The 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire is a quiet riot
No heaving v-twin here. Instead, the first production electric bike from America’s most storied builder of bad-ass two-wheelers has a three-phase electric motor spinning smoothly and almost silently at 15,000 rpm, as well as a 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The price? A heavy $30,189, man.
It’s tough to imagine a greater departure from the 110-year history of Milwaukee’s rumbling internal-combustion V-twins. Harley-Davidson says the LiveWire is a premium offering showcasing its efforts to become a leader in electric transportation, from kids’ bikes to urban scooters to mountain bikes and up. The LiveWire’s motor produces 105 horsepower and 86 pound-feet of torque. The ECU includes regenerative braking; seven different ride modes; a six-axis inertial measurement unit (accelerometer) that enables wheelie control; anti-rear-wheel-lift control under braking; corner-sensitive ABS; and traction control.
The aluminum frame protects the battery inside its perimeter rails and hangs the motor below. There’s no clutch or shift lever; after pressing a button to activate the electronics, you turn the throttle and go. The LiveWire is not the quickest production bike extant, and the top speed is only 110 mph, but acceleration from a standstill is as joyous and brisk as anyone would reasonably need. Harley claims 0-to-60 in three seconds. The battery charges overnight via a 120-volt household outlet. The dealerships where the LiveWire is sold have DC fast chargers, and there are Level 2 public chargers with the requisite J1772 connectors.
The selectable powertrain mapping let us tailor performance by toggling handlebar buttons. The ergonomics are good, and low-speed handling is easy. At speed, the LiveWire tracked neutrally, predictably, and confidently—except in bumpy corners. Dislikes included the short-travel suspension and thinly padded seat.
Only 150 Harley dealers have raised their hands to carry the LiveWire, which requires training a master technician and installing a fast charger. We think the first electric Harley is likely a future collectible, although we don’t imagine it as a good collector investment.