Project LiveWire is the marketing code name given to Harley-Davidson’s first electronic motorcycle.
Harley’s Project LiveWire Experience Tour rode into America’s Finest City in July 2014 and I got to road test the Motor Company’s very first electronic motorcycle.
As we saw with Project Rushmore, Harley-Davidson does a good job seeking input and feedback from its customers, I was one of the select consumers across the country who was given the opportunity to ride their new electronic motorcycle and provide my overall impressions of the experience.
So, here’s my feedback HD. I have added design suggestions throughout this post for your marketing and engineering guru’s to ponder as they go forth shaping the future of these innovative machines.
The Basic eBike Look.
There it is folks. As you can see in the photo below, this is a good-looking motorcycle. Frame has clean lines and is well proportioned for holding the eMotor casing and the rest of the bike together.
The Dashboard and Front-End View.
Motorcycle design is as much look as it is function. The LiveWire dashboard is impressive in both its look and clarity. I really liked the touch and go selection options on the LCD-style panel. As for the position of the rear view mirrors? Not-functional as currently located below the handlebars. They gotta go.
Design Tip1: Re-locate rear view mirrors above the handlebars where they will actually function to let a rider see the traffic action behind them.
Design Tip2: Handlebars – see image note below.
LiveWire Dashboard Close Up View.
The LCD-style dashboard status screen is impressive. Bright, detailed and easy to read. I found having the option of choosing a “range ride” versus “power ride” very interesting although, I personally did not feel any difference in throttle twist impact. The eBike goes, really really goes, no matter which ride option I selected…0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds is good enough for me.
Electrical Motor Performance Specs
“Oooooh, powered by an AC lithium-ion battery”, I muttered as I approached my test LiveWire…just doesn’t sound all that kickass I’m thinking to myself as I pull up the kickstand. But I must admit, the bike offered awesome rubber-shredding acceleration at various throttle twists. The power band totally exceeded my expectations. I went in thinking lawn mower fast, came out from the test ride very impressed with the electric motor’s power, speed and super responsive acceleration.
Note to self: “I’ve got to get this eBike to the Bonneville Salt Flats asap…I’m thinking as I get off the eBike after my test ride.
Harley’s onsite LiveWire Rep indicated that the eBike goes 0-60 in less than four seconds. Yup, he was right!!! The bike puts out real world horsepower at 74 bhp and 52 lb-ft of torque. FYI: For you non gearheads, (bhp) is the measure of an engine’s horsepower before the loss in power caused by the gearbox and drive train.
Design Tip3: Place that electronic motor in a more badass frame configuration. See image note below.
Speed versus distance note: Accoding to the eBike Pros onsite, the LiveWire has a top speed of 92 mph. Distance range at this early stage of the prototype is low at only 53 miles. No surprise given where this non-self-recharging motor technology stands at this time in its evolution.
The Lithium Power Pack
Knowledge about the battery pack itself was scarce around the Project LiveWire display rig area. Not a lot of discussion around anodes, cathodes, electrons or brushless conducting capabilities was going to happen during my visit I quickly concluded.
The motorcycle manufacturer that figures this technology out and that can achieve reasonable price points for electronic motorcycles, will surely dominate their target market. We’ll talk battery life in a future post as I get more information.
It also goes without saying that “Charging Stations” will need to become commonplace throughout the land if there is any hope of taking eBikes beyond an urban, city-street riding experience.
Note the ugly electrical cable plug in the photo above. It’s OK HD, charge cable plug ugly is OK when in prototype mode as far as I’m concerned.
Design Tip4: While I am impressed with Harley’s continuous effort to develop new innovative frame designs, I suggest Harley-Davidson not compete in the crotch-rocket style frame space.
Recall, it was tough going with similar Buell frames and even with MV Agusta frame setups given the small, niche audience that this type of frame appeals to.
In my opinion, the LiveWire, with its current frame design, does not compete well with others in the same target consumer space based on my own riding and handling experience with fast bikes over the years…re: Ducati and several of the Japanese frame manufacturing configurations.
Design Tip5: Neutral Option…LiveWire models must have a neutral gear so that the brand’s unique, futuristic signature jet-engine sound can be enjoyed by all, moving or not.
Electrical Motor Sound
The sound, positioned as “fighter jet style” by the onsite reps, was somewhat on the mark but way too low on volume for my liking or even for my perceived noise safety standards on the road. This bike is by no means a whiner but man oh man, let’s turn up the volume HD! I like my bike motor sounds hovering around 95 – 105 dB (decibels). It would be great to have a sound noise level option, (low, medium, high) so that riders could select the decibels they are most comfortable with.
Bonus design tip: Harley-Davidson’s family of loyal customers love the unique Harley motor sound. HD can go beyond “potato potato” here and really make an impression on the electronic motorcycle riding crowd with a super cool, slightly louder jet engine sound.
Go Ahead! Push the limits HD. I’m not saying going crazy loud but a touch more aggressive jet engine sound would be good for marketing and future sales I figure. For example:
MJB Design Tip6: Sound Check. The right sound matters. Decibels matter more.
Please turn up the volume on your computer or smart phone. Click on the first volume bar below to hear what a real jet engine sounds like.
FYI – jet engines operate at about 140 dB when standing 100 feet from the engine in open space. Of course, there’s no need to go anywhere near 140 decibels. Suggest you test 100 dBs to 110 dBs with focus groups to determine which decibel level to adopt as Harley’s signature sound level.
Here’s what I want my neighbors to hear when I leave the neighborhood.
Here’s what I want my buddies to hear when I’m idling in “neutral” and showing off my new, redesigned, electric Softail Custom (eSC007HOG) with 12-inch Ape Hangers and a Captain America paint job.
Here’s what I want my fellow biker bros to hear when I approach them from behind, pass them and leave them in the dust on the highway.
Sound Advice: Harley’s motor sound is extremely important when it comes to the Harley-Davidson brand, the Harley-Davidson experience and even to many of Harley’s individual customer identities. The huge after-market exhaust pipe world is proof of this.
Get that electric motor sounding louder and your eBikes should dominate their target category with sound alone. Plus, a unique Harley jet sound level will truly differentiate LiveWire models from all other competitors who are sure to come into the market promoting softer, screechy and whiny electronic motorcycles.
I can see the new age ads of the future already: “You meet the nicest people on them microwave oven sounding motorbikes.” – Don’t let this be your ad HD!
The eMotor…let’s go full-out chrome.
Chrome matters to bikers/motorcycle enthusiasts! While I like the black engine look myself, I find most of my blog and social media fans prefer chrome engines. Go all chrome motors I tell yas.
MJB Design Tip7: Chrome is good. Lots of chrome is better.
The LiveWire Ride, Look and Feel.
Harley’s eBike felt small to me as a six foot, 200+ pounder. This new ride is not only different in powerplant, it looks different and feels different…maybe too boldly different? Ergonomics of the LiveWire just did not work well for me.
MJB Design Tip8: I am not a fan of footpegs that are positioned behind me or my having to lean much forward on any motorcycle. Ergonomic design needs some attention on the LiveWire.
Riding the LiveWire reminded me of my attempts to like the Buells in the early HD Buell days. I owned one, rode one but could never fully fall in love with that style of motorcycle. Hey, to each his own or her own riding preferences.
Note to HD Designers: Refer back to MJB Design Tip3 for guidance on footpeg and body lean placements.
Project LiveWire brings a new definition to what a motorcycle “may” become in the future.
Project LiveWire is in the mechanical, electrical and consumer testing stage. It is not available for sale at the writing time of this blog post.
I have no doubt that Harley’s “Freedom To Ride” mantra will continue for future generations. The Motor Company’s brand is a very powerful expression of personal freedom. Harley-Davidson is well known as one of the strongest brands in the entire universe. Project LiveWire is a futuristic machine with a unique sounding motor…the Harley eBike is sure to continue to evolve as they gather more and more feedback from consumers.
MJB Design Tip9: New products need fresh new colors to give them life…to separate them from all the marketplace clutter. See new brand logo color suggestion and note below.
The bottom line…rider adoption.
Today’s high school teenager, who’s looking for their generation’s definition of freedom, and many of today’s millennials, who are trying just to find freedom away from their parents, will likely love electric vehicles, including motorcycles.
Me, I don’t plan on riding the byways and highways of the world on an electronic motorcycle anytime soon but if I ever do go electric, it will most likely be on one of Harley-Davidson’s future LiveWire Models. I just trust that they will build the right motorcycle at the right time for the right customer. Why? Because they are asking customers and future customers for feedback…they actually care about our opinion so let them have it.
Stay tuned folks…if anybody can bring a good looking, super-cool sounding electronic motorcycle to the 2-wheel world, it will be Harley-Davidson Inc. Go to the official Project Livewire website for more information.
Ride safe out there…no matter the type of bike you ride. See MJB Design Tip10 below.
MJB Design Tip10: Make sure you introduce an eScooter to the LiveWire Model Lineup when it comes to life HD…you could dominate the worldwide urban riding, city-dwelling market with a cool jet-engine sounding eScoot. (eHOGScoot001)
You heard here first folks. MJB
Special Note: I want to thank Ty Miller, General Manager, San Diego Harley-Davidson, for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Project LiveWire Experience Tour. It was a very interesting ride and a lot of fun. Thanks Ty! Click here to see the Project Rushmore experience mentioned at the beginning of this post. SDHD has an excellent inventory of the Project Rushmore motorcycles.
Note: Copyrights and Trademarks are the property of their owners. No infringement ever intended. Music/sounds used with permission of recording artists. MJB Design Tips were provided free of charge to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. No compensation was received and the Motor Company is under no obligation to adopt any of my design tips. Refer to footer area of this website/blog for additional information.