Electric Harley-Davidson – a sparky ride?
Recently, a handful of UK journalists got the chance to ride Harley-Davidson‘s electric motorcycle prototype, billed as ‘Project LiveWire’.
This was not a bike launch, but the beginning of an ‘insight gathering’ tour, which aims to capture the opinions of 1000 ordinary riders across the UK and mainland Europe. Their feedback will be added to info collected on a similar tour, which took place across the US last year. The 1000 European motorcyclists won their chance to ride the Project LiveWire bike in a competition.
A Project LiveWire prototype first made its UK debut at Motorcycle Live and can currently be seen at a cinema near you in the new Marvel film Avengers: Age of Ultron as the transport of choice for Scarlett Johansson’s superhero character the Black Widow.
Technical bod at the Motorcycle Industry Association – Phil Whitmore was among the lucky few who were first to try the bike. As a confirmed petrol-head, who normally rides a Suzuki TL 1000 R, he admitted to Get On that he was curious about riding an electric bike,but wasn’t expecting much. Here’s what he told us…
Phil: I admit I was an electric sceptic but was blown away by the Harley-Davidson.
Get On: Tell us more…
Phil: The power delivery is very progressive, very smooth. I was expecting the acceleration to come in a bit sharp, but it didn’t. It was easy to maintain at very low speeds too. I thought that would be difficult.
Get On: Where did you get to ride it?
Phil: It was held at the Millbrook test centre near Bedford, which allowed us to try two different simulated situations. One was like riding Alpine roads, with very steep gradients and twisty hairpin bends and the other was much more similar to normal road conditions. It handled well in both situations.
Get On: How did it feel different to a petrol bike?
Phil: What stood out from an engineering perspective was how light it felt. Most modern petrol engine bikes have their engines high up in the frame, which can make them feel a bit top-heavy, but this was low. They’ve used a completely new casting technique too and the frame weighs just 6 kilos.
Get On: Was it comfortable?
Phil: Yes, you’d expect it to be comfortable coming from Harley-Davidson. It’s very neatly proportioned; a traditional naked style – a bit like a Hornet or Kawasaki Z1000. It’s an upright seating position, with the foot pegs where you’d expect them to be. For a prototype, it felt very well built. Very solid.
Get On: What about performance and range?
Phil: Top speed of 95 and a range of around 30 miles in ‘performance mode’ and double that in ‘range mode’. It would take around 3 hours to recharge and with a 55kW output you’d need a full A licence to ride it.
Get On: What did it sound like?
Phil: Interesting. Harley has incorporated the sounds you’d associate with a petrol engine. When you flip the ignition and put the power button on you hear a buzz like a fuel pump, so that you know it’s on. When you’re actually riding – it sounds like a quiet jet engine. If you’re on the ground and one rides past – you hear a whooshing sound, like something you’d hear in a sci-fi film.
Get on: So would you buy one if they were available commercially?
Phil: If you’d asked me that before I tried it I’d have laughed, but having ridden it – I’d definitely consider it. It’s being pitched as a commuter bike and I could see it being a lot of fun and anyway if it’s good enough for the Black Widow….