Five years after it was originally announced, the production version of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire finally made an appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The LiveWire – an electric motorcycle – is the traditionally, well, traditional brand’s first genuine attempt at reaching new riders. But after a quick scan of the spec sheet, it’s tough to figure out how H-D plans to lure customers away from more affordable options; namely, those from Zero Motorcycles. With a base price of $29,799, the LiveWire is nearly $10,000 more than a top-of-the-line Zero with the most expensive option boxes ticked. Granted, the LiveWire features better styling than the Zero lineup, but is it worth the cost of an additional motorcycle for aesthetics and the Harley nameplate?
After scanning what few performance specs Harley did release, the LiveWire’s price tag seems even more extreme, particularly compared to its expected range. The company claims the estimated range on one charge will be only 110 miles of “urban road” riding. Whether that includes a combination of city riding and highway miles isn’t clear, but that’s not a stat to overlook. Sustained highway riding drains an electric bike’s power at a ridiculous rate. Indeed, giving any electric motorcycle a taste of full throttle or subjecting it to trips down long stretches of highway is a quick way to induce good ol’ fashion range anxiety. (I found that out the hard way.) Admittedly, if H-D is aiming the LiveWire at a city-dwelling consumer who travels in traffic frequently, a 110-mile range is realistic.
H-D didn’t release weight, torque, horsepower, exact battery capacity or charge times, but there are reports that the Livewire’s batteries will charge from zero to 80 percent capacity in 40 minutes using a stage-three supercharger connection. The company also boasts that the LiveWire delivers all of its torque at zero RPM (like every electric motor does) and claims a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds. Those figures feel reminiscent of years ago, when EVs first hit the mainstream and basic performance numbers were the only stats worth bragging about, since they so soundly bested internal combustion engine capabilities. It feels like the same tired tactic here.
What the LiveWire does absolutely have going for it, however, is its design and rider interface. Electric motorcycles don’t necessarily have to look futuristic, but H-D designers did an excellent job of moving the brand’s design language forward. Its all-new frame, adjustable suspension and Brembo brakes with ABS and traction control (another first for H-D) can’t hurt the LiveWire’s chances of being the best handling production Harley-Davidson ever built.
Additionally, one advantage the LiveWire has over Zero’s bikes is a full-color TFT display, which includes the all-new H-D Connect operating system. It allows riders to connect their phones to the app-based system and check the bike’s diagnostics and charge status, get security alerts and use turn-by-turn navigation. The system is set to eventually make its way to the rest of Harley’s bikes.
It’s nice to see H-D trying to advance itself and attract new riders – to their own brand and probably to motorcycles in general. But, all things considered, the LiveWire’s sky-high price tag negates any attempt at that mission. Harley made it clear it wants to go after the 18-to-35-year-old demographic. In what world – let alone in what economy – does Harley think those consumers will pass on a better performing, more affordable Zero and opt for the LiveWire? Considering the former has twice the range and costs $10,000 less, it seems unlikely they will. Worse yet, Harley says it’ll release more details as the pre-order process progresses. So not only is the company asking folks to spend $30,000, it’s asking them to do it on blind faith.
Harley-Davidson is now taking pre-orders on its website, and deliveries are expected sometime around August. We’ll be reporting those details as they come in and, hopefully, we can throw a leg over the LiveWire sooner rather than later. Maybe then the numbers will make more sense.
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