Harley Davidson’s first electric bike, LiveWire, to hit the streets in September


Yep, you heard right. The iconic American company known for its roaring exhaust, rebellious riders and all around badassery is hitting the electric scene with their new LiveWire bike.

On July 12th, 2019, Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) debuted its first electric motorcycle, LiveWire. The bike was unleashed for a select group of journalists on a Formula E racetrack in Brooklyn, New York. The aim was to give the journalists a sense of the bike’s performance.

Harley’s new baby is different from what people are used to. It’s an EV, unlike past models which were a symbol of steel, chrome and internal combustion.

It’s sleeker and more refined. The fit and finish are at the level you would expect from a Harley-Davidson street bike.

Prototype Phase Is Over

In 2014, Harley-Davidson unveiled the Livewire prototype and entered the bike into production. The prototype was first displayed to journalists in June 2014. Different prototypes were made available in the US for public test rides.

These exercises extended to Canada and Europe in 2015. In January 2018, Harley-Davidson announced that the LiveWire will be going into production and would hit the market in 18 months.

After the announcement, customers began to make pre-orders as of January 2019. In May 2019, the Milwaukee based company announced that the first deliveries will be in September 2019.

Major Shift

Industry observers have called the Livewire as “the most radical departure in the company’s 116-year history.” Others see the development and sale of the LiveWire as a shift to customers who are not in search of loud and expensive motorcycles.

Simply put, Harley-Davidson is trying to re-imagine itself to appeal to new markets in the US. Not to mention, India and China who are target customers too. Although Harley is still selling its iconic brands that rode it to fame in the 1950s and 1960s, the major shift is a welcome strategy.

Harley-Davidson is one of the bike makers that has shifted to EV but this has not come easy. Before the Great Recession that drove GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, Harley-Davidson was doing well.

In fact, it was in better shape than car makers such as Ford who were driven to the wall by the recession. After the downturn, the company started fairing worse. Sales plunged from $5.8 billion in 2006 to $3.1 billion in 2010. Its market share also declined from 51% in 2006 to 43% in 2008, according to Time magazine.

After-sales turned up, Harley-Davidson decided to strategize.

There was a recognition that it was a great company, 108 years old.” said CEO Keith Wandell who took over in 2009. “A lot of great things had already happened, but I think what was apparent was that we had stuck in time. We had become resistant to change.”

This year, Harley-Davidson expects sales to increase by 9.7% to $6.5 billion. This is largely attributed to the introduction of the electric-powered urban cycle and new lower-powered and lower-priced models for young riders.

LiveWire E-Cycle

In 2018, Harley-Davidson opened a new office in Silicon Valley. This was in line with its plan to build a line of electric motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles. As reported by TechCrunch, the battery-powered e-cycle is capable of 0 to 60 MPH in 3 seconds. It will be able to do 60 MPH to 80 MPH in 1.9 seconds.

It will have a 15.5 kWh battery able to charge to 100% in under 60 minutes. The magnetic motor will produce 86 ft-lbs. of torque and 105 horsepower. This is for a city range of 146 miles or 95 for city/highway.

The Harley e-cycle has a smooth and excellent acceleration whether you are barreling down a backstretch or coming out of a tight corner. It has 7 drive modes. These drive modes include a few that will help the e-cycle enhance its performance on the track and conserve battery.

What makes the e-cycle to be special is that it’s so well balanced thanks to the high up and aluminum frame. It’s also good to look at – from the stylized battery pack to the custom decorative lighting.

As reported by Bloomberg, the bike has no real vibration nor does it emit loud sounds. In fact, riding the LiveWire makes it hard to differentiate if the bike is running or not. To know if the bike is running, a green light band lights up on the 4.3-inch touchscreen.

The e-cycle does not emit any heat which is an advantage to the rider, especially on hot summer days. With LiveWire, you will require no spark plugs, major servicing, air filter or engine oil. But, things like brake fluid, tires, pads, belt tension, and gearbox oil should be checked.

Two Years Free Charging

Harley-Davidson announced that it will offer two years of free charging for its customers. This promotion is for eco-conscious buyers and it will help to mitigate the hefty price tag. Every customer will get two years of free charging on buying the $29,000 LiveWire.

The promotion also includes 500 kWh of charging service. The free charging is for ChargePoint stations located at participating Harley dealers. Electrify America stations will do the servicing.

The company will be adding more charging stations putting it in a position of becoming an EV leader among established companies.