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2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire New Electric Motorcycle Review

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire New Electric Motorcycle Review

Author: Jason Fogelson

It's possible that the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire is the most important launch for the Motor Company since the Evolution engine in 1984. LiveWire is H-D's first electric motorcycle, a hint at what's to come for America's largest bike maker. The new bike has been in development for almost a decade, and will finally reach a network of 250 select Harley-Davidson dealers globally (150 of which are in the U.S.) in late September 2019.

What's New for 2020?

The LiveWire is new from the ground up, with a new platform, frame, motor, battery, wheels, tires -- you name it. The only parts we spotted that might be from the H-D bin are switchgear, mirrors and fasteners.

What We Like

  • Rippingly quick off the line, with peak torque available at 0 rpm
  • Premium levels of fit and finish
  • Comfortable, maneuverable, easily ridable

What We Don't

  • Shocking price
  • Limited range

How Much?

LiveWire prices will start at $29,799.

Fuel Economy

LiveWire is all-electric. Range is estimated at 146 miles of city riding or 95 miles of combined city and highway.

Standard Features and Options

Motor: Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor with water jacket cooling. 105 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque at 0 rpm.

EV Battery: 15.5 kWh high-voltage lithium-ion Renewable Energy Storage System (RESS).

Utility Battery: 12.8-volt lithium-ion to power gauges, lights, etc.

Charging: Level 1 charger (120/240-volt) with power cord -- DC Fast Charge (DCFC) capability built-in.

Charge times: 120-volts: 12.5 hours from "empty." DCFC: 0%-80% in 40 minutes, 0%-100% in 60 minutes.

Device Connection: Bluetooth hands-free and USB Type-C.

Lights: All LED.

Gauges: 4.3-in TFT color display with nine warning lights, clock, Integrated Bluetooth Connectivity.

Frame: Cast aluminum.

Swingarm: Dual-sided cast aluminum.

Front Fork: Fully adjustable Showa 43-mm Inverted Separate Function Forks with 4.5 inches of travel.

Rear Shock: Single fully adjustable Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite (BRFC-lite) with 4.5 inches of travel.

Wheels: 17-by-3.5-in front/17-by-5.5-in rear black split 5-spoke cast aluminum.

Tires: Michelin Scorcher Sport.

Brakes: Brembo dual 4-piston front, single 2-piston rear, floating rotors.

Primary Drive: Spiral bevel gear.

Final Drive: Belt.

Transmission: Single speed.


LiveWire comes with a full suite of electronic rider aids. Standard Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS) include cornering enhanced anti-lock braking system (C-ABS), cornering enhanced traction control system (C-TCS) and drag-torque slip-control system (DSCS).

Behind the Bars

LiveWire is a premium, technologically advanced, fully functioning 2-wheeled electric vehicle. In profile, it looks more like the late-lamented V-Rod than a Big Twin. LiveWire doesn't have to contend with exhaust, engine, fuel tank or oil tank. The middle of the bike houses the RESS (that's battery in Harley-speak) in a finned black container, and below that the Revelation motor in a bright cast aluminum housing. The cast aluminum frame is anodized in charcoal grey. A plastic faux gas tank and flyscreen fairing carry the body color -- Yellow Fuse, Orange Fuse or Vivid Black. There's a small black fender over the front wheel, and another hugs the rear wheel. The 2-piece seat has a dished solo section with a short flat pillion behind, a tail section that hangs in the air with superbike flair. The seat conceals a small lockable compartment that can hold the Level 1 charger and cable, and also includes a handy, clever helmet hook. The handlebars are relatively flat and narrow, with what looks like stock H-D switchgear and mirrors. There's a brake lever on the right with a twist-grip throttle. There's no clutch on the left, and no gear selector on the left peg -- because this EV has a single speed transmission -- no shifting.

LiveWire uses a proximity key. Just swing a leg over, and initiate the starting procedure on the right hand switchgear. The instrument panel lights come to life. Push the start button, and LiveWire is ready for action. There's no sound from the motor, just a gentle haptic pulse -- a subtle heartbeat induced by the rocking of magnets. Takeoff is easy to modulate with the smooth throttle application. LiveWire is quick -- 0-to-60 mph in 3.0 seconds quick -- and can reach a top speed of 110 mph. Roll-on is also sharp, from 60-to-80 mph in 1.9 seconds. LiveWire changes direction nicely, thanks to its low center of gravity. Four pre-programmed ride modes (Road, Sport, Range and Rain) and three customizable ride modes are accessible on the fly.

Zooming along with only the noise of the bevel gears beneath you and the wind rushing past your helmet is intoxicating. LiveWire is an easy bike to ride at all speeds. The seat and riding position are well-matched to the bike's range. No uncomfortable heat rises from between your legs, so riding in heavy urban traffic is drama-free. Also, since LiveWire is virtually silent in operation, you'll get fewer dirty looks from pedestrians and other motorists.

Other Motorcycles to Consider

2019 Zero Motorcycles -- Zero has five models starting at $8,495.

2019 Energica Motorcycles -- Italian manufacturer Energica has three electric motorcycles currently available in the U.S. starting at $20,930.

The Bottom Line

The 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire is an impressive achievement, and a massive gamble by America's dominant motorcycle company. It's a move that H-D had to make. The challenge is price, as $29,799 is a barrier to the young audience Harley needs to attract. Will early adopters be attracted to two wheels under electric power? Will grizzled Street Glide riders add a silent partner into their garages under the "Loud Pipes Save Lives" signs? H-D hopes LiveWire will open potential riders' minds to a new generation of vehicles. Then, the halo will have served its purpose. In the meantime, it's a fun, compelling ride.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

Published Aug 9th, 2019

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