whatever this electric bike will cost, I'll almost guarantee you that you'll be able to afford 3 Hondas that would all get 60~70mpg.

They should add a speaker and rumble motor system to simulate the feel of the gas engine system.

orangeapples:
They should add a speaker and rumble motor system to simulate the feel of the gas engine system.

I hope you are being sarcastic because no, they absolutely should not.

Take away the only appeal of a Harley? Sure, why not? I wouldn't ride one anyway, even if they paid me to.

SonOfVoorhees:
Not really the same without the noise. Isnt that the iconic part of the bike?

"Loud pipes save lives."
I'm pretty sure they've had the ability to make quiet motorcycles for a while, but being loud makes it easier for the idiots in cars to notice you and therefore not hit you.

I support anything that puts more pure electric vehicles on the road, even if it is a niche amount of them. It's another step in the right direction in my eyes.

Looks great. I'd buy it if the price was reasonable and I had a job.

I really want a cool electric vehicle. The only thing that concerns me is the range.

DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR STUPID HARLEY.
I want a Light Cycle, dammit!

image

This some mean bike! I ride a 2006 Yamaha FZ6 at the moment but would not mind giving that beaut a go if it comes through Saskatchewan.

Alleged_Alec:
Sorry, but how is it still a Harley without the sound?

Because Harley Davidson made it?

Souplex:

SonOfVoorhees:
Not really the same without the noise. Isnt that the iconic part of the bike?

"Loud pipes save lives."
I'm pretty sure they've had the ability to make quiet motorcycles for a while, but being loud makes it easier for the idiots in cars to notice you and therefore not hit you.

Im not 100% but sound was due to a mechanical mistake, and they can fix the loud noise. But it sounded great so they left it. All these silent vehicles on the road isnt good, wonder if road deaths will sky rocket?

SonOfVoorhees:

Souplex:

SonOfVoorhees:
Not really the same without the noise. Isnt that the iconic part of the bike?

"Loud pipes save lives."
I'm pretty sure they've had the ability to make quiet motorcycles for a while, but being loud makes it easier for the idiots in cars to notice you and therefore not hit you.

Im not 100% but sound was due to a mechanical mistake, and they can fix the loud noise. But it sounded great so they left it. All these silent vehicles on the road isnt good, wonder if road deaths will sky rocket?

It's not a mechanical mistake, it's the very nature of the beast. The narrow (less than 90 degree) V-twin engine will, by the very nature of geometry, fight itself. Because the V is so narrow, the pistons will be fighting each other. The motion of the pistons are not always in unison, and there will be a point in the engine's 4-stroke cycle where the pistons are actually pulling on the crankshaft in different directions. It's this inefficiency that robs the engine of power and fuel efficiency, while also giving it the distinctive shake and exhaust note.

Now by their nature, Harley's have to be like this. Other motorcycle companies have built cruisers with 90 degree V engines (such as the Honda Magna and the Yamaha Virago and V-Max) to gain greater power, efficiency, and reliability. Others motorcycles actually have better engines, but purposely alter the position of the pistons on the crankshaft to cause a slight amount of rumble on purpose. The most recent series of Triumph parallel-twin engines does this, they offset the crankshaft from a perfectly balanced 180, purposely sacrificing power and efficiency for the sake of sound.

But you don't need a terrible engine to make it loud, just listen to any sport-bike with an aftermarket exhaust. Nor should you rely on sound to save you. If the person isn't paying enough attention to see you, what are the chances they are paying enough attention to hear you? You're best defense as a rider is always your own awareness and maneuverability. Which is ironic, considering the 'loud pipes save lives' crowd always seem to be the ones most likely to not be wearing a helmet anyways...

Case in point, here is an animation of a narrow V-twin engine. As you can see, because both pistons are attacked to the same position on the crankshaft, the motion of the pistons is not in perfect unison. The don't work perfectly opposite of one another, rather both pistons are coming down and going up at almost the same time; and it's that slight offset that creates the excessive engine vibration and exhaust note that cruisers are known for.

image

Now compare that to an inline 4 cylinder, as seen in many sport-bikes and cars. The 4 pistons are in perfect unison, with 2 going down while the other 2 go up in perfect synchronization. Just looking at the motions of the pistons alone, it's like looking at the motion of someone skipping or trotting versus someone running.

image

 

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