Harley-Davidson teased something big and battery powered, and now the iconic motorcycle company has revealed Project LiveWire, its first electric bike. Beginning a test ride tour across the US from next week, as Harley-Davidson explores the potential for EV powertrains, LiveWire isn't intended as a commercial bike in its current form but more a test-bed for how the company might evolve in future.
For many, the idea of an electric Harley is a sacrilege, associating the brand with the distinctive sound of big, grumbling engines. That's something the company says it's very aware of, however.
"The sound is a distinctive part of the thrill," senior VP Mark-Hans Richer said of the "unmistakable" noise of the electric engine. "Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier."
The primary noise actually comes from the moving parts associated with the engine, with the motor itself practically silent. Like an electric car, LiveWire requires no individual gears, and so should be able to accelerate consistently to 60mph in around four seconds, Harley-Davidson says.
Battery life of the current prototype is good for around 53 miles, and as for the motor itself, that musters 74HP and 52 lb-ft of torque. The bike is limited to 92mph at most, and uses regenerative braking like electric cars to restore energy to the batteries when slowing.
LiveWire's tour will begin in 30 cities across the US this year, and continue internationally in 2015. Harley-Davidson will use the rider feedback to decide what route to take in bringing EV powertrains to production.