Harley-Davidson has fronted up at CES in Las Vegas with partial specifications and a horrific pricetag to stick on its Livewire electric motorcycle. But that's not all. The company has also floated a couple of weird, funky two wheelers that live somewhere between the motorcycle and e-bike worlds.
The specs are in for the bike Harley hopes will open up a new market among millennials. The first electric Harley will go 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) in less than 3.5 seconds and have a range around 110 miles (177 km) of urban riding. It'll have cornering ABS and lean angle-sensitive traction control, as well as fully-adjustable Showa suspension and a 4.3-inch color touchscreen with built-in navigation. And it'll cost a blistering US$29,799.
We expect high prices on electrics at the moment with batteries still a brutal up-front cost. And we're used to high prices from Harley, too, but 30 grand is a heck of an ask for any motorcycle – it's more than Ducati wants for its Panigale V4 S, for example. And while there's little to pay for fuel or servicing once you own it, the Livewire will continue dipping into your pocket with a yearly subscription fee to its H-D Connect service.
H-D Connect is a cloud-based service that hooks your bike up to the net via cellular data services. It lets you check what the charge status is like (the bike should charge within about 35 minutes on a Level 3 DC fast charge through CCS Combo/J1772 charging), plus locate it via GPS if it's stolen, and gives you service warnings. The first year is free, after that you need to pay an unspecified annual subscription.
This ain't millennial-friendly pricing, folks. This is Harley trying to be the Tesla of motorcycles, offering a good-looking, premium, high-performance electric early in the game. Unfortunately, though, while the Livewire rocks a very tasty digital dash and what seems to be a fairly torquey powertrain (no power or torque figures are forthcoming), there's little here that pushes the game forward the way Tesla has. People seem willing to throw down to drive around in something truly game-changing, and Tesla has arguably made the most exciting and forward-thinking vehicles of the last decade.
Whether the Livewire will carry such a halo remains to be seen. It's certainly a great looking bike. But if you want your all-American electric motorcycle to wear a real trailblazer's badge, you're probably already rocking a much cheaper, quicker and longer-range Zero SR or Lighting LS-218 – these two companies have been fighting the zero-emissions fight for many years now out on the West Coast.
Harley also used CES to launch a couple of concepts that point toward lighter, smaller, cheaper urban and off-road bikes. The first is a mini-moped monkey bike with a flat bench seat, high bars and a hollow LED ring headlight. It's got skateboard-style footboards, and a low-slung battery/motor box with a belt drive back to the slim rear tire, and sports that sleek, retro-futuristic look that's so rampant these days. It's the kind of ultra-simple, friendly, twist-and-go machine that new riders and non-riders might just find hard to resist at the right price.
The other is a sharp looking electric offroader that looks like a premium version of something like the Sur-Ron Light Bee. Its chunky dirtbike tires are no bigger than something you'd see on a fat bike, it runs a compact mid drive motor with a belt to the rear wheel, a small battery pack, a lightweight dual suspension frame and a razor-thin seat unit that riffs on flat track style. The Light Bee gives a fun trail riding experience with just 6 kW (8 hp) of power and around 2 kWh of battery, and the Harley concept looks around the same physical size so we'd expect similar performance figures. We certainly wouldn't expect the Harley to launch for less than US$3 grand though, which is the kind of price you can get the Light Bee for if you go direct from China.
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