2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Review: Plugged In
Harley-Davidson shocked many in 2014 when it released information about its Project LiveWire—The Motor Company’s first-ever electric motorcycle. Thirty-three demo bikes were built and tested by over 12,000 people across the world.
Harley took that input and completed the final design for its production LiveWire, which debuts as a 2020 model. Harley-Davidson says the production version is 100 percent different from the Project LiveWire version.
H-D unveiled the production version during the 2018 Milan Motorcycle Show (EICMA), and anticipation began to test a very unexpected creation from a company known for its 45-degree V-twins and older buyer demographics.
We head to Portland, Oregon, to ride Harley’s LiveWire. Here are the fast facts.
1. Riding an electric motorcycle is something everyone must experience—especially on the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire. I have ridden EV bikes before, though not quite to the level of performance that the LiveWire provides. The LiveWire provides a seamless throttle experience, with all power available immediately. This, along with the lack of a clutch, gear shifter, and multiple gears, creates a truly unique riding experience. Just twist and go.
2. Once you stop grabbing for the clutch or gear shifter, you can truly engage with the moment. It’s a moment with almost zero noise except those around you, whether that’s a squirrel rustling through leaves on the road near a backroad intersection, or a couple arguing on the corner downtown.
3. When you’re flowing with the throttle pinned, it’s the closest you’ll get to flying—not flying within a mechanical machine, but rather a bird. The LiveWire produces some whining when accelerating and under engine braking. The belt drive sometimes sounds like a quick chirp of a police siren just behind (had me worried twice!).
4. The 15.5kWh Lithium-ion battery has a claimed range of 146 miles of city range—70 miles of sustained 70 mph highway use, and 95 miles of combined urban and highway riding. I rode around 65 miles, with most of those miles in spirited non-urban settings and had 19 miles remaining on the charge. For the intended market of city commuters, this range presents no issues. As for weekend jaunts while shredding the backroads at a quicker pace, riders must plan their trips around charging stations.
5. The LiveWire has fast charge technology. Owners can go from zero charge a 100 percent charge at a Level 3 station in an hour, or an 80 percent charge within 40 minutes. The LiveWire includes a charging that uses the typical 120 V household outlet and stores under the seat. Charging takes much longer—upwards of 10 hours for a full charge. Harley-Davidson says the solution here is to treat the motorcycle like a cellphone and charge every night after use. For those who require fast charging at home, a 240 V Level 3 system can be installed by an electrician.
6. The LiveWire has with 105 horsepower and 86 ft/lbs of torque at 0 rpm. Yes, all power is immediately available, which helps accelerate this Harley EV from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, and 60-80 mph in 1.9 seconds. Of course, software pads down the response to make the motor usable. The EV engine is called Revelation by Harley-Davidson and is an internal permanent magnet synchronous motor with water jacket cooling. It spins up to 15,000 rpm. Harley-Davidson claims a top speed of 110mph, though I saw 116 mph.
7. Throttle response is crisp, providing instantaneous gobs of power. Powering through quick corners or slow in-town traffic, I was able to control the delivery smoothly. When getting off the throttle, the battery goes into regeneration mode. This adds a charge to the battery to add range. Important to riding the riding experience, the regen mode adds engine braking.
8. The 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire weighs 549 pounds, though it feels much lighter. The battery itself is 250 pounds, which on paper looks like it would cause some unbalanced issues. Harley-Davidson designed the motorcycle so that the center of gravity is optimized. Although the massive battery may seem like it would cause some awkward handling issues, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The LiveWire’s weight is unnoticeable, even at slow speeds maneuvering through parking lot traffic.
9. Others sport riders may demolish the LiveWire on the straights, but in the seriously twisty sections, this motorcycle will have zero issues. The torque is always there, and without worrying about shifting, riders can remain more focused on the task at hand—having fun.
10. Harley-Davidson went full premium with electronics on the 2020 LiveWire, which includes a six-axis IMU. It has what H-D calls the Reflex Defensive Riding System—a collection of tech that optimizes traction during acceleration, deceleration, and braking, with all available during cornering. I tried breaking the rear loose on some wetter corners and slammed on the brakes in a few mockup city emergency stops. The riding aid systems work exactly as they should, and with little detection of engagement. The ABS is not switchable, though the traction control can be defeated by a simple push of a button while at a stop. I switched off traction control because I constantly felt the need to smoke up the back tire—it’s an extraordinary feeling when you see smoke and don’t hear the noise.
The integration of the following electronics is seamless, even as the trade names are awkward:
- Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS): The brake pressure required to initiate wheel slip when cornering is typically lower than the pressure required under straight-line operation. This system adjusts for that.
- Rear-wheel Lift Mitigation: This system utilizes the C-ABS sensors and the six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) to manage rear-wheel lift during heavy braking and further balance deceleration and rider control.
- Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System (C-TCS): Designed to prevent the rear wheel from excessive spinning under acceleration when going straight or cornering.
- Drag-Torque Slip Control System (DSCS): Designed to manage rear-wheel slip and prevent rear-wheel lock during regenerative braking, which may occur when the rider decelerates on wet or slippery road surfaces—an electric motor variation on the slipper clutch concept.
11. The 2020-Harley-Davidson LiveWire with four riding modes—Sport, Road, Rain, Range—and personal modes that can be fully customized. Sport is an undeniable favorite, providing high levels of engine braking and minimal amounts of TC and ABS. You can surely feel the differences between modes, especially between Sport and Range. Range is an economy mode with a softer throttle response and more regenerative engine braking. Customizing the maps is simple due to the touch-sensitive 4.3-inch TFT color dash. For example, adjusting the traction control is just done by sweeping a finger from low to high.
12. The ergonomics are typical of an upright naked sportbike, the LiveWire placing you in a slightly forward-leaning position. It’s just enough for sporty ergos, but not enough where it puts weight on the wrists while riding. The handlebars are wide, which assist in easy maneuverability during slower parking-lot speeds and through city traffic. The setup was comfy for my nearly six-foot frame and 32-inch inseam, though long stretches of miles would have me moving around a bit to get comfortable. The 30.7-inch high seat allows for limited movement during longer rides. Again, this motorcycle is optimized for in-town riding.
13. Harley also went premium with Showa suspension components, which assisted in sharp, sport-like handling. The LiveWire has with a 43mm inverted Separate Function Fork – Big Piston (SFF-BP) and a Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite (BFRC-lite) shock. I didn’t feel a need to adjust suspension, though it was a bit harsh on bumpier in-town sections. The chassis holds a sharp line during cornering, and is stable under heavy braking and acceleration.
14. Also attributing to the stellar handling are the Michelin Scorcher Sport tires, which allow for easy turn-in due to their high-performance sidewall design. Shod on 17-inch cast aluminum five-spoke wheels that look very Marchesini-ish, the sizes are 120/70 and 180/55. This means you’ll have plenty of options available to you should the Michelin’s not meet your needs.
15. Harley-Davidson chose Brembo brakes for the LiveWire. A four-piston monoblock caliper squeezes a 300mm disc up front, and a two-piston caliper out back modulates the rear 260mm disc. The front brake has an easy pull on the brake lever and precise engagement for smooth trail braking. Speaking of the latter, I quickly stopped trail braking, and relied on the regenerative engine braking to slow the bike down in corners. The LiveWire’s chassis settles quickly, allowing me to maintain a smooth line when cornering either before or after heavy braking.
16. Though electric, Harley includes a “Haptic Pulse” that reminds riders there’s still a Harley engine beneath them. Activated by the magnets in the Revelation engine, the LiveWire delivers a subtle pulsing—like a heartbeat that lets you know the engine is truly alive. Remember nudging your friend’s rear tire at a stop? That is what it feels like—someone is lightly tapping the rear of the bike as you sit at a light or any other stop. You can deactivate it through your dealership, or set it on high or low pulsing. The Haptic Pulse stops once riding and is only felt while stopped to reproduce an idling feel. It’s a good reminder that the engine is on.
17. Some don’t like the look of a large battery within a motorcycle, so Harley-Davidson’s design team focuses your attention on the engine below the battery through some sleek flowing of lines and the silver engine bottom. The tailpiece is sporty and clean, especially the bar that appears like a horseshoe over the rear tire and connecting to the swingarm. This holds the brake light, license plate, and rear turn signals; the skinny brake light is especially attractive. When viewing the LiveWire from behind, you would never recognize it was a Harley-Davidson—it looks more European than American. LED lights add more to this European look, especially the rear brake light, headlight, and front blinkers. The LiveWire appears to have a gas tank, though that area serves as the location of the charging port. When you plug it in, the plug is where one would traditionally fill up on fuel.
19. The LiveWire is H-D Connect compatible, which allows you to download an app (iOS or Android) and connect the motorcycle directly to the app. The app allows riders to check various operations:
- Motorcycle status (battery status and available range, riding mode, riding stats)
- Enhanced security (bike location, if anyone is tampering with it, suspected stolen alert)
- Charging status and notifications (battery charging percentage, Level 3 charging station locations)
- Service reminders and notifications
20. Harley-Davidson has not provided any production numbers. Starting in September, the 2020 LiveWire will be available in 250 worldwide authorized dealerships, with 150 of those in America. Each of these dealerships will have a minimum of one trained LiveWire mechanic and salesperson, along with a free Level 3 charging station.
21. Harley-Davidson says the LiveWire’s battery has a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. H-D says the longevity of the battery is ten years, depending on how much it’s used. Also, the LiveWire comes with 500 kW of free charging at Electrify America fast-charging stations, though you only have two years to use it.
22. Just like the technology and chassis, the pricing is also premium—the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire sells for $29,799 (MSPR).
23. In targeting the typical EV purchaser—think of the culture of the typical Tesla owner—Harley-Davidson nailed it. Harley-Davidson unapologetically markets the LiveWire towards a new demographic of well-to-do riders—ones of diversity in mostly urban areas and are willing to go against the status quo. The 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire is built for prospective customers with other luxury items in their lives, such as clothing, technology-driven homes, and, of course, four-wheeled EVs. This premium motorcycle does what’s needed and has enough power and comfort to appease various levels of riding, from in-town commuting to spirited canyon ripping.
- Helmet: Shoei GT-Air
- Jacket: Roland Sands Ronin
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Alpinestars Crank
- Base layers: Woodcraft Stay Dry
- Boots: Alpinestars Oscar Rayburn
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Specs
- Type: Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor
- Maximum power: 105 horsepower
- Maximum torque: 116 ft/lbs
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: Clutchless single-speed
- Final drive: Belt
- Type: Lithium-ion
- Maximum capacity: 24 kWh
- AC charge time: 12.5 hours
- DC fast charging time: 1.0 hours
- City range: 146 miles
- Highway range: 70 miles @ 70 mph
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa Separate Function Forks – Big Piston 43mm inverted fork; 4.5 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion piggyback reservoir shock; 4.5 inches
- Wheels: Split 5-spoke cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 3.50 x 17
- Rear wheel: 5.50 x 17
- Tires: Michelin Scorcher Sport
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brake: 300mm discs w/ radially mounted Brembo 4-piston monoblock caliper
- Rear brake: 260mm floating disc w/ dual-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.7 inches
- Rake: 24.5 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 30.0 or 30.7 inches
- Curb weight: 549 pounds
2019 Harley LiveWire Colors:
- Orange Fuse
- Yellow Fuse
- Vivid Black
2020 Harley LiveWire Price:
- From $29,799 MSRP
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Review Photo Gallery