Can the Harley-Davidson Livewire replace traditional, ICE powered middleweights? Or is it just another gimmicky electric motorcycle from the land of The Big Apple?
We’ve all been spoilt by the luxury of gasoline-powered machines. Legions devoted gas, oil and CO2 over many decades to keep the fire-breathing V-twins alive. And then suddenly you see the government fast-tracking electric machines that sound depressing, make you anxious about the low-range and most importantly lack vibes that really stir the soul of a motorcyclist. In short, the absence of the Thrill of Riding. Honestly, when Harley-Davidson, one of the most tradition-steeped motorcycling brands in the world announced the arrival of an all-electric motorcycle, everyone felt dejected (including us). I mean, take a look at the subject in question. The Livewire’s spec sheet isn’t as exciting as that of the Ducati Panigale V4R with just 106bhp and 249kg mass. It’s got a very limited range too. So where’s Harley really going with this?
The Livewire is very handsome in the flesh, featuring the stance of the Sportster and design elements of the XR. The fuel tank, which is actually the charging port housing, resembles the XR’s to the hilt. The 15.5kWh li-ion battery is contained in an aluminium frame that masks it quite well. The large, Revelation motor with a bullet inscription makes its presence felt. Seat height is a low 780mm, like most Harley cruisers, and the padding extends even to the recesses. The electronic wizardry includes top-drawer components sourced from the best of the best. You get a 4.3-in cluster (could’ve been larger) that displays the four riding modes — Range, Rain, Road and Sport. The H-D Connect shows navigation, call alerts and music controls through an app that can be downloaded on your smartphone. You also get IMU-based cornering ABS, traction control and an add-on feature called Drag Torque Slip Control (DTSC) that functions like a slipper clutch, controlling the torque slip when you shut the ‘gas’, avoiding panic situations.
In terms of range, no WLTP tests have been conducted so far but Harley claims a maximum of 235km. You get the option of Level 3 charging that allows a full charge in an hour. The regular, Level 1 port takes 12.5 hours for a full charge.
Yes! The Livewire is supremely quick, especially in the Sport mode. The lack of levers on the left side takes getting used to but thankfully, unlike other electric motorcycles, Harley has slotted the rear brake where it should be. Switching on the motor requires a simple button that resembles the kill switch on traditional motorcycles. The soundtrack reminded me of a jet plane taking off. As the conditions were wet and demanding with a lot of fog, I was forced to begin with Rain mode. The throttle response is astonishing! I haven’t ridden any other electric motorcycle with such precision. The unhinged, no-holds-barred Sport can take you to 100kmph in three seconds flat, says Harley, and I believe them. The Livewire is a hoot and brings a wide smile to the face every time you exercise the right wrist. I’m sure the roll-on between 50-80kmph will put mid-weight petrols to shame.
The lack of traditional components allows for a lean angle of 45 degrees and the Livewire is more than capable of getting to some crazy limits. The brilliant Showa Big Piston USDs provide ample feedback but the super stiff fully-adjustable Showa mono at the rear takes away from the experience on our roads. The monoshock is directly bolted onto the swingarm and you’ll need to take care of your teeth fillings, especially in our conditions. That, along with the steely seat might not be comfortable in the long run. But again, the range is quite limited for you to go the distance in the first place. However, considering the suspension is adjustable at both ends, fiddling with it will bring some respite for sure. Stability is par excellence courtesy the 1490mm wheelbase. Special mention to the brilliant Michelin Scorchers that inspired confidence even in super-wet conditions.
The Livewire breaks the conventional norms of an electric motorcycle. The spec-sheet may suggest otherwise, but the instantaneous torque is so addictive that you’ll soon forget those petrol mid-weights. The only aftertaste it leaves is the high asking price. Of course, the Livewire is Harley’s halo product that has the baggage of massive R&D bills spent over the last six years. But this Harley is special. It carries the responsibility of a big transition and announces the rise of America as we have never witnessed before. It showcases what the future of mobility could look like, especially with our government’s current obsession with EVs. And if the infrastructure does keep up, we are not going to have any problems living with the Harley-Davidson Livewire.
Check out the full review in the September issue of Fast Bikes India. Click here to subscribe.