Harley-Davidson LiveWire Review — Can an Electric Motorcycle have Soul?
They Harley-Davidson LiveWire is the most expensive commercially available electric motorcycle on the market. It raised a lot of buzz from the media, mostly because it’s just so… different for Harley-Davidson — a company known for low-tech (but beautiful, and nice to ride) cruisers — to create a sporty standard with an electric motor. What in the world?
I was lucky enough to be able to ride a Harley-Davidson LiveWire for a couple of days. I’ve ridden a ton of bikes in over 15 years of riding, and am generally a fan of tech (I enjoy electric mountain bikes, too), and so thought my perspective may be worth sharing.
I wanted to give a review from the perspective of an “ordinary day of riding”: cruising on a freeway, of course taking it for a blast in the mountains on the weekend, winding down slow roads, and getting stuck in traffic on the way.
This isn’t about the Harley-Davidson LiveWire on a track, going across a continent, or doing all kinds of things you might not normally do.
And this is what I think of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire — riding it everyday, the way we normally ride motorbikes.
Are you obsessed with motorcycles?
Well, I am. That’s why I created this site — as an outlet. I love learning and sharing what others might find useful. If you like what you read here, and you’re a fraction as obsessed as I am, you might like to know when I’ve published more. (Check the latest for an idea of what you’ll see.)
A lot of reviewers or fans of electric motorcycles are somewhat different to me. They might be young, wealthy, and/or tech-forward. Electric bikes might be their first bikes.
I’m tech-friendly (hey, I have websites!), but I’m not a Silicon Valley-based developer who thinks code is a metaphor for life.
I’ve ridden motorcycles since my early 20s when I thought I should pick up riding as a life skill that will serve me in many crazier parts of the world. Having now ridden (small) motorcycles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, I am very glad I did learn it when I could!
Since then I’ve ridden dozens of motorcycles, many of which I’ve owned, and a few of which I’ve rented and put a few hundred miles on. I haven’t fall in love with them all, although anything with two wheels and a motor is vastly superior to nothing at all.
I don’t ride at high speeds for no reason… though I do sometimes. I wear gear. I don’t get my knee down on public roads or run from cops. If you’re looking for a sensationalist rider — maybe try YouTube.
But I do all the things normal riders do, and then some. I sit in traffic. I fang (that’s an Australian term… it means “go fast”) machines up quiet country and mountain roads on weekends. I do interstate trips a few times a year.
I work on my machine, doing my own servicing (everything short of a full engine tear-down), sometimes totally rebuilding them. And I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do — just sometimes there are space limitations (and budget limitations on equipment) as I don’t have a full workshop, just a lot of great tools.
OK, enough about me, that’s just so you know whether my opinion is relevant. Now about the motorcycle!
About the Harley-Davidson LiveWire… the Basics
I’m no spring chicken and I’ve ridden my fair share of motorcycles as you can see from this site. But somehow, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire was the first Harley-Davidson I’ve ever ridden!
I have nothing against Harleys. I love the look, I enjoy the sound, and I’m aware that the “culture” only applies to me if I adopt it. I have friends with Sportsters, Dynas, and one lucky one with a V-Rod. Given I usually include a Harley-Davidson in my list of most attractive motorcycles, I’ve always thought that one was in my future, when I pick a spot to live in long-term in the next couple of years.
But I never expected my first Harley-Davidson ride to be on an electric motorcycle!
Let me try to introduce the Harley-Davidson LiveWire’s characteristics as a motorcycle as briefly as possible, just so you don’t have Google “Livewire Specs” somewhere else:
- Posture: It’s an upright sporty performance motorcycle. The riding stance is a bit like a Ducati Monster. The handlebars are wide.
- Drivetrain: All electric, water-cooled, single gear (i.e. no gears). It produces 105 HP (78 kW), with torque available all the way from down low. Torque levels feel like riding a sports motorcycle in third gear without ever having to shift.
- Chassis: A 250kg solid-feeling chassis with weight down low. It feels very balanced and is easy to keep almost at a stand-still.
- Top speed: 95 mph. On the freeway, this means that at 70mph it has plenty of accelerating torque to spare. Point and shoot.
- Electronics: The whole kit — lean angle-sensitive ABS (an IMU), traction control with multiple ride modes, cruise control.
Like I mentioned in my Zero SR/F review, the things people want to know about electric motorcycles are “how far will it go”, “how fast will it go”, and “how long will it take to recharge”.
In addition to that, I’ll try to answer a few other pertinent questions, like: can an electric motorcycle have a soul?
Serving two masters
Harley-Davidson has tried having separate brands before, though never successfully. It had Aermacchi bikes in the 1960’s and 1970’s, branded RVs in the 1980’s, and it purchased Buell Motorcycle in the late 1990s, though it was never a commercial success under its tutelage and was eventually shut down. It bought MV Agusta a decade later for 109 million, but sold it back to them less than two years later for just 3 euros, or less than 4.
When Harley-Davidson announced the LiveWire electric motorcycles in 2014, it had all the hallmarks of being in the same vein: a motorcycle far afield from its core heavyweight bikes for which it would have to appeal to a new, different kind of motorcycle rider.
The readily draws comparisons to Harley’s racing-styled V-Rod that featured a Porsche-made liquid-cooled engine. Launched in 2001 to introduce the Harley brand to riders who otherwise might not have considered the bike maker, it was an engineering marvel that still draws accolades, but sales never amounted to much during its 17 year run.
Yet now with Harley-Davidson giving LiveWire its own dedicated showrooms, a separate (virtual) headquarters with hubs in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee, and allow it to operate as its own business, it looks like management is setting up this business in a new wat where there’s a good chance the bike maker can be successful on both fronts.
Leaving the past behind
LiveWire is going to be both a motorcycle and a brand with its own identity. Gone are the iconic bar-and-shield logo, replaced by a leaner, lighter LiveWire name and stylized logo. In fact, the name Harley-Davidson doesn’t appear anywhere on the bike.
Because it will interact only with participating dealerships as an independent brand, it sounds as though this won’t be a forced, top-down approach and will include only dealers who actually want to sell the bikes.
Harley has never released any hard sales figure for its original LiveWire electric bike, though analysts were numbering their estimates in the hundreds. Yet the biggest hurdle was its price tag. At 30,000, it was far above its primary rival Zero Motorcycles, which sells similarly sized electric bikes for one-third to one-half the price.
On the other end is Lightning Motorcycle that sells electric motorcycles across the pricing spectrum, with high-end models starting at almost 39,000, but also others at 20,000.
Harley, though, kept saying driving a lot of sales with the LiveWire was never its intended purpose, but was intended to serve as a museum-quality halo product.
The new LiveWire One, however, was just unveiled with a list price just under 22,000 (and federal tax credits could push it below 20,000 for buyers), indicating Harley wants this motorcycle to actually sell. It suggests this first bike from the brand could be every bit the success that the original was not.
There are still speed bumps along the way
But let’s not discount the hurdles Harley still faces. Harley is focusing first on the urban rider because the LiveWire’s range is not really compatible with long distances. It has a 146-mile city range on a full charge, which falls to under 100 miles when you factor in sustained 70 mph trips.
In comparison, the Zero SR/S has a 161 mile range, but can go up to 200 miles with the extended battery pack. It lists at 20,000. Lightning’s Strike bike also has a 200-mile city range, 100 miles highway.
Also, a fast-charge network is not universally available, so these will mostly remain commuter bikes, which is why Harley was Smart to drop the LiveWire One’s price down to a more competitive level.
How Much does an Electric Motorcycle Cost: Savings and Maintenance Considerations
If you’re thinking of buying a motorcycle, you’ll have to choose between an electric engine and a gas-powered engine. Old-fashioned riders tend to be fond of revving the engines on their gas guzzlers, but electric motorcycles are becoming increasingly popular on the road. They can be more expensive upfront, but they offer dozens of potential benefits, many of which will save you money.
Learn more about the costs associated with electric motorcycles and how they compare to their gas-powered counterparts.
How Much Does an Electric Motorcycle Cost?
Electric vehicles have been making inroads with traditional consumers for years, but they haven’t been as popular with motorcycle enthusiasts – until now. Many manufacturers have created their own line of electric motorcycles to appeal to more environmentally conscious consumers.
Considering these vehicles have only been on the market for a few years, they tend to be much more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. Beginner electric bikes and motorcycles can go for just a few thousand dollars, while electric motorcycles from Harley Davidson and Zero usually start at around 20,000 or a few thousand more. Davidson recently lowered the price of its flagship Livewire electric motorcycle from just under 30,000 to 22,000.
Compare with the average price of a gas-powered motorcycle. Beginner bikes usually go for around 5,000 to 10,000, while more experienced riders usually go for bikes in the 10,000 to 15,000 range. However, high-end gas-powered bikes can go for as much as 30,000 or more.
Going electric may be about the same or more than buying a gas-powered motorcycle depending on your budget and preferences. You can also easily find a used gas-powered motorcycle, which can help you save more upfront. Finding a used electric motorcycle is rare, as they are usually just a few years old. for electric motorcycles will likely come down in the years to come as this technology becomes more popular.
So, why are electric motorcycles so much more expensive than gas motorcycles?
While electric motorcycles don’t have a clutch, gearbox, drivetrain, oil, spark plugs and other components needed for combustion, they need other components to hold a charge, some of which can be quite expensive. Electric motorcycles need a battery, battery charger, motor, motor controller and other various components to store electricity.
Because they are powered with electricity, these bikes also have to be waterproofed to prevent electrocution and battery failure.
The gear is generally the same for both types of motorcycles. You can use the same type of gloves, boots, and helmet as you would on a gas motorcycle. Use a motorcycle Bluetooth helmet to access your phone hands-free while riding.
Repair Costs for an Electric Motorcycle
The good news is that electric motorcycles cost much less to repair than gas-powered bikes. They do not have to combust air and fuel to generate power, which reduces the chances of mechanical failure. Just like your phone or some other appliance, all you have to do is charge the battery and turn the bike on. It’s just that simple.
Gas-powered motorcycles usually cost around 450,000 to repair per year. All that oil and fuel will wear away at the internal parts over time. There’s also the chance the combustion chamber could overheat, which could lead to parts fusing together. This increases the risk of accidents. Wear a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet to give yourself more peace of mind.
You won’t have to pay nearly that much to repair your electric motorcycle. They generally cost less than 100 to repair each year, which is about as much as you would pay to repair a traditional push bike.
Fuel Costs for an Electric Motorcycle
The price of gasoline will continue to change on a dime, making your fuel costs hard to predict. Gas-powered motorcycles usually cost around 20 to 30 to refuel, depending on the size of the tank.
Electric motorcycles just need access to electricity, usually the same electricity that powers your home. Even if it takes eight or more hours to charge the battery, it will usually cost less than a dollar. Most people charge the battery on their electric bike overnight during off-peak hours. This is the cheapest time to use electricity.
If you generate your own source of electricity using solar or wind energy, you won’t have to pay anything to recharge the battery on your electric motorcycle. The utility company may even pay you to pump excess electricity into the grid.
While electric motorcycles cost more upfront compared to gas-powered motorcycles, they will help you save money overtime. Regardless of which type you choose, use Bluetooth motorcycle speakers to keep in touch with your loved ones.
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LiveWire Del Mar Electric Motorcycle From Harley-Davidson Pricing Revealed
The LiveWire Del Mar is the second electric motorcycle from Harley-Davidson.
Harley-Davidson has created a new electric motorcycle brand called LiveWire, following in the footsteps of many automakers who have created new divisions for their electric cars in order to distinguish them from their traditional gasoline- and diesel-powered offerings. Volkswagen has its ID. brand, while Mercedes electric cars are marketed under the EQ brand. GM now builds electric delivery vans which it sells under the Brightdrop label.
The first electric motorcycle from the Milwaukee company is called the LiveWire One, which lists for 22,799, zips to 60 mph in 3 seconds, and has a range of 145 miles. It can be recharged from 0 to 80% of capacity in 40 minutes using a DC fast charger.
This week, the company unveiled its new middleweight electric motorcycle called the Del Mar. Built on the brand’s new Arrow platform, it features a 60 kW (80 HP) motor capable of sprints to 60 mph in under four seconds, Engadget says, quoting medisources. The starting price will be 15,000.
The Del Mar uses lithium-ion battery cells in the 2170 format housed in a structural case that doubles as part of the frame. To make it lighter, the onboard charger and other components are packaged inside a single unit mounted to the outside of the battery case. As a result of the company’s campaign to reduce weight, the Del Mar is about 25% lighter than the LiveWire One.
Range of the LiveWire is expected to be around 100 miles, but it can only be charged using a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. It will feature built-in GPS and cellular connectivity, which will allow the company to roll out new software features for the motorcycle and fine tune its performance through over-the-air updates.
After the Del Mar was revealed this week, LiveWire made 100 special Launch Edition models available at 17,699. They sold out faster than Harley-Davidson T shirts at Daytona bike week. Regular production of the Del Mar is expected to begin in the spring of 2023.
The Rest Of The Story
Sharp eyed readers will note the announcement this week says the LiveWire Del Mar will be built on the so-called Arrow platform. It also said it is developing a third model based on that architecture. Some may remember my colleague Jo Borras did a story about the Arrow platform just last month and a company called Zaiser that may (or may not) have been involved in the Arrow project.
When he asked for clarification, he got a lot of “no comment” answers and several dark mutterings about attorneys, courts, and lawsuits. Jo is still digging for the rest of that story and when we know more, you’ll know more. Until then, check out this way cool video from Harley-Davidson about the new Del Mar.
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