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Shock! Harley unveils its first electric bike

By Chris Harris, 20 Jun 2014 News

Shock! Harley unveils its first electric bike

‘Project LiveWire’ to gauge customer reaction and ‘sound like a fighter jet’

HARLEY-DAVIDSON has shocked the two-wheeled world by unveiling its first electric motorcycle, called ‘Project LiveWire’.

But fear not yet, purists, because it remains a concept bike at this stage to gauge public reaction.

Should it get the production green light, the comparatively quiet LiveWire will represent a watershed moment in the iconic Milwaukee brand’s 111-year history, which has been conservatively built on old-school grunty V-twin engines and heavyweight cruisers.

“Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar – not an electric car,” Harley-Davidson senior vice president and chief marketing officer Mark-Hans Richer said.

“It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric.

“Project LiveWire is a bold statement for us as a company and a brand.”

Harley claims the electric bike offers “a visceral riding experience with tyre-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable new sound”.

“The sound is a distinct part of the thrill,” Richer said. “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier.

“Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion [engines] and other electric motorcycles on the market.”

By that Richer means the likes of compatriot rival Zero, which currently offers five electric models in Australia, priced between $19,490 for the FX enduro model and $25,490 for the SR naked flagship.

While the LiveWire looks production-ready, technical details such as battery range remain slim.

The ‘demonstrator’ is understood to be powered by a three-phase induction motor delivering 55kW (74hp) and 70Nm of torque, which – if correct – is actually significantly less than the Zero SR (50kW/144Nm).

The bike features a lithium-ion battery that’s tipped to have a maximum capacity of 14kWh and a recharge time of about 3.5 hours in the US (220-volt input port), according to H-D.

With an instant hit of torque from an electric motor, however, the LiveWire will still be blindingly quick, with a 0-100km/h sprint time of about four seconds.

Select US customers will from next week be able to ride and provide feedback on the bike, with the water-testing road show expanding into Canada and Europe next year.

“Because electric vehicle technology is evolving rapidly, we are excited to learn more from riders through the Project LiveWire Experience,” Richer said.