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Alternating Currents: Don’t sleep on the Harley LiveWire

livewire detail
Photo credit: Vladimka production /

After a few thousand miles on Harley-Davidson’s exquisite LiveWire electric motorcycle, I can’t help but think that this is some kind of hidden secret that electric fanatics and motorcycle buffs alike are missing out on. Not only is it the greatest motorcycle I’ve ever ridden, but it is definitively the most fun electric vehicle to have been built up to this point. It’s way ahead of its time, it looks great, and it rides great. It reminds me of another electric machine from a little over a decade ago. 

Back in 2008, some Silicon Valley jokers were slapping electric motors in British sports cars in a slapdash fashion down in Menlo Park. A 248 horsepower AC-induction motor, a BorgWarner single-speed reduction gear box, and 53 kWh worth of a then-new technology battery called Lithium Ion were plunked right in the middle of an elongated Lotus Elise chassis to kick off a new high-end EV company named after the father of modern alternating current electricity delivery. 

When that car launched from a company nobody had ever heard of, much of the modern automotive media machine balked at the six-figure price tag. It was a significant price hike over the Lotus Elise it was based upon, while being heavier, handling slightly worse, and not accelerating appreciably better. It was panned nearly universally as being a compromise, delivering too few miles on a charge to be of value, and being too heavy. 

orange gen 1 tesla roadster
Original Tesla Roadster in orange. Photo credit: Olga Besnard /

Obviously you know that car to be the original Tesla Roadster, and the company has grown to become a powerhouse in modern electric car production. While the company’s first foray into the production car game was an enigmatic toy for the wealthy, it helped build the name into something capable of capturing the attention of the world. Since 2008, basically everyone has sat up to take note of everything Tesla has done, both good and bad. 

The LiveWire is to the electric motorcycle world what the Roadster was to the electric car world. It isn’t the first, and it perhaps isn’t the best bike you can buy, and it’s certainly very expensive, but it’s great enough that it should not be shuffled off to the memory banks of history. At nearly thirty thousand dollars, the LiveWire is little more than a play thing for the wealthy, and hardly makes sense as a rational purchase, but when has rationality stopped us before? 

livewire profile
Photo credit: MaggioPH /

With a 0-60 time under 3-seconds, this electric bike provides similar acceleration jolts of adrenaline to what you might expect from a seven-figure supercar, while providing a level of involvement and rider engagement that you simply can’t find in anything with four wheels. If McLaren can get away with charging millions for an Elva, why is there a double standard when Harley builds the best motorcycle of its entire history? 

This is a truly iconic motorcycle from a truly iconic brand that deserves to be treated as the pioneer that it is. Yes, of course, there are electric machines from Brammo, Zero, and Energica, among others, which came before it, but none of them have the household name recognition and dealership network that Harley does. It’s a strange case of a brand doing an about-face to appeal to an ill-defined demographic.

Like those early Teslas, the appeal for this motorcycle should certainly be found in tech-forward early adopters with a desire to show off their toys, and a little bit of their wealth. You buy a thirty-thousand dollar electric motorcycle, especially one in an electric lime green color, to show off around the neighborhood, or at the local hipster coffee joint. 

Nearly every time I stop off at a DC fast charger station, someone in a BMW i3, Audi E-Tron, or Kia e-Niro pulls in next to me and strikes up a conversation. “I didn’t know they made electric motorcycles,” says an excited electric-head. “Oh yeah, they’ve been out for a few years now,” replies me. I’m always astonished that even people who are plugged-in enough (pun absolutely intended) to actually go purchase their own electric vehicle, wouldn’t have at least a passing knowledge of any electric motorcycles. Electrify America stations were plastering The Long Way Up advertisements on their screens for a few months, at the very least! 

I have made it my life’s mission, or at least this week’s mission, to inform every electric driving person within my sphere of influence that not only does the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle exist, but it’s extremely good. Yes, the range is short, as I only managed to get about 75 miles per charge on the highway. And yes, it’s quite expensive at the high end of sport naked motorcycles. And yes, Harley-Davidson doesn’t have the Silicon Valley cachet of Tesla. But, it’s way ahead of its time. I promise, as soon as they’re $20,000, I’ll buy one.

Written by Bradley Brownell
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