"It’s a purely exhilarating motorcycle to ride. It sounds awesome — think jet fighter landing on an aircraft carrier." The just-announced Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire is H-D's first electric motorbike, and it's a huge departure from business as usual for the 111-year-old company.
Harley-Davidson Australia's marketing manager Adam Wright has actually been out for a spin on the LiveWire, and his feedback is all about the sound: it's "a high pitched scream, that sounds like no other motorcycle I have ever ridden." As Wright explained to me, it's been in the works for at least a couple of years already, and it represents the next step in the history of Harley-Davidson. "Over its 111 years Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself on a number of occasions.
"With Project LiveWire, we've taken another turn in our history that builds on the successes we've had over the past few years. We believe the time is right to launch this motorcycle into the public arena, with the LiveWire Experience about to take place in the US to understand what consumers think of the vehicle.
"As a customer-led organisation, it's extremely important to us to understand if there is demand for this motorcycle in the marketplace today, and what consumers would like from the LiveWire. This motorcycle has been in the development stages for a number of years."
While the LiveWire isn't actually going into production any time soon — it's basically a one-off engineering sample — it's being toured around the US, visiting 30 Harley-Davidson dealerships and giving potential customers and Harley-Davidson faithful a chance to test ride. Those customers will be invited to give feedback on the bike, and that feedback will influence the design of the LiveWire's production successor (if it's ever produced at all). "We take our customers feedback very seriously. As we say in our Project Rushmore advertising, 'designed by you, built by us'!"
Wright says that despite its electric underpinnings, the LiveWire is, "without doubt, still a Harley-Davidson." The potential future electric Harley will likely be targeted at "a younger, mostly urban customer"; the four tenets of its design are "nimble handling, narrow chassis, breathtaking acceleration and responsive braking" — characteristics that sound more like an all-out sportsbike or the city-friendly Softail Slim than an old-school Harley cruiser.
Will it come to Australia, though? Wright says possibly, although not in as many words. "This electric technology is rapidly developing and we will continue to evaluate and monitor this market opportunity. One of the objectives of Project LiveWire is to gain deeper insight into market expectations through the eyes of riders to better understand what matters most to them with this type of vehicle. Part of this project is inviting customers to define what the future looks like for us.
Here's the boilerplate response, just in case you were wondering: "Currently Project LiveWire motorcycles are not for sale. Any decisions regarding retails sales, including price have not been made as yet. As I said, we will continue to evaluate and monitor this market opportunity." [Harley-Davidson]