20 June 2019
Harley-Davidson® is heralding an exciting new age of electric vehicles.
It’s the hum of electricity, powering the soon-to-arrive LiveWire™ and propelling H-D® in a thrilling new direction. The brand has recently announced a multi-year sponsorship of the Envision Virgin Racing team, one of the most successful teams in the all-electric Formula E street racing series. It’s set to be a prosperous and mutually beneficial partnership, bridging the gap from four wheels to two and firmly planting Harley-Davidson at the forefront of electric vehicle development.
From race track to road
For the drivers and senior staff at Envision Virgin Racing, this is a truly exhilarating time to be involved with electric vehicles, as racing technologies are starting to be seen on the roads in everyday life. As managing director and chief technology officer Sylvain Filippi says, “the industry’s at a tipping point where improved energy density of cells means we are now getting to cars and bikes with ranges that are clearly good enough for most people.”
It’s at this point of transition from high-concept technology to everyday usage that Harley-Davidson® comes to the fore with the long-awaited launch of the LiveWire™ – available to purchase this autumn. The LiveWire has existed in prototype form since 2014, but has undergone extensive rounds of testing and demonstration with the media and the general public alike, in order to refine it to the model that will soon be with customers. For Marc McAllister, vice president of consumer portfolio management at H-D, the testing process was illuminating: “The most exciting thing was the acceptance of the idea of an electric Harley-Davidson, and the excitement from the general public.”
Capturing the imagination
The impact of the production model LiveWire has been felt from its very first public appearance, when it wowed the crowds at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. It was a truly momentous occasion, with H-D being the first motorcycle brand to showcase its products at the event.
From that moment on, anticipation for the LiveWire has grown and grown. The bike dazzled trackside at the Formula E Monaco E-Prix in May, and just a couple of weeks later visitors were captivated by the LiveWire experience at the Berlin event. This interactive installation allowed attendees the chance to try out the feel of the bike for themselves in the E-Village fan zone, thanks to innovative Jumpstart technology. The verdict? The smiles and exclamations of those who tried it said it all.
Cutting edge technology
For Envision Virgin Racing drivers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns, the electric vehicle experience is unparalleled in terms of connection and response. As Sam explains, “the torque curve is completely linear, so as soon as I get on the throttle, the response is incredible in comparison to the power curve of a normally aspirated machine.” While Sam’s domain may be four wheels, it’s no different on two – indeed, the LiveWire’s instantaneous power is one of its standout features, thanks to the groundbreaking H-D Revelation™ powertrain.
Technology is of course at the heart of the electric movement, and that is what makes it so thrilling, as discoveries are constantly being made. As Robin says, “…we can see that the technology is making big steps forward…even from day to day, we have software updates going on underneath the bonnet.” Sam agrees: “When I signed up for Formula E in 2014… there was no substantial evidence that the technology was there yet. Now, however, it’s fully evident that electric vehicles are the way forward.”
Beyond the LiveWire
It’s a message that Harley-Davidson has taken to heart, and the LiveWire is far from being a one-off. Ever the innovator, H-D is not content with offering today’s rider a straightforward ‘eco’ version of their existing motorcycle: there is currently a suite of cutting edge electric concepts under development, and new models are due to start emerging from the H-D garage over the next few years. With a newly opened research and development centre in California’s Silicon Valley dedicated solely to electric models, Harley-Davidson maintains its long history of all-American production values, while embracing the wealth of future possibilities for two-wheeled transport.
Both the LiveWire and the future electric concepts are designed to facilitate entirely new riding experiences – opening up previously inaccessible destinations and welcoming new, curious and passionate riders to its global community. In this way, H-D seeks to both capture the zeitgeist and steer it into the future. As Sam Bird sums it up, “[the Livewire is] just the first step on the ladder – just think how powerful and how fast electric vehicles and motorbikes will be in the future. It’s staggering.”