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Harley-Davidson Livewire Electric Motorcycle Concept: Test Ride


Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

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The Harley-Davidson Project Livewire electric motorcycle concept has been blazing across the country, with demonstration rides offered to owners and fans on no fewer than 40 concept bikes. 

Now we've ridden it, and we can weigh in: The Livewire motorcycle looks great, accelerates hard, and rides smoothly. 

I attended a test ride near Philadelphia last weekend, and got answers to many of the questions about the bike. 

DON'T MISS: 2014 Electric Motorcycles: Buyer's Guide

First of all, this is a concept bike. It's not a prototype, and it's not a model that Harley-Davidson plans to produce. Harley representatives are very clear that Project Livewire is about getting a sense of how people would respond if the company were to make an electric motorcycle. 

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

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Job open: Project Manager

However, Harley is actively hiring a project manager for Livewire--and it doesn't seem likely that it would have made fully 40 concept bikes if it weren't serious about entering the electric motorcycle market within the next few years.

From what I saw at the test ride, Harley got positive responses from a variety of riders. My impression was that younger riders tended to be more enthusiastic, while older riders took a little more time to adjust to far less sound--and no clutch.   

ALSO SEE: Harley Davidson Reveals LiveWire Electric Motorcycle: Video

By the numbers, it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just under 4 seconds, and has a top speed limited to 92 mph. The Livewire provides 52 lb-ft of torque, 74 horsepower, and felt like it weighs somewhere around 400 pounds. 

The acceleration of the Livewire is better than either a Zero S or Brammo Empulse R, but not quite as quick as the Zero SR. That's based on the specs available for the bikes, but having ridden each of them, I agree.

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle concept, test ride event, July 2014 [photo: Ben Rich]

Enlarge Photo

What's it like to ride?

Harley made a great electric motorcycle concept. The controls were comfortable, the acceleration was immediate, and the suspension absorbed everything the road could put in its way. This felt like a refined machine that is ready to ride.  

When you turn on the bike, the display boots up like a computer. You know the bike is live when you press the start button and the oil circulator comes on. Sport and Economy modes are both available on the touchscreen instrument panel.  

ALSO SEE: Electric Motorcycle Road Trip: What I Learned, What You Need To Know

Riding the Livewire in Sport mode is an exhilarating experience: The immediate torque at a standstill makes for an awesome launch from a stop. At highway speeds, that same torque is right there on tap to let you blast by anyone on the road.

The regenerative braking is perfectly calibrated to bring you to a comfortable stop under most circumstances. The friction brakes are very capable and confidence-inspiring when used. 

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle prototype

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle prototype

Enlarge Photo

Like most bikes, the regenerative brake doesn't light up the rear light, so Harley representatives recommended touching the rear brake lightly to notify riders and drivers behind that you are slowing down.

Making it louder

At a standstill the bike is silent, and while riding it sounds like a jet fighter. Harley has said it purposely made the sound more significant: The Livewire is louder than a Zero or Brammo, but is easy to get used to. Riders can quickly judge their speeds based on the pitch of the electric motor.

The seat is comfortable, though riders in my group commented that the foot position could be made adjustable for greater comfort. The concept bike was rather short, so it felt small to me as a 6'0" rider. But more people can test ride a smaller bike, and there is less likelihood of someone dropping one.

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle prototype

Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle prototype

Enlarge Photo

Also, the size makes sense knowing that it will be featured in the next Avengers movie--with the petite Scarlett Johansson (at 5'3") as the Black Widow character.

The throttle has the ability to roll both backward and forward from neutral. Roll it back and you can accelerate hard. With the throttle in neutral you slow down with regenerative braking.

Regen control, range

Also, if you roll the throttle forward, the same regenerative braking occurs--there is no difference. This may be an aspect of the design Harley could utilize in the future to provide more precise control of regenerative braking.


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© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.
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