Harley’s Electric! Project LiveWire Could Make Traffic More Bearable
Not long ago, I was thumbing through a copy of TIME when I stumbled across a stunning, two-page spread of a black and red motorcycle. Blunt-nosed, short-based and lithe looking, it resembled a coiled cobra. Or a fighter jet preparing to launch off an aircraft carrier. Or something you’d expect from Ducati.
Except this was a Harley-Davidson.
Aesthetically, this would represent a distinct departure from the brand most people associate with swooping handlebars, teardrop gas tanks and a knee-quivering engine noise loud enough to disrupt most dining room china cabinets. But it’s what’s under the hood, so to speak, that’s got leather chaps the country over in a bunch. This Harley is electric.
Project LiveWire has been in the works for approximately four years, the result of numerous minds working tirelessly to put the Harley badge on something that, on its surface, is distinctly not Harley. It’s a bold move, in many respects undertaken to help the brand appeal to a younger, more urban base .
And it’s turning a lot of heads. Not out of disdain, per se, though the old guard is likely to think twice before giving up its Fat Boys – but more a holy-shit-is-that-a-Harley?
I chatted with Greg Falkner, product planning manager at Harley-Davidson, via email to get some more answers. He wouldn’t place bets on the first movie star we’re likely to see jumping this thing out of a blockbuster explosion (my money’s on Tom Cruise ) or whether the suspension can truly handle Boston’s axle-snapping potholes (I’m sure it can).
Either way, LiveWire is generating a pretty sizable rumble. Or, rather, whine – its power plant is more akin to a jet engine than the dual exhaust hog your dad hops on during the weekends.
Alex Weaver: What’s the ballpark retail on this thing? I read somewhere it’s projected around $20k?
Greg Falkner: The Project LiveWire motorcycles are not for sale. We are taking the Project Livewire experience around the country this year, and will continue in the US, Canada and Europe in 2015 to gain feedback from customers on what they are looking for in this type of vehicle from Harley-Davidson. Any final decisions about whether to bring an electric motorcycle to market – and when – will be made at a later date.
AW: Aside from bigger tires and a more aggressive stance (which looks very badass, by the way), what about this bike makes it suited for city riding?
GF: We expect a motorcycle like Project LiveWire to appeal to a younger, mostly urban customer. Project LiveWire’s nimble handling, narrow chassis, exhilarating acceleration and responsive braking make it a great motorcycle for city riding. One of the other things that people have been really keying in on with the LiveWire demos is that the clutchless riding is great for the city as it simplifies the riding experience and lets you focus on everything else going on. No tired arms from clutching in traffic.
AW: 100 mile range, 3 hours to charge – do I have that right?
GF: Time to full recharge is approximately 3.5 hours with our Level 2 chargers.
AW: Does the relative silence of the bike pose a safety risk at all to drivers accustomed to really being able to hear a motorcycle coming?
GF: A motorcycle’s sound isn’t the only protection riders should rely on to safely navigate around an oblivious driver. Remaining extremely alert, maintaining a good space cushion and passing the driver are all very good ways of dealing with unsafe car drivers.
We look at conspicuity as an important factor in crash avoidance. The bright LED lighting on LW is a help here. There is also the ability to avoid accidents with braking and maneuverability which is a strength of the motorcycle as it was designed to be ridden in urban environments. A final tool for the rider is a good horn.
T: 215-752-9400 Website: http://www.brianshd.com/
600 S Flowers Mill Rd (I-95 at Exit 44 & Business Rt 1) Langhorne, PA 19047
THE EXPERIENCE TOUR DETAILS
Dates: Thursday, July 17 – Saturday, July 19, 2014
Hours: 9am – 5pm ET
Rider or not, you’re invited to experience a pivotal moment for the Motor Company. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself at many turns in our 111-year history – this is another moment in our journey. Come party with use the exciting reveal of Project LiveWire™ – Harley-Davidson’s first electric motorcycle.
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