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Production Harley-Davidson LiveWire Makes European Debut At EICMA
Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire is getting closer. The Motor Company previewed a “production-ready” LiveWire at Milan’s EICMA show, and confirmed again it will be released in 2019 as a 2020 model. This is the same LiveWire that was shown at the 115th Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee in August, but Harley has also shared a few more details about its all-new electric motorcycle, though some of the most important specifications remain secret.For example, don’t bother asking about the capacity of the RESS (Rechargeable Energy Storage System)—or “battery” for those of you speak who speak English rather than Marketing. The large, finned, black aluminum case hiding within the frame carries an unspecified number of unspecified brand and unspecified type lithium-ion cells, and will have everything to do with the range and power of the LiveWire. It’s a reasonable assumption the energy capacity of this battery has increased dramatically since the first 2014 LiveWire prototypes, and the battery-case volume looks large enough it may rival or exceed the roughly 15 kWh or so of the highest-capacity Zero motorcycles.Harley did say “Performance and range are optimized for the urban street-rider,” which suggests the company has encountered the same highway range limitations everyone else doing electric motorcycles has faced, and is aiming the bike at a market where it can excel.But some significant new details emerged. On the top of the LiveWire’s “gas tank” is a charge port that uses an SAE J1772 connector, the emerging automotive standard for full-on electric cars. It supports Level 2 (fast, measured in hours) and Level 3 charging, which is the most rapid of all: direct current fast charging. DC fast charging is generally only limited by what the cells and cooling can handle, and if you look closely at the photographs released, you can see liquid-cooling lines and what appears to be a radiator or two on the LiveWire. This may be the first production electric motorcycle that can be charged to 80 percent in 15–20 minutes; topping off the last 20 percent is always a slower process, and getting to near 100 percent may take an hour. In addition, Harley has noted there’s an on-board Level 1 charger that can connect to any wall socket; that’s the leisurely charger for overnight use. Owners can use that, or get a Level 2 charger installed in their garage, as have so many Tesla and Chevrolet Bolt owners, and use the J1772 port.The motor of the LiveWire resides in the polished aluminum case below the battery, and Harley only describes it as a PMAC (Permanent Magnet Alternating Current) motor without giving any power or torque figures. Expect both of those, particularly the torque, to be sufficient for spectacular low-speed acceleration and excellent zero-to-60-mph and roll-on times. The motor remains mounted longitudinally in the chassis, driving the output shaft through a right-angle gearset.According to Harley, the bike “is designed to produce a tone that increases in pitch and volume with speed—a new sound that represents the smooth, electric power of the LiveWire motorcycle.” A lot of that sound almost certainly comes from that gear pair.
As with most electric motorcycles, there is neither a clutch nor a gearbox. Final drive is by toothed belt, with a very Buell-looking system, indeed. The rear axle is fixed and nonadjustable, and a pulley under the lower run of the belt is used for belt pre-tensioning.
There’s a new color TFT display mounted above the handlebars. It’s tiltable to optimize the viewing angle for different height riders, and it’s thoroughly modern and connected, with Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, music, and machine configuration settings.Some other details of the chassis were released: High-specification Showa suspension is used at both ends, a BFRC-lite shock with full damping adjustability and an SFF-BP (Separate Function Fork Big Piston). Tires are Michelins in 120- and 180-section widths, while 300mm Brembo brakes are mounted to the front wheel. The ABS system is an advanced cornering-enhanced version, and traction control is provided for the electric motor—something that will undoubtedly come in handy on wet and slick urban streets.As for price, there are no hints. However, Harley is positioning the LiveWire as a very high-performance and technically advanced urban streetfighter, packed with technology. It will not be inexpensive.