If all the news of the latest brace of all-electric SUVs from Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi isn’t enough to convince you that electric drivetrains are quickly gaining mainstream approval, nor would Camaro’s whimsical foray into electric crate engines with the eCOPO Camaro concept make you budge, then the public availability of Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire electric motorcycle might make you reach out and grasp your jerry can tighter.
If the muscle car is the deeply-rooted institution of our love affair for petrol, a Harley-Davidson is its two-wheeled cousin, and an electric offspring could only have come from the devil himself, Al Gore. But enough about environmental politics, the LiveWire isn’t exactly news as it has been around in prototype form since 2014 and only used for public test rides at North American and European dealerships. For a while, many thought that Project LiveWire – as it was called – was nothing more than a curiosity. Something engineers built for a laugh. But as the iconic American motorcycle maker sank deeper into financial mire, the company became desperate for new ideas.
For a brand that had built its business around the same variations of big and cumbersome cruisers it has been knocking together since the invention of the wheel, it was clear that is declining sales was indicative of a market that is moving on and something revolutionary, something out of the ordinary, needed to be done. It was precisely at this point that the LiveWire became no laughing matter for Harley-Davidson.
The motorcycle maker quickly wised up to the idea of an electric motorcycle, after all, weight is no issue for Harley-Davidson riders while XXXXL loads of torque is all the technical qualities they would expect, aspects that perfectly suits the characteristics of an electric drivetrain, nevermind the other subjective qualities of range and heaps of obnoxious noise and chrome. As such the company greenlit its production earlier this year, with the production model making its European debut at Milan’s EICMA show this week.
That being said, glancing through the LiveWire’s spec, there is a clear indication that Harley-Davidson isn’t pitching their buzzing new creation at its traditional audience, but to draw in new customers. More than just a bank of lithium-ion batteries taking the place of the Harley-Davidson’s traditional petrol-fed engine, the LiveWire features modern fitments such as an aluminium frame, fully-adjustable Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, colour touchscreen, and a wealth of electronics that allow seven selectable riding modes.
Harley-Davidson says that the LiveWire is just the beginning of the company’s plans to roll out a full portfolio of electric motorcycles by 2022, that is if their latest gamble to shake up the formula brings them the expected returns. However for Harley-Davidson to already embark on an uncharacteristic foray into a barely charted territory and technology, it might be all the shock they need to revitalise the brand.