Livewire: this is Harley Davidson’s first electric motorcycle, we tested it (video)

The “Harley Davidson” brand does not quite match the word “silent” in the collective subconscious. And yet, with its “LiveWire”, the American engine manufacturer puts aside its traditional “V-Twin” engine and puts the foot in the voltage to, perhaps, never come back. Beyond this astonishing association, this first – and unique – electric motorcycle from a major brand amazes by its efficiency.

Harley Davidson took it into his head to produce an electric model some time ago. The “LiveWire” project was born about ten years ago and was presented to the public for the first time in 2014. The “bar and shield” brand then plunged into further development, finally announce in 2018 the start of production of a production model within 18 months. Here we are in 2020, and “LiveWire” has taken the roads by storm with peace of mind.

This is indeed a Harley Davidson

It is not only in terms of motorization that the bike contrasts with the usual production of the Milwaukee firm. In terms of design first of all: no “chopper” (these motorcycles with a handlebars placed high and a very long fork) or “bobber” (conversely, a shortened motorcycle and stripped of many parts to improve its performances): the “LiveWire” presents a rather sporty silhouette. The position of the feet slightly set back, the handlebars low enough and a plastic fairing nested in an aluminum frame; there is no doubt, it was designed for performance. Electric and contemporary motorcycle oblige, it is a very bright TFT touch screen which sits in front of the pilot, to display the usual information. It can be maneuvered with the thumbs using the joystick and button located near the handles for added safety. For a better balance of the machine (249 kilos all the same), the engine is placed at the bottom of the chassis, with on top of the enormous battery of 15.5 kWh which promises a minimum autonomy of 158km in the city, according to the constructor.


The screen is very readable in all circumstances. You can choose which information you want to display as a priority

Make way for the road now! The ignition is very confusing for anyone who has never used an electric vehicle. Transponder in pocket, just press a button to get the bike going. And apart from a green indicator on the screen, nothing indicates that the machine is ready to go! If, all the same, a slight beat of the motorcycle that only the rider and his passenger can feel: a small and subtle vibration, like a heartbeat, which means that the motorcycle is ready to swallow asphalt. Once a few watts have been released using the “gas” handle, we are off to the sound of a slight whistling sound, which increases as speed increases. This is the bias taken by Harley Davidson to give body to its potentially silent engine: a sort of turbine noise, far from the traditional “potato” sound, but which does not leave indifferent the onlookers we have met over the years. kilometers traveled. We presented the bike to old school Harley Davidson bikers and they were pleasantly surprised by the bike. From there to make them trade their “V-Twin” for an electric? One of them exclaims: “hey guys, if this is the future, let’s keep our bikes which will increase in value! ” All is said.

According to your desires, and the weather conditions, you are allowed to choose different settings that adapt the behavior of the motorcycle, its torque and energy recovery (city, eco, rain and sport). Depending on the mode chosen, it is especially in the engine brake that we see the difference, it being less powerful in rainy weather (to prevent the rear wheel from letting go) and much more on the setting sport. It is on this setting that the “LiveWire” reveals its full potential: it can theoretically shoot 0 to 100 km / h in 3 seconds! A test on private land allowed us to experience it, it’s mind-blowing! The bike is supposed to grab a few watts when you release the throttle in freewheeling mode (so to speak, since there is no neutral position because no gearbox) but don’t expect to reload the battery on the road by adopting eco-driving. It will automatically go through the recharge box.


Like the font, this is a sports bike. Note the presence of a dummy tank that covers the battery

And that’s the rub. As still too often in the field of electric mobility, it is long, devilishly long! On a classic wall outlet in your home (with the plug provided, hidden under the saddle that you plug into the dummy tank), count at least 7 hours of recharging to find a battery at 100% of its capacity starting from zero , or not far. Conversely, a test carried out on a type 3 fast charging station on a motorway rest area allowed us to go from 8% to 100% in 1 hour and seven minutes. It is much more acceptable, but still very far from the 3 minutes of gasoline filling which makes it possible to find an equivalent autonomy (158km approximately) on a classic motorcycle. Note that the HD Connect application allows you to know the status of your motorcycle remotely, so that you don’t have to stay around to check when you can leave.


It is possible to recover 80% of the battery in 40 minutes on this type of terminal

If we talk about “LiveWire” today, it is because Harley Davidson is entering a market where we did not expect it, and it does so brilliantly. Efficiency, design and sensations provided make this bike a real success despite the limitations of the electric and especially its elitist price. Indeed, you will have to offload some 34,000 € to offer you this toy for adults which has certain important limits compared to proven fuel models (count 7,700 € for a first price at Harley Davidson, with equivalent autonomy). And then there is the competition which is swelling its arms. If we do not find any equivalent in classic manufacturers like BMW, Yamaha or Kawasaki (who all three work there however), the Californian company Zero offers a whole range of electric models in price ranges much more contained since 2010. The SR / S, also released this year, offers up to 320km of autonomy in the city, and reaches 100km / h in 3.2 seconds, for just under 23,000 €. Not to mention their entry-level model that is half the price. Harley Davidson stands out for the power of its brand and its unexpected approach, which could perhaps dynamise a still nascent electric motorcycle market, as Tesla did at the time in cars.

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