I honestly wish I could get worked up for Harley-Davidson’s new electric motorcycle, the 2020 LiveWire. Not, mind you, because I have a particular love of H-D; not that I hate them either, I’ve just never been a fan of the company’s loud, rumbly, 20th century outlaw aesthetic. But because I’d like to see electrics get over their mostly-battery-faulted growing pains and become mainstay vehicles on American roads.
Alas, the LiveWire def won’t be the vehicle to accomplish that. To begin with, it’s too early in its own development (even after 6 years’ work since conception), so it’s got a truly prototype price tag at just 200 bucks under $30,000. As others have pointed out, I could buy a Tesla 3 with that coin. Or I could get a Goldwing and pocket about 10 grand.
Secondly, for a motorcycle company whose renown is for bikes that riders will take on long trips, cruising the roads and highways and maybe crossing a few state lines, the LiveWire will only cover about 95 miles on the highway before requiring an almost-1-hour recharge (or 40 minutes for an 80% recharge for another 75 miles or so. Whoosh). Hardly something you’ll be doing long-distance traveling on… though you’d spend so much time on the road you’ll think you’ve been riding for days.
Or maybe you’re a sport-type rider. Well, LiveWire is clearly designed to be a sporty ride, not a cruiser. But all that road-carving will only cost you more battery drain and, therefore, fewer miles before you’re coasting up to the charging station.
Finally, there’s the look of the bike. Full confession, here: I was a big fan of H-D’s V-rod when it came out, and if-if-if, I might’ve bought one back in the day. And I honestly feel like the LiveWire isn’t horrible-looking. But it’s no V-rod. It has some interesting looks, and I think they did a decent job figuring out what to do with a non-V-twin-looking motor and battery casing to make them look not-quite-ugly. But then you get to the tiny dashboard that literally looks like H-D bought a chinese knock-off cellphone and screwed it to the handlebars. Tres disappoint.
I think the worst part is, I understand it’s not a bad ride… peppy, flicky, comfy, all that. But at 30 grand and only enough juice to get you just around town—once—I have a hard time imagining who’s going to be buying these, showing them off to friends, and sending those friends down to the H-D dealership to demand more. That strategy didn’t work with Buell, and there are too many choices of vehicles out there (even in the electric market) to make LiveWire that desireable. And Harley has yet to demonstrate that they’ve got the right stuff for a new generation of riders, as their base customers are getting very long in the tooth.
I think there’s a great future for electric vehicles, with four or two wheels. Sooner or later, the battery charging and capacity problems will be licked, and we’ll see the venerable internal combustion engine finally replaced by the electric motor.
But that replacement fleet won’t be led by the LiveWire. I’m not even sure the LiveWire will earn a place anywhere in the fleet.