By: IOL Motoring Staff
Milwaukee, Wisconsin - If there was one company that we did not expect to see getting involved in battery-powered two-wheelers, it was Harley-Davidson, a brand so rooted in the past that it was said to have issued a part number for nostalgia.
And then, out of left field comes Project LiveWire, more a road-show than a new model, featuring the first high-voltage Hog.
From the last week of June 2014 customers at selected Harley dealers across the United States will be invited to ride one of 22 prototypes like the one you see here; their feedback will help to shape future battery-powered Harleys that you and I will actually be able to buy.
The 2014 US tour will kick off with a trip down Route 66 and will visit more than 30 Harley dealerships by the end of the year, before expanding into Canada and Europe, as well as further across the United States, in 2015.
Harley-Davidson marketing vice-president Mark-Hans Richer explained it thus: "Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar - not a battery car.
"It's an expression of individuality that just happens to be electric, and the sound is part of that," said Richer. "Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier; the sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market."
BUT HOW DOES IT GO?
Apparently, like a scalded cat. The 209kg Project Livewire bike has a longitudinally mounted three-phase AC induction electric motor for which the Motor Company quotes 55kW at 8000rpm, good enough for a 0-100km/h time of less than four seconds and a (limited) top speed of 147km/h.
And that's without either a clutch or gearbox: just twist its tail and hang on, because electric motors, by their very nature, provide peak torque (in this case 70Nm) just off idle.
The company does not specify the capacity of the lithium-ion battery pack, although it does concede that getting that much performance out of an electric vehicle is hard on batteries; range, it says, is about 85km, depending on just how hard you twist its tail.
It also produces a lot of heat; Richer says the company will not be offering test rides in ambient temperatures of more than 32 degrees.
A full recharge takes about three and a half hours, using Harley's own Level 2 charger.
Although the bike looks more like a 1950s flat-tracker than anything else, its cycle parts are as up to date as the powertrain, with a cast-alloy frame, upside-down forks and monoshock rear suspension. Gizmotronic include full LED lighting and a colour touch-screen instrument panel.
Since the Project LiveWire bikes are not for sale, Harley-Davison does not quote any prices.