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2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Review MC Commute

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Harley-Davidson leans into the next generation of motorcycling with its all-electric LiveWire ($30,149 as tested). Introduced last summer, the LiveWire is the 117-year-old company’s first gasoline-free production motorcycle. Positioned as a halo machine, the LiveWire is engineered for motorcyclists desiring the utmost in modern two-wheel EV hardware. Aside from fasteners, it shares no components with the Project LiveWire 2014 prototype.

Saddle up as we go for a ride aboard Harley-Davidson’s all-electric LiveWire motorcycle.
Saddle up as we go for a ride aboard Harley-Davidson’s all-electric LiveWire motorcycle. (Adam Waheed/)

The LiveWire is powered by a bullet-shaped permanent magnet synchronous motor positioned below the battery. Dubbed, the Revelation, this motor has few moving parts aside from a bevel gear transferring power to the back wheel via a right-hand-side belt final drive. It’s a direct-drive setup without a clutch. A small amount of oil (0.34 quart) lubricates this mechanism, and after initial break-in service, it requires attention every 20,000 miles.

The LiveWire transfers power to the 17-inch rear wheel by a clean and low-maintenance belt final drive.
The LiveWire transfers power to the 17-inch rear wheel by a clean and low-maintenance belt final drive. (Adam Waheed/)

The Motor Company rates the Revelation at 86 pound-feet of instantaneous torque and 105 hp. Due to its elevated power load, the motor integrates liquid-cooling. A small curved radiator sits behind the 17-inch alloy front wheel.

Related: 2020 Zero Motorcycles SR/F Review MC Commute

The LiveWire uses a huge Samsung-sourced 15.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. During our 13-mile spirited ride (Sport mode) we used 20 percent battery capacity.
The LiveWire uses a huge Samsung-sourced 15.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. During our 13-mile spirited ride (Sport mode) we used 20 percent battery capacity. (Adam Waheed/)

A huge 15.5kWh Samsung-sourced lithium-ion Renewable Energy Storage System (Harley nomenclature for battery pack) provides power. The automotive-grade component is maintenance-free, and offers a claimed range of 95 miles during combined city and highway use. During our brisk 13-mile stoplight-to-stoplight city commute, in Sport mode, the LiveWire consumed 20 percent capacity. Estimated remaining range was 84 miles. The motor offers adjustable regeneration capability, charging the battery when the vehicle is coasting.

The 2020 LiveWire is exceptionally slim. Note the wasp-style tail and competition-derived Showa BFRC-lite shock.
The 2020 LiveWire is exceptionally slim. Note the wasp-style tail and competition-derived Showa BFRC-lite shock. (Adam Waheed/)

The motorcycle is charged via standard J1772-compatible input positioned beneath the hinged faux brushed aluminum fuel cap. The charging cable is stored beneath the seat and is compatible with standard 110-volt three-prong power plug (Level 1). Harley says the cells recharge at a rate of 13.8 miles for every one hour of charge. That equates to 12.5 hours of charge time from a diminished state.

A faux hinged fuel cap hides the LiveWire’s J1772-compatible charging port. The LiveWire is compatible with Level 1 and Level 3 charging systems. Level 2 charging equipment can be used, however it only charges at Level 1 throughput.
A faux hinged fuel cap hides the LiveWire’s J1772-compatible charging port. The LiveWire is compatible with Level 1 and Level 3 charging systems. Level 2 charging equipment can be used, however it only charges at Level 1 throughput. (Adam Waheed/)

Curiously the LiveWire isn’t engineered to consume the increased electrical bandwidth of Level 2 chargers (currently more widely available). Instead Harley-Davidson relies on Level 3 DC fast-charging technology. With this medium, the battery can recharge from depleted state to 80 percent in 40 minutes.

Contrary to a manual gasoline-powered motorcycle, the LiveWire offers three controls: a right-hand-side twist throttle, front brake lever, and a right-hand-side foot-mounted rear brake pedal.

Despite its 553-pound curb weight, the LiveWire looks and feels compact with a wheelbase comparable to a Sportster 1200. It’s ideal for someone seeking a maneuverable city bike.
Despite its 553-pound curb weight, the LiveWire looks and feels compact with a wheelbase comparable to a Sportster 1200. It’s ideal for someone seeking a maneuverable city bike. (Adam Waheed/)

Lift it off the kickstand and you’ll feel its 553-pound heft. Seated at the controls however, it feels slim, with a compact wheelbase comparable to a Sporster 1200. Ergonomically, this ebike offers a sporty stance with a wide handlebar and sportbike-like foot controls.

The LiveWire’s cockpit is slim and well proportioned. We’re fans of its sporty stance highlighted by a wide handlebar and sportbike-like foot controls.
The LiveWire’s cockpit is slim and well proportioned. We’re fans of its sporty stance highlighted by a wide handlebar and sportbike-like foot controls. (Adam Waheed/)

The LiveWire offers exceptionally accurate throttle response. It’s sensitive, but in a good way, facilitating an intimate experience at the controls. Four combined power/throttle maps are offered (Sport, Road, Rain, and Range). The rider can also customize three separate maps (A, B, C), by selecting various degrees of power, throttle response, regeneration (similar to engine-brake effect on an internal combustion engine-equipped motorcycle), and traction control.

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire employs high-end componentry that helps it achieve a high level of road performance, regardless of powertrain design.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire employs high-end componentry that helps it achieve a high level of road performance, regardless of powertrain design. (Adam Waheed/)

To simulate the purr of an engine, the motor includes a haptic feature, felt through the handlebar. With the dash’s green propulsion lights activated, the motor rocks back and forth between magnets at a standstill, timing is based off a human’s resting heartbeat. It’s a nice, subtle touch that lets you know the bike’s ready to play.

The LiveWire exudes a muscular stance. Bright LED lighting helps you stand out on the road.
The LiveWire exudes a muscular stance. Bright LED lighting helps you stand out on the road. (Adam Waheed/)

In Sport mode, the LiveWire rockets away from stoplights, generating immediate thrust akin to a high-performance roller coaster. Harley claims 0–60 in three seconds flat, and it certainly feels as quick as a liter-sized sportbike. Brembo triple-disc hydraulic disc brakes shed speed with authority with a pleasing level of feel. LiveWires are equipped with Harley’s newly developed Reflex Defensive Riding Systems—an IMU-powered electronics suite that includes lean-angle-sensitive ABS, with rear-wheel lift mitigation, traction control, and Drag-Torque Slip Control, which performs in theory like a slipper clutch. This helps mitigate rear wheel instability during deceleration with high levels of regeneration.

Despite employing a slim, wasp-style tail, there’s room for both rider and passenger.
Despite employing a slim, wasp-style tail, there’s room for both rider and passenger. (Adam Waheed/)

A pitch-adjustable iPhone 8-sized color display keeps tabs on machine vitals. While the screen offers touchscreen functionality, we prefer the handlebar-mounted switch gear since it performs more responsively. The position and chunky button size are standard Harley-Davidson fare, which we like. While functional, we would like a larger display, especially considering the LiveWire’s high-tech flair.

The standard household three-prong Level 1 charging cable is stored beneath the seat.
The standard household three-prong Level 1 charging cable is stored beneath the seat. (Adam Waheed/)

The menu offers a logical layout and we appreciate its more simple pared-down interface versus some of the setups we’ve used on other bikes recently. The LiveWire includes H-D Connect, a subscription-based app that allows the rider to communicate with the motorcycle via a proprietary iOS- and Android-compatible Harley-Davidson app. With the app, the rider can monitor battery/charging status, vehicle position, and service reminders.

The Showa BFRC-lite shock mounts directly between frame and swingarm, sans linkage. The shock isolates damping circuits from piston movement for more accurate damping response.
The Showa BFRC-lite shock mounts directly between frame and swingarm, sans linkage. The shock isolates damping circuits from piston movement for more accurate damping response. (Adam Waheed/)

In spite of its weight, the LiveWire is a surprisingly agile machine. Steering is sharp but not overly so, and the chassi offers pinpoint precision. The adjustable Showa suspension components do a fine job of controlling weight transfer, but you certainly feel bumps when rolling over rough pavement. Still, considering how well the motorcycle behaves, both at high and low speeds we can live with its more rigid ride.

With its muscular, high-tech stance, the LiveWire certainly looks the part, but it backs its bad boy image with a surprisingly level of performance, regardless of powertrain design. Factor in its lofty level of fit and finish, and the LiveWire proves a serious piece of hardware that will make you think twice about riding electric.

Gear Box

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2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Technical Specifications And Price

PRICE $29,799, starting
MOTOR H-D Revelation; internal permanent magnet synchronous motor with water-cooling
BATTERY 15.5kWh Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS)
CLUTCH Direct drive
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 1-speed/belt
FRAME Twin-spar aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm inverted Separate Function Front Fork - Big Piston (SFF-BP), fully adjustable; 4.5-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion-lite (BFRC-lite) direct-mount, fully adjustable; 4.5-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Brembo radial-mount 4-piston calipers, 300mm discs w/ Cornering ABS
REAR BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Black, split five-spoke cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5-in. / 17 x 5.5-in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR Michelin Scorcher Sport; 120/70-17 / 180/55-17
RAKE/TRAIL 24.5°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 58.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 30.0 in.
FUEL CAPACITY N/A
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 553 lb.
WARRANTY 24 months
AVAILABLE February, 2020
CONTACT harley-davidson.com

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