More details were released in January about Harley Davidson’s much-anticipated electric motorcycle. The Harley Davidson “Livewire” electric motorcycle is a new product that I, myself, have been greatly interested in, mostly because I’m convinced several of the recent moves HD are making are the wrong ones.
Harley Davidson confirmed the bike, which resembles a sport bike or “rice rocket,” not a traditional HD cruiser, is said to have a range of about 110 miles in urban settings; the Livewire prototype, however, had a range of 55 miles or about 89 kilometers. I’m not joking. That’s how far the prototype could travel on a full charge. You ‘d barely get to Edmonton from Wetaskiwin.
Obviously, if the Livewire is shaped like a sport bike, HD is not trying to market this to their traditional customer: the full-sleeve tattoo, ZZ Top beard-sporting fellow. Those guys aren’t going to be getting on a sport bike, let alone one that doesn’t have exhaust pipes.
The range factor isn’t going to work either. Motorcyclists, regardless of their interest, are known to be unpredictable. Lots of us like to jump on our bike on a warm July morning and just ride west, with no particular goal in mind. Well, with the Livewire and it 89 km range, you better have a map that shows where the recharge stations are.
The Hawg-maker also confirmed the Livewire will have a top speed of about 110 miles per hour, which is roughly 178 km/hr. I have a Honda CBR 500r that, according to the manufacturer, tops out at 200 km/hr, and a 500 cc engine is nothing special in the sport bike world, I can tell you. This Livewire isn’t going to win converts on the drag strip.
HD stated the Livewire is going to have “a new signature Harley-Davidson sound as it accelerates.” Part of this new sound may stem from the fact an electric bike doesn’t need a clutch and doesn’t require shifting; I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I’m riding, I love shifting gears. Fun, fun, fun.
One of the most shocking facts about this bike, though, is it’s sticker price. Harley Davidson confirmed in January the Livewire’s U.S. base price will be $29,799, which would roughly translate to $40,000 CAN for a base model. Holy doodle.
Anyone who’s interested in an electric motorcycle must be aware of a company called Zero, which manufactures such vehicles. According to Zero’s Canadian website I checked Mar. 7, their model Zero S, which appears similar to the HD Livewire, has a 359 km urban range and 180 km highway range with a base price of $14,395. So you could buy this Zero, which appears to have better specs, and keep about $25,000 in the bank.
There’s one final question that’s bothering me: What does Harley Davidson know about electric bikes? This is their initial foray into the industry, and past experience suggests that a manufacturer entering a new industry is going to endure a teething period. Is there going to be a trial and error period where bugs or problems get ironed out? Will the Livewire be reliable?
I guess we’re going to find out this summer.
Stu Salkeld is a motorcyclist who has ridden street bikes since 1989 and writes a regular column for the paper.