Motorcycles

Meet Harley-Davidson's great electric hope: The production-ready 2020 Livewire

Meet Harley-Davidson's great e...
The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding
The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: looks like one of the best-handling Harleys ever
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: looks like one of the best-handling Harleys ever
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: design is a touch busier than the prototypes, but it still looks great
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: design is a touch busier than the prototypes, but it still looks great
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: H-D orange is a great color to bring out the hints of flat-track racer in the design
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: H-D orange is a great color to bring out the hints of flat-track racer in the design
The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding
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The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: rear hugger and plate holder
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: rear hugger and plate holder
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: quite a nice set of lines for an electric
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: quite a nice set of lines for an electric
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the electric motor takes pride of place at the bottom of the design, in bright silver paint
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the electric motor takes pride of place at the bottom of the design, in bright silver paint
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the first of a full portfolio of electrics Harley wants to launch by 2022
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the first of a full portfolio of electrics Harley wants to launch by 2022
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: headlight
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: headlight
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: high-spec Showa suspension should make this thing handle great
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: high-spec Showa suspension should make this thing handle great
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: pretty in black
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: pretty in black
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Brembo monoblock brakes will stop this bike like no production Harley before it
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Brembo monoblock brakes will stop this bike like no production Harley before it
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: fully adjustable Showa rear monoshock
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: fully adjustable Showa rear monoshock
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite monoshock
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite monoshock
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: toothed belt drive
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: toothed belt drive
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: head-on look at the headlight
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: head-on look at the headlight
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Harley's great electric hope
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: Harley's great electric hope
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: slim tank and seat
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2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: slim tank and seat

It's looking more and more like Harley's only hope is to branch out into new segments in search of a replacement for its withering customer base, and the 2020 Livewire represents the storied company's first big punch as it tries to fight its way into millennial relevancy. There are a few of key things we still don't know about this bike – namely power, torque, range, voltage and price. H-D's EICMA reveal stayed silent on these very important points, but it did give us our first glimpse of what it'll look like – and it's not bad at all.

The design isn't as clean as what we first saw in the Project Livewire prototype fleet that made its way around the world starting back in 2014. In particular, the area around the footpegs is a lot busier to look at, but the overall lines are nice, paying homage to Harley's flat tracking heritage and doing a decent job of working around the big, unattractive battery box that necessarily sits as a giant design black hole just where the beautiful Harley V-twin would ordinarily take pride of place.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: quite a nice set of lines for an electric
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: quite a nice set of lines for an electric

All we know about the electric motor is that it's a permanent magnet design, it's painted bright silver to make it a visual feature, and it's located under the battery box to keep the weight of the bike low and central for sprightly handling. This should certainly out-handle most of Harley's current portfolio, particularly given the "premium high-performance, fully adjustable Showa suspension" it'll run at both ends.

The shock will be a balance-free rear cushion-lite monoshock, the forks will be big piston, separate function, and the setup will be tuned for "composed control in typical urban riding conditions." The Brembo monoblock brakes and dual 300mm front discs might give Harley riders their first good reason to reach for the front brake lever in many moons. They're ABS units, as well, and traction control will also be standard when the Livewire debuts.

There will be seven selectable riding modes – four pre-programmed and three available custom slots for riders to set up themselves – and the main interface will be a full color, tilt-adjustable TFT touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, as is the style of these times.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: looks like one of the best-handling Harleys ever
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: looks like one of the best-handling Harleys ever

Like all electrics, it'll happily slow-charge in the garage at home or work when plugged into a standard wall outlet. It'll also support DC fast charging using the J1772 or CCS2 - IEC Type 2 connectors if you need to juice up faster.

To assuage any fears riders might have about gliding around on a silent motorcycle that can't annoy passers-by, Harley has designed the Livewire motor "to produce a tone that increases in pitch and volume at speed."

This idea excited me a little, because Harley has always paid attention to the sound of its bikes, going so far as to trademark the iconic "potato-potato-potato" sound of its engines at idle back in 1994. Electrics are much quieter than thumping v-twins, but there's an opportunity for somebody to come out and start making electrics with an iconic sound that's a bit more compelling than the turbine-like whine coming out of most I've ridden to date.

Unfortunately, there's a video to put an end to this train of thought. You'll find it at the bottom of the page. The Livewire sounds more or less exactly like an electric motorcycle. Which is fine.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the first of a full portfolio of electrics Harley wants to launch by 2022
2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the first of a full portfolio of electrics Harley wants to launch by 2022

That's all we know at this stage, but pre-orders will open up with the release of more information in early 2019, and Harley says it expects to have a "full portfolio" of electrics on offer by 2022.

Will it get millennial buttocks onto Harleys as effectively as the skull-face bandannas and sly outlaw connotations did for baby boomers' buns? Time will tell. But Harley's going wide open throttle to take the lead on mass-market premium electric motorcycling. And that's got to be good for progress.

There are plenty of pics in the gallery and the video below highlight's the new Harley sound.

Source: Harley-Davidson

2020 LiveWire | Harley-Davidson

11 comments
f8lee
While I'm no fan of H-D, I can understand their motives in making this bike...but I don't think it will matter much. My sense of things is that millennials are just not interested in two wheel modes of conveyance beyond Lime e-scooters. Sadly, these kids think the motorcycle game at Dave & Buster's has any relation to the real thing.
grtblu
Will Harley include its iconic vibration and losing of parts as the bike goes down the road? Will the electric bike be underpowered and slow its engine on cranking the throttle and trying to accelerate? These are the iconic features of Harleys. I know a man who's son wanted a crotch rocket (foreign bike), he wouldn't let him have one but did allow him to get a Harley since he felt the kid wouldn't be able to do himself an injury on the Harley.
Username
The original's styling was lauded by all, so what does HD do? they change it.
Wolf0579
Harley-Davidson: The bike of dentists and lawyers who want to pretend they are men.
flyerfly
The problems that I saw with HD were: 1. They were expensive because they were made in the USA...but then they changed that...they were not made in the USA (entirely) but they were still expensive. 2. The technology the used lagged. For example the bike I used had ABS long before HD did. 3. Some people did not like how loud they were but they did not have an alternative (that I saw/heard at least). Of course there were those who WANTED the loud bikes... I think the main problem is they cost as much as a car...
Trylon
H-D has missed its chance by failing to respond to the market quickly enough. It will join other former American corporate juggernauts in the scrap heap, like Kodak, Polaroid and Blockbuster. I suspect Livewire will turn out to be Shortcircuit.
Joshua Tulberg
There is something wrong about a Harley being as reliable as an electric motorcycle. ;-)
WiderGlider
GRTBLU, wolf0579, and tulberg are either 14 years old, really don't know squat about HD's, or are just idiots saying the same old mantra over and over again with little brain power. Hey guys, here is the truth. I've owned 5 Kawasaki, 5 Suzuki, 3 Yamaha, 3 Honda, 4 Harleys including one Evo and one Twin Cam (no newer ones). My Evo and Twin Cam bikes were every bit as dependable as my Jap bikes (and I LOVE Japanese stuff!). Also, after you spend a week in the saddle of an HD you learn how to ride it differently than the others and it becomes very good. My Twin Cam had some goodies on it and it amazed my buddies on ride rockets at how I could keep up as they tried to leave me. Torque is not a 4 letter word. Anyone who continues to say all HD riders are wannabes is an idiot. I usually ride alone or with the wife, wear the same clothes that I always do (jeans/t shirt in hot NC), and am in no club. My bike still has the baffles (I do have Slip ons) so it isn't annoying (especially to me). But I've owned my last HD
WiderGlider
This is a continuation of my previous comment. Why won't I buy another HD. Simple. I'm tired of dealing with arrogant peckerheads. The dealers were absolutely terrible for years. A friend of mine has his new bike sold out from under him for more money when it arrived after several months and never told him, just kept leading him on. Another said, "Oh, I can order you one of those for $15k, but if you want this one on the floor and ride today it is $17k." For many years, HD dealers have acted like they walk on water and you are lucky they sold you one. Ever talk to someone at the factory? I spoke with the SVP for Engines and Drivelines one day and he was a 100% certified jerk off. LACK OF CUSTOMER SERVICE for years has hurt them more than their arrogance will let them admit. Oh, and I can think of one instance where a 2007 bagger, just the 2007 baggers, had an engineering problem that was fixed the next year and no recall. No discount on the part. No labor discount. I spent $350 and it was a whole new bike. This was a $34k Screaming Eagle Electra Glide. It is in the accessories cat.
WiderGlider
Sorry, guys. As you can see I care about this issue. The number one reason I (and a whole lot of other 59 year old riders) won't buy anything with HD on it (not even a shirt) is how typical it is of HD management being helped by the President and then they turn around and stab him in the back. Forget all the foreign parts. Forget the India produced bikes on sale in the showrooms today. This stab in the back is what you can expect from HD on a $25k motorcycle if you have any issues. Period.