Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson LiveWire is a lustworthy sporty electric motorcycle

Harley has debuted the production version of its long-promised electric motorcycle. Will it catapult the marque to relevance and profitability?

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson gave the world a whole lot more information on its forthcoming all-electric LiveWire production motorcycle at the EICMA motorcycle show in Italy on Tuesday. It's getting us pretty excited, because it could be just the thing that saves America's longest continuously operating motorcycle manufacturer.

It's been a few years since Harley-Davidson released its LiveWire electric motorcycle concept. When it came out, battery-powered motorbike technology was in its relative infancy, and mass production wouldn't have been all that feasible. Now, thanks to investments in Alta Motors and the availability of more sophisticated battery technology at lower costs, the LiveWire is just about ready to hit showrooms.

The production LiveWire looks almost identical to the concept bike we saw back in 2014, and make no mistake, that's a good thing. The bike eschews Harley's usual feet-forward relaxed riding position for something that appears to be genuinely sporty, albeit still relatively upright for some degree of rider comfort.

Harley-Davidson has been promising a production LiveWire for years now, but it looks like it's finally happening.

Harley-Davidson

During its announcement, Harley-Davidson confirmed that the LiveWire will receive a fully adjustable Showa suspension and no fewer than seven riding modes. That suspension, in particular, suggests that Harley is serious about making the LiveWire fun to ride. It's similar to what one would find as standard equipment on high-end Japanese sport bikes. Harley also chose to fit the LiveWire with Brembo monoblock brake calipers and 300mm front rotors, both of which should offer significant stopping power for what is likely to be a heavy motorcycle.

Make no mistake though, the LiveWire is aimed at the street, and that's probably for the best. With a low-maintenance belt-type final drive and a single-speed transmission, changing gearing to suit a specific track would be a rather tricky affair. The street-focused nature of this bike is also borne out in its upright handlebars and midmounted foot controls.

The heart of the LiveWire is a lithium-ion battery pack ensconced in a finned aluminum case, although details on the capacity of the pack have not been released. We do know that the LiveWire will have an onboard Level 1 charger and it will support both Level 2 and DC fast charging with appropriate adapters. Harley also insists that all of its dealers that sell the bike will have on-site chargers for public use.

Those chargers won't just be for the LiveWire, either -- in Tuesday's announcement, the company promises a "full portfolio of electric motorcycles by 2022." Harley has been investing heavily in electrification, and it's a big gamble, especially for a company that hasn't been in good financial health lately. That said, the LiveWire and its offspring look to be a brave bet on the long-term future of the company.

For the moment, we're still in the dark as the LiveWire's performance and range figures, but we're expecting big things given the long gestation of this project and the partnership with Alta Motors, one of the industry's leading electric motorcycle developers. 

Harley tells us that the LiveWire goes on sale in 2019, with preorders opening this January. 

Pricing has not yet been announced.

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