Leaked: Tech Details on the Harley-Davidson Livewire

06/18/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler58 COMMENTS


Thanks to our network of Bothan spy tipsters, we posted today the still-unreleased photos of the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire. Details were light from our sources though, but Bothans are a tireless breed (note: for new readers, we sort of have this whole Star Wars motif on leaked stories…just roll with it, we already know we’re nerds).

While the consensus on Project Livewire seems to be that it’s a looker, the devil is in the details…and now we have those as well. Featuring a three-phase induction motor with 55 kW of power (just under 74hp) and 52 lbs•ft of torque, the Harley-Davidson Livewire is packing more power than both the Brammo Empulse R (54 hp) and Zero SR (67 hp). That’s the good.

The bad is that despite its hefty casing size, the Harley-Davidson Livewire motorcycle is a little light in the loafers when it comes to battery capacity. Our guesstimate on battery pack size, judging from Harley’s quoted charge time and parameters, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 kWh nominal, a bit less than the 9.3 kWh and 10.0 kWh of the Brammo and Zero.

That means the Harley-Davidson Livewire is good for just over 50 miles of mixed city and highway riding that is limited to 92 mph (we’re not really sure how Harley-Davidson came up with that figure). Expect to go 0-60 in around 4 seconds.

What is perhaps most interesting is that the Harley-Davidson Livewire isn’t a finished project from Milwaukee. Instead, Harley-Davidson is looking for customer feedback on its first electric motorcycle model, and will be setting up demo rides at Harley-Davidson dealers for loyal Bar & Shield enthusiasts.

This is perhaps a smart move by Harley-Davidson, which is no doubt uncertain of how Project Livewire will be received by loyal fans, and possible new converts, alike. If the Livewire gains positive buzz, Harley-Davidson can move forward with the project, likely with a bigger battery pack, and other refinements suggested by fans and the media.

If the machine is a total flop though (it doesn’t appear so, from all the positive comments we’ve seen), then the more conservative voices inside Harley-Davidson can take the results back to the company’s shareholders, say “I told you so,” and return to making the same rolling nostalgia pieces it’s made for the past several decades.

In all, it’s a good way for Milwaukee to hedge its bets on what could be a very pivotal machine for the company. I for one hope that Harley-Davidson has learned the proper lesson from the V-Rod disaster: it’s good to listen to your brand enthusiasts, but they will only take you down the same road you’ve been. If you want to strikeout onto a new path, it’s best to mind your attention on where that road leads, and who else follows it.

Double the battery pack (at the very least!), and keep it under $20,000 Harley-Davidson, and you’ll have a winner here. More power wouldn’t hurt either, but we were going to say that regardless.

Source: Bothan Spies

  • Probably < 450 pounds. A light Harley?

    Top speed is obviously gearing-limited. With short gearing and relatively light weight, this thing is going to fly.. expect to see a little south of 4 second 0-60. At least in the same quickness ballpark as most H-D models.

    Getting butts in seats will sell the bike where the specs will not.

  • Yeah if I was Harley, I’d call this the ultimate streetlight racer…

  • bob

    i wanted this bike until i read it can only do 50 miles.

  • smiler

    Perhaps they should start by making their current bikes look like this. It looks pretty good except the rubber band drive. Mircale do happen.

  • Gutterslob

    Harley Davidson seem to have ticked all the right boxes with this one. It’s relatively cheap (for a Harley), targeted at younger people and looks retro enough without being agricultural. Even the 50 mile range is more than adequate for what it’ll be used for – trips to Starbucks.

  • Anvil

    So, a trial balloon, then. That’s what I expected. It’s hard to imagine H-D doing anything so radical without much handwringing and shareholder blessing.

    It would be great to see a bike that looks like this with an uncorked version of the 750 engine but that’s probably even more unlikely.

  • charmingdragon

    ‘It’s a trap…’

  • Phenix_Rider

    You came here in that thing!? You’re braver than I thought.

  • Dale Miller

    Now that Elon Musk has OPEN SOURCED ALL Patents to his Electric car tech. The battery tech will follow . H.D. should take a long hard look at this .

  • Andrew

    I think it looks pretty good but apart from looking at it, WTF am I supposed to do with a bike that has 50 mile range?!?

  • Bluey

    let it be known that Bluey actually likes this H-D. a very smart move for Harley, and aesthetically well executed. not easy to do! hats off to them.

  • Mike

    needs more chrome

  • t-Bone

    What % of the components are actually made in the USA?

  • Steve

    Leaked: Livewire already leaking oil on driveways. Better than leaking electricity says HD

  • sideswipeasaurus

    “I got a bad feeling about this.”

    Actually a good feeling but couldn’t resist adding to the SW quote roll. That HD is at least jumping into the electric moto game is great. If such a recalcitrant heritage worshipping (or banking) concern is looking to the future then momentum may grow beyond the boutique brands without the resources or logistics to make electric bikes commonplace. Now where can we find some light power dense sources to lash up to that electric motor.

  • Lloyd

    Great looking Bike! If it charges on both 110 and 220 plus has range equal to or better than the Zero count me in!

  • Greg

    Per other’s comments, one of the biggest issues that HD and other electric manufacturers need to improve on is usable range. Certainly, the electrics will work just fine as city bikes, but if they can get a solid 150 highway miles out of a battery charge that will be huge.

  • “Sure hope the old man got that tractor beam out of commission, or this is gonna be a real short trip. Okay, hit it!”

    I sure hope those old men give it a bigger battery… cause that is a real short trip. Otherwise, it looks good and makes enough power for most of us normal folk. =)

  • Alclab

    As i said in a previous post, I’ve always been a Harley hater (sound, lack of power, relaiability, “style over substance”, etc.). They have been really trying to get a younger market as clearly the current one wasn’t expanding and most likely had been slowly dying for some time (they tried marketing to hipsters and then the Street 500 and 750 for example), but nothing really changed in their ways. I think this is a very bold move for a company that has sold the same basic formla for so many years, and a bet for the future.

    IMHO they should really stick with this new bet and new path, it completely changes the way we (young adults) look at the brand and the technology involved, finally we can see some R&D instead of “brand marketing”, and they should (as Dale Miller said above) take advantage of the Tesla open patents, a little more range and it’s a keeper.

    Finally it looks good (modern-retro-café style) with a decent riding position (no more riding on a couch) and the instant torque should be a welcome feature for current Harley riders, add to that the removal of the “potato-potato” sound, and obnoxious turning of fuel into noise (which I have always disliked), into a new “Patented Harley sound” (the new electric engine whirl) and they might just reinvent and dominate the market for years to come…

    Here’s hoping HD (and other brands) stick with it for the future and we can get clean motorcycles, that are also very fast, cool looking and have decent range between charges.

  • Bob

    I’ll admit, even after seeing the patents, that i never expected to see this bike from H-D.

    But getting over that brief shock (get it?!), i am Jack’s complete lack of surprise when it comes to the mediocre specs.

  • Rico Bustamente

    Alclab…. if this were ANY other motorcycle company, you & many others would have a hard-on for this bike….
    but… because it comes from Harley, you & others can’t resist adding you negative buzz-kill comments….
    I have no interest in an electric bike or car… I like internal combustion engines…

    but.. I must say… your comments about Harleys re: comfort (no more riding on a couch), torque (the instant torque should be a welcome feature for current Harley ) just shows your incompetence when it comes to bikes…. all big twin (103 ci) Harleys have TONS of torque…. that’s what they are known for… stump pulling torque….. where you been all these years?
    & your “HD is slowly dying” comment…. I guess you are too young to appreciate a good stock investment when you see one…. HD stock is great… plus they pay a 1/4 dividend…. That’s doesn’t happen year after year to a company whose product is “slowly dying” or whose sales are in the tank…
    So… say what you will, but the facts do not support your drivel….

  • Bob

    Sorry Rico, no.

    If Honda came out with a new electric bike with a huge flourish of marketing BS, and it only had a 50 mile range, we’d tear it to shreds, too.

  • Peter88

    “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

    The power is fine. They’ll probably offer range upgrade options when you buy the bike. I’m no Harley hater but this product has totally changed my viewpoint towards the motor company. Build it Harley! This thing is awesome!

  • Alex

    Hopefully Harley is reading these posts.

    I say good job. I really like the style, and I’ve never owned a Harley. Everyone else, but not a Harley. Even if they updated the styling on thier ICE bikes to this….that would be a huge attraction. Harley, leave it as is (style,etc…) and just get the range to more like 100-150 miles, and keep it under 20K…I think you might have a winner. Now will the traditionalists buy it? Probably not, but would they buy an electric bike anyway? Probably not…..so assess your risk, at least make a new ICE model with that design! Maybe the newly re-imagined V-Rod?????

  • Alclab

    @Rico Bustamante:

    I believe you completely misinterpreted my comments. I said that those assets (huge torque) from an electric bike, were a good thing to “maintain” their loyal customers who are used to and take pride in having that amount of torque on their bikes. The same can be said about the comfort, Harleys are renown for their riding comfort VS “sport riding position” (hence the couch comment and that position is no longer present in the Livewire).

    Also, I said it at the beggining, I AM (was?) a Harley hater… But what I said was that the Livewire could be the motorcycle to change Harley haters (such as myself), as well as young adults in general, that image of lack of progression in their bikes and just overall being (relatively) slow noise machines.

  • Alclab

    LOL, i guess what I’m trying to say is:

    Props for Harley-Davidson if they actually make it a production model!

    I believe it will do a lot for their brand in the future and such an unexpected turn for them might just be their best bet yet.

  • rashomon

    92mph = 150kph, just saying . . .

  • Rico Bustamente

    DAMN…. happy to say then, that I apologize & wasWRONG!

    I totally agree that 50 mile rabge sucks…. need at least 150… with quick charge ability….

    but I still prefer internal combustion….

  • Craig

    You know, I actually like it! I remember when HD was racing AMA and I was at Mid Ohio with my dad when I was a kid, and we asked the team why HD was racing for 10th place and their reply was, “Because assholes with ponytails are calling the shots”. With this, maybe Hardly Dangerous is shedding that image they are so stuck on, and actively recruiting new riders in a totally different segment. I rode the Zero and loved it! If I had to commute on the roads (instead of working overseas), I would totally buy one. It was fun, sporty enough for a spirited ride around town, and the instantaneous torque was awesome! I hope HD does this, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see them start turning out some bikes that appeal to the masses.

  • Mike


    Your math is wrong. 93 mph = 149.7 kph. Just saying . . .

  • I think that many of you are missing the point of this bike. It isn’t a pre-production bike. It is, to use Harley’s own words, a “demonstrator.” It’s a test balloon to gauge reaction. It has only a limited range because the eventual production bike to come (which may be 5 or more years away still) will likely benefit from some of the very promising battery technology on the horizon. Batteries will get quite a bit lighter, and have more energy density, in the next few years. So, this demonstrator doesn’t have a huge battery pack weighing it down like current production e-bikes; it has a lighter battery pack similar to the one that it is likely to have if and when it reaches production in a number of years.

    In other words, this bike isn’t intended to show that current e-bikes are capable of great range. It’s intended to show what an e-bike manufactured sometime down the road will be like to ride.

    Personally I think that Harley should get a lot of credit for being far-sighted enough to have come up with this demonstrator bike. Clearly they are exhibiting a willingness to think outside their usual comfort zone. This bike has the potential to appeal to any and all motorcyclists, not just loyal HD owners.

  • TM1

    Dont tell my Dad, but I would buy this Harley… would I sell the pasta rockets? I’d consider it… More motor and more range and I am in

  • crshnbrn

    Looking at the Project Livewire Experience stopping points, I won’t be in close proximity to one of these until late summer. I have never ridden a motorcycle with more than two cylinders. I find myself looking forward to riding a motorcycle with less than one cylinder.

  • irksome

    First good looking Harley since the XLCR, and it’ll probably get about as much support from the pirates.

    And I hate that I have to say that. When HD asked Congress to eliminate the tariff on Japanese bikes (remember 700cc?), I had to give them a lot of credit. Since then it’s been an parade of new chrome on old designs, OHCs 20+ yrs after the industry, no factory support for the VR1000 team, no consumer support for the VRod, no dealer support for Buell, busted unions, $17hr workers w/ no benefits and an endless parade of weekend pirates.

    I wish them the best for having the balls to go electric; it’s a beautiful design. But because of the “culture” they themselves have nurtured, I don’t see it happening.

  • DFR

    HD simply shocked me with this bike. I’d buy it on looks alone. The battery & mileage issue will be resolved. I would, until now, never consider any HD. This is going to be “the” game changer for Harley Davidson.

  • Jw

    I like this bike too, but. Set aside the brand, weight, range and power for a moment

    It Needs to make an economic case for most folks in order for HD to sell big volume. kinda like when I was considering buying a Nissan Leaf. When I did the math, all the math, including a charging station installed in my garage, it was a no go.

    50 mile range would work for the average commuter, or excuse to go to the store for the wife.

    This thing must be under 15k or it will just be a novelty item for the upper class

  • JW

    Imagine a warm summer evening, you decide to sneak it out for a little ride to cool down. You stream some Kings of Leon on Pandora thru your device. No exhaust, no vibration, stillness, the neighbors smile in relief because you were much louder before then.

  • Anvil

    JW, your first comment: bingo. E-bikes have to be a viable alternative to ICE bikes in more ways than one to be economically sound. Until then, they won’t be produced in volumes large enough to lower prices significantly. Batteries might get cheaper, but maybe not that much in the near term.

    So, since most riders can only afford one bike, how many are going to opt for an expensive urban runabout/commuter? I’d bet very few.

  • Ggiovanni Fossati

    Only 2 questions:
    1) how long it takes to recharge the batteries
    2) how is the life time of the battery pack
    About the rest why not ? the aesthetic is beautiful, the sound is ok, performance OK … there is only negative note that is the limited use .. I would really like try it ……When it in Italy?

  • Singletrack

    Livewire has hit the mainstream news outlets everywhere this morning. Mostly positive reactions.

    I’d say this is a shrewd piece of product planning from H-D.

    The market has shown that an ICE powered H-D must be a 45 degree V-twin in the classic cruiser profile.
    H-D knows they can’t reach different markets with a conventional sport(y) bike.

    The electric way allows them to arc past current sport bike technology, and attempt to reclaim past technological bragging rights and glory by leading the charge into emission-less riding.

    It’ll be interesting if they try to retail them using the current dealer network though.
    “Do you want leather chaps and a H-D branded skull cap to go with your e-bike??”

    Maybe online sales is the best outlet for an e-H-D.

  • David Shaffer

    I am not a motorcycle fan – just visiting the site out of curiosity. But all you guys are ignoring one thing: because this machine is electric, it’s not going to make so much noise that people are going to turn and look at you as you zoom by, so those of you who like to turn heads may be disappointed. On the other hand, people like me aren’t going to be annoyed at the sound pollution. However, the quiet may prove dangerous: neither drivers nor pedestrians are going to hear you coming. (Just so you know: I’m not opposed to motorcycles…. Please be safe….)

  • David: it’s a different sort of attention, but electric motorcycles definitely draw attention, whether from interested passerby or other bikers at bike nights.

    Packed parking lots and lane filtering are the only times where I might like a louder noise signature, and lane filtering is illegal in TN anyways.

  • Jw

    This thing is sensational, I currently do not have a bike but think about another one all the time. Yes the range is limited but I would venture to say that many riders when they go out stay under the 53 mile limit per outing. Also this 53 miles is for the high performance setting, So, if you turned the nanny on, it would provide a longer range. Hell, 53 miles on your day off is just the right amount of break I would need to recharge my “inner batteries”

  • David

    So I guess this is now changed to the Livewire Forum due the shear volume of threads about this bike.

    Will there still be some MotoGp news thrown in on occasion?

  • Craig

    Oh David, don’t get your panties in a wad. You’re telling me that a completely groundbreaking motorcycle from a company that historically doesn’t do much, isn’t news?

    Besides, WorldSBK is better racing.

  • David

    Where was all this excitement when Honda came out with the Fury Choppa? lol

  • keiths04

    Love the looks, make it go atleast 100mi per charge, quick charging times 3hrs or less, and make it under $15k id take one!!! (that person makes a good point, they might need an artificial noise maker for saftey reasons or a volume button for the bike!! haha ninja quiet to harley rumble! )

  • Bob

    @Jw – No. Just… no. 53 is a mixed range for the eco setting on the demo model. 30 miles is the performance setting’s range. And most rider’s do far more than 53 miles in a ride.

  • mudgun

    The rise of the elec. vehicle will happen when one of two breakthroughs happen. 1. Batteries with much longer capacity, or (2) highways with sections which both power and charge the vehicle as you travel down them. Once fully developed they’ll be faster and more reliable than our gas vehicles. The only problem will be they’ll be almost silent. But with advances in audio capabilities, perhaps we’ll be able to download then broadcast the “sound” we want our bike to make?

  • Jw

    I for one would really love an evening cruise in silence..

  • farmall

    That would be a very nice look for a V-Rod variant.

  • jamie

    Looks like it has a Zero S kickstand. Hmmm?

  • The better innuendo to make, goes along the lines of Harley owning MV Agusta around the time Project Livewire began.

  • Simon

    What V-Rod disaster?
    H-D has been making and selling them for over 10 years. Best engine in the lineup.

  • It may have more HP than the Zero SR but it has less than half of the torque the SR does. Sounds like HD needs a larger controller to increase the amps but space may prevent that. The claims of 3.5 hours to fully charge at a Level 2 charging station tells me HD isn’t trying to use the Level 2 to the fullest extent possible which is 6600 watts. Again, space may limit the size of chargers Harley uses. Perhaps mount side cases with chargers mounted inside. Could do the same with extra battery. Congrats to HD for coming up with this.

  • CBRent

    I rode the LiveWire today. I liked it. Everyone hated the mirrors. It took a few moments to get used to no clutch and no shifter. But I got the hang of it. I disliked the pokey roll on power. I’d like a snappier launch – but I get it. New technology: HD makes it less wheelie prone – for now! It rode great. It has good balance (I was concerned about that with the battery where the tank is. I suppose the motor/tranny assy is just a lump.) The 35mph roll-on power was very good. I liked that very much. I loved the turbine whine, but I want it louder. Since it charges that battery whenever you are slowing down it constantly feels like you are compression braking. So, no coasting. I didn’t test the brakes much because the LiveWire decels very quickly. It feels almost production ready to me. As a bonus I was able to ride with a LiveWire for a short distance. Looked like one of the HD guys scarpered with a demo bike for the evening. (My apologies if I forced my way into your ride. I had the red VFR1200.)
    In short: Things I liked:
    Styling – looked great
    Handling – loved it. Flickable.
    Power – Loved the roll on power
    Ergos – everything was where it was supposed to be. The bike fit my 6′-0, 190 pound frame.
    Tech: Very cool. I love the regen braking feature. Performance and Prius mode is cool too
    Touchy feeling: It feels like a real bike. Nothing klugey.
    Quality: Loved the feel of the bike. Especially the huge CNC milled bits around the engine.

    Things that need improvement:
    Mirrors – useless
    Sound – make that engine/tranny whine!
    Power – fix the launch setting
    Throttle – I had to roll it farther than was comfortable. I had to hold it, re-position my hand, then keep accelerating.

    All minor stuff.

    When can I have one? I want to be a LiveWire evangelist.

  • Betty Johnson

    This bike looks fast. It’s only 52 lbs? That’s not heavy at all, so it should be able to move fast with that kind of engine. I wonder if my brother has heard about his bike. He would love to buy one. http://www.edgehd.net/default.asp

  • danwat1234

    $50K Way overpriced … the battery is about 7KWh, at $500 per KWh (that’s if they have a bad contract), $3500 for the batteries + the casing and chips. then the drivetrain and everything else…..