Sustainability, meet James Dean. Believe it or not, Harley-Davidson just unveiled its first electric bike. And from all appearances, it is sweet.
I was the girl swooning over the flat-black Harley parked just inside the entrance of the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo earlier this month. There’s a four-wheel-drive familymobile parked in my driveway for now, but my inner daredevil has always loved open air and speed. Roller coasters, Waverunners, two-seater airplanes–bring it. My husband pulling a 200cc Vespa into our garage two years ago was more than I could stand, and a few months, one class, 10 hours on a Honda Rebel in brutal D.C. heat and humidity, and one test later, I happily stood in line at the MVA to add an M-class endorsement to my driver’s license (earning, I might add, serious cool-mom points for a little while).
Honda and BMW make some gorgeous, very refined bikes, but Harley has remained the gold standard of American two-wheeled muscle. An electric motorcycle with their badge was sure to raise eyebrows, and it has–everybody from car gurus to tech wizards is talking about it.
Harley officials say Project LiveWire is a “customer-led moment” in its history. In other words, even their customers want to go a little greener. But make no mistake–this bike is edgy, launching with a 30-dealership tour along Route 66 and promising “a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakeable new sound” officials compare to a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. The Los Angeles Times, which tested the bike ahead of its launch this week, called it a “fired up, amped-up monster.” Their test saw it go from zero to 60 in less than four seconds before it topped out at 92 mph. Not too shabby for an EV. The flip side, of course, is range: newspaper testers said it’ll go about 30 miles on a single charge (three and a half hours) in high-performance mode, and about 53 miles in power-saving mode. Harley says that range will improve before the LiveWire goes on sale to consumers in about two years.
Will it attract traditional Harley riders? Only time will tell. But is it a smart move for Harley-Davidson given the wishes of the next driving generation? Absolutely. Looks like we’ll need charging stations for flashy, crazy-fast, rebel bikes before too long. Who saw that coming? (And how do I get on the test-drive list?)