It’s looking more and more like Harley’s only hope is to branch out into new segments in search of a replacement for its withering customer base, and the 2020 Livewire represents the storied company’s first big punch as it tries to fight its way into millennial relevancy. There are a few key things we still don’t know about this bike – namely power, torque, range, voltage and price. H-D’s EICMA reveal stayed silent on these very important points, but it did give us our first glimpse of what it’ll look like – and it’s not bad at all.
The design isn’t as clean as what we first saw in the Project Livewire prototype fleet that made its way around the world starting back in 2014. In particular, the area around the footpegs is a lot busier to look at, but the overall lines are nice, paying homage to Harley’s flat tracking heritage and doing a decent job of working around the big, unattractive battery box that necessarily sits as a giant design black hole just where the beautiful Harley V-twin would ordinarily take pride of place.
All we know about the electric motor is that it’s a permanent magnet design, it’s painted bright silver to make it a visual feature, and it’s located under the battery box to keep the weight of the bike low and central for sprightly handling. This should certainly out-handle most of Harley’s current portfolio, particularly given the “premium high-performance, fully adjustable Showa suspension” it’ll run at both ends.
The shock will be a balance-free rear cushion-lite monoshock, the forks will be big piston, separate function, and the setup will be tuned for “composed control in typical urban riding conditions.” The Brembo monoblock brakes and dual 300mm front discs might give Harley riders their first good reason to reach for the front brake lever in many moons. They’re ABS units, as well, and traction control will also be standard when the Livewire debuts.
There will be seven selectable riding modes – four pre-programmed and three available custom slots for riders to set up themselves – and the main interface will be a full color, tilt-adjustable TFT touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, as is the style of these times.
Like all electrics, it’ll happily slow-charge in the garage at home or work when plugged into a standard wall outlet. It’ll also support DC fast charging using the J1772 or CCS2 – IEC Type 2 connectors if you need to juice up faster.
To assuage any fears riders might have about gliding around on a silent motorcycle that can’t annoy passers-by, Harley has designed the Livewire motor “to produce a tone that increases in pitch and volume at speed.”
This idea excited me a little, because Harley has always paid attention to the sound of its bikes, going so far as to trademark the iconic “potato-potato-potato” sound of its engines at idle back in 1994. Electrics are much quieter than thumping v-twins, but there’s an opportunity for somebody to come out and start making electrics with an iconic sound that’s a bit more compelling than the turbine-like whine coming out of most I’ve ridden to date.
Unfortunately, there’s a video to put an end to this train of thought. You’ll find it at the bottom of the page. The Livewire sounds more or less exactly like an electric motorcycle. Which is fine.
That’s all we know at this stage, but pre-orders will open up with the release of more information in early 2019, and Harley says it expects to have a “full portfolio” of electrics on offer by 2022.
Will it get millennial buttocks onto Harleys as effectively as the skull-face bandannas and sly outlaw connotations did for baby boomers’ buns? Time will tell. But Harley’s going wide open throttle to take the lead on mass-market premium electric motorcycling. And that’s got to be good for progress.
There are plenty of pics in the gallery and the video highlight’s the new Harley sound.
(For the balance of this article, plus a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/2020-harley-davidson-livewire/57148/)