Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Project Livewire Test Ride


I was very fortunate to be able to test-ride the new Harley-Davidson prototype electric motorcycle, called Project Livewire. Along with son Charlie, we had been invited to go to the Millbrook Proving Track to be one of the first to ride this bike in the UK.

Son Charlie, on the electric Harley-Davidson


First off, I have to say what an amazing experience it was riding this bike. It’s power and acceleration are amazing. 0-60mph on a motorcycle is pretty quick and the 300 volt battery certainly provides enough power to get you up to its restricted top speed of 91mph very quickly. The power is delivered very smoothly, with a constant rate of acceleration throughout the power range – it accelerates as quickly from 50-80 as is does from 20-50 mph – meaning you have to be prepared to hold on tight at any speed when you crank the throttle open.

Charlie setting off

The bike has no gears, no clutch, just a twist-and-go throttle that launches you surprisingly quickly. Of course, the bike is nearly silent, although Harley-Davidson have introduced some noise that is pretty reasonable at reminding you the motor is working hard. Having previously ridden somewhat odd completely silent electric motorcycles, this was a welcome addition.



The bike weighs 210kg or 463lbs, but it feels light and agile. It handles well and can certainly be thrown into the bends. We rode the bike for about 15 minutes and in just that short amount of time, it was easy to feel at ease with its handling. We were glad it was a gloriously sunny day which enabled us to enjoy the dry track to the full. We first took the bikes over Millbrook's Alpine course with steep inclines and both positive and negative cambered fast bends, before unleashing its power on the 2 mile circular speed track, where it was easy to ride the bike at its top speed quickly.





Range is the limiting issue with the bike at the moment. I am sure that Harley-Davidson will wait until the battery technology improves so that a 100+ mile range is possible before fully launching the motorcycle. That is, if they ever do. It is by no means certain that they will, but I for one would certainly be disappointed if they don’t.

Part of the purpose of the test-rides was for Harley-Davidson to solicit feedback on what riders thought of the bike and there was a good process in place to allow that to happen. Now, they wouldn't go to all that trouble if they were not going to take forward the manufacture an electric bike, would they?

My turn



What a bike! Would I want one? Err, yes! I know many will say this is not like a traditional Harley-Davidson and they want to retain their petrol-engined bikes and I would want to do that as well. But, this bike is so special, it will attract a new type of rider and certainly some of those who would like both petrol and electric Harley-Davidson's in their garage.

20 comments:

Dar said...

Looks pretty cool. We have an electric bike or two in town here and it is completely weird to see it go by and not hear it.

Gary France said...

Dar - The electric Harley actually makes a noise. They didn't want a silent bike, so they introduced a gear into the motor to make a whine that sounds pretty good. It is not loud, but enough for people to hear it.

Rex J. Covington said...

I also had a amazing experience test riding Harley-Davidson electric bike! I want one and hope they do go in to production!
Great post Gary!

Link to my experience:
https://youtu.be/W71POqhQeGA?list=PLQwgfgKzZN0_8HkLcKajl7Gsl6wHGqI4I

Robert Wilson said...

While the tech interests me and the need for a electric bike is clear, I just don't like the style of the bike.

I am glad to hear they added noise, anything that makes the biker a bit more noticeable is a good thing in my mind.

Canajun said...

What a great opportunity to test ride one. I like the idea of electric bikes for around town - quick jaunts here and there with charging stations at every corner - but for long haul highway use battery technology has a long way to go before it becomes viable. I don't see a 300-400 mile range any time soon, and I think that's what it will take so riders aren't forced to spend 3 or 4 hours recharging during the riding day.

Gary France said...

Rex - I looked at your video. We were lucky to ride the bikes on a test track which meant we could give it the full beans. It gets up to 90+ mph very quickly! I could tell from your video you were as impressed as I was!

Gary France said...

Robert - I am not sold on the styling either, but it is just a prototype at the moment. If they do take the bike into full production, it is unlikely to look like it does now.

Gary France said...

Canajun – I think the days of significantly longer range are not that far away. Zero already have a bike that does 185 miles on a single charge. Some bikes are already available for urban use and Zero are a good example of that. I don’t think Harley-Davidson will be aiming for the urban market and they are likely to make cruiser-type electric bikes that will do 150 miles, maybe 200. Harley are very clever and won’t produce something that people won’t buy, so watch this space. I suspect many people will buy (big) electric bikes like these not as their main bike, but as a second motorcycle. They are so much fun to ride (completely different to a petrol-engined bike) with remarkable torque and acceleration, they are certain to be a real hit. You also won’t need special charging stations – these bikes will charge from a regular power socket, so people will charge them at home, at work, at a hotel, but I suspect few will expect (or want) to use public charging facilities. Very few people will buy them to ride 300-400 miles in a single day.

Lucky said...

That's a pretty sweet looking bike! I'd love to take one out for a ride.

I've been curious about the silent/not silent issue. On the one hand, flying along on a bike that isn't making any noise would be pretty cool.

On the other hand, it's nice to know the machine is doing something and sound is a part of the whole experience of riding...

SonjaM said...

You guys are looking good on that bike. Made me curious and I'd like to try it. As for the 'short' range, well, I ride a Sportster (equipped with a standard tank), and we all know well how far that goes ;-)

Charlie6 said...

I test rode the Zero electric bikes years ago, thought it spookily quiet.

I pictured, when you said HD introduced sound, a couple of playing cards that brush against the spokes.... ;P

100 mile range should work for city commuters I would think but yeah, longer range would be better....not to mention the infrastructure to keep them charged up or is it just plug into regular outlets? Recharge time?

VStar Lady said...

That is a nice looking bike (of course the riders set it off perfectly.) Love the thought of a quiet ride but think I'd find it very frustrating to have to stop for a couple hour recharge every (at best) 300 km. Sounds like a bike for folks who don't have to get very far in a day and don't care how long it takes to get there. Does going fast, getting nowhere come to mind? Perhaps it needs on board, en route solar recharging capabilities.

Richard M said...

I agree with most of the other comments. I like the idea but I don't think that electric-only vehicles will ever make it as your only vehicle for quite a while. And a bike just doesn't have the payload/space for a range extending engine like the Volt of the new BMW electric car. Really cool opportunity though.

Gary France said...

Lucky – You are right, I have ridden a totally silent electric bike and that is very strange. Overall, one that makes some sound is much better.

Gary France said...

Sonja – You say the nicest things! Your Sportster has a reasonable range for the standard tank. I reckon about 112 miles / 180 kilometres. :-)

Gary France said...

Dom – Me too and it was very quiet. I laughed about the playing cards, but it is a bit more sophisticated than that. You are spot on about the range. 100 miles would be okay for some, but not others. The Zero plugs into regular outlets. I am not sure how Harley-Davidson would design the charging system on any fully manufactured bike, but they would be crazy if it wasn’t into regular power outlet.

Gary France said...

VSL – I think on board solar charging wouldn’t generate enough power to be worthwhile, otherwise electric cars would have done that by now. The range is the all-important factor. 300kms is some time away I suspect. I look at it this way – somebody who regularly rides (say to and from work) doing 8,000 miles a year, does an average of 160 miles a week. A bike with a range of 100 miles doesn’t look so bad then. I agree people like you and I who ride longer distances each day would need more. Our time will come.

Gary France said...

Richard – At the test ride day, Harley-Davidson were asking riders questions about luggage needs on these types of bike. That spoke volumes about the near future to me.

Axel said...

The range is not so much the issue for me, its the time spend recharging that is key. A Sportster goes 100 miles, and 5 minutes later another 100 miles. Would be great to have exchangeable battery, you hop from dealership to dealership, and exchange your battery for a fee.Out - In, and off you go :)

Trobairitz said...

Looks good on ya Gary.

The Zero and Brammos are popular here, but I don't think we'll see any of these too soon.

Very cool you and Charlie got to test ride it.