Harley-Davidson is planning to unveil a highly anticipated electric motorcycle next month, and we’ve gone through the clues to try and determine what it could be.
For those that haven’t heard, last month Harley-Davidson announced the launch of a new all-electric motorcycle brand, LiveWire.
Instead of continuing to develop electric motorcycles under the H-D badge as the company had done with the original Harley-Davidson LiveWire, new electric motorcycles will fall under this new electric-only LiveWire brand.
At the time, the company announced that “the first LiveWire branded motorcycle is scheduled to launch on July 8, 2021, and to premiere at the International Motorcycle Show on July 9, 2021.”
While we don’t know for sure what the folks in Milwaukee are planning, we can make a pretty good guess and narrow it down to five likely options. Over the last couple of years we’ve watched Harley-Davidson experiment with several electric models and prototypes of various stages of completion. Each could be a likely candidate.
It all started way back in 2018 when we were introduced to the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan. The goal was to find a way into the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of younger riders to help offset the large chunk of H-D’s demographic that was aging out.
Included in those plans was not just the LiveWire electric motorcycle (which was still in pre-production form at the time), but also a series of four sketches of other electric motorbikes. They included a smaller electric motorcycle with a flat tracker design mashed with urban cues, an electric trail/dirt bike, an electric scooter/moped and a full-suspension electric mountain bike. These four concepts (seen below in the original H-D artwork) could hold the best bet for the first LiveWire badged vehicle coming next month.
Option 1: LiveWire urban electric motorcycle
The $30,000 LiveWire electric motorcycle may have sold enough units to become the No. 1 best-selling electric motorcycle model in North America, but it still priced out most of the market – especially critical younger riders.
Harley never intended for the LiveWire to become a big seller though. It was a halo product, whose very definition is serving as a model to demonstrate the technical prowess of the manufacturer.
And while the high price of the H-D LiveWire has often been bemoaned, the overwhelming consensus in the industry is that the LiveWire is a damn good motorcycle.
That’s why it makes sense for Harley to followup with a lighter, lower-cost electric motorcycle designed for the urban market. The company can take the experience it gained in building the LiveWire and apply it to a bike with lower power and less range, helping to reduce the cost for a younger and more urban demographic.
The LiveWire’s 146-mile city range and 0-60 mph time of three seconds are great, but they are also more than most urban riders need.
This theoretical little brother to the H-D LiveWire could take the form of the flat tracker-ish bike seen in two different Harley-Davidson design sketches (above).
Despite the bike borrowing from the flat track racer world, we can see that it sports turn signals and a license plate holder. Those features would only be there if the bike was destined for street use, not just dirt track racing.
With more lightweight urban motorcycles like the 80 mph and 80-mile range SONDORS Metacycle coming soon, it would make sense for Harley to enter this market early and establish itself as a leader.
For comparison, the hugely popular SONDORS Metacycle, which is priced at just $5,000, has a 4 kWh battery and 14.5 kW (20 hp) motor. That’s roughly a quarter of the size of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire’s battery and just 18% of the LiveWire’s power.
The Metacycle has shown that for the right price, urban riders are willing to make power and range sacrifices for city-focused electric motorcycles.
Option 2: LiveWire electric dirt bike or trail bike
The light electric dirt bike is the first of two original Harley-Davidson concept electric prototypes that we actually saw tested in the real world.
Back in 2019, H-D took this and the scooter concept prototype to the Aspen X-Games where they let a couple of athletes rip around on them as a demonstration.
As you can see in the testing video below, this isn’t a high-power dirt bike, but more of a mid-power electric trail bike.
Such a product would fall somewhere between high-power electric mountain bikes and low-power dirt bikes, but would also open the door to more urban-adjacent riding (think dirt bike parks in a city where the electric motor would mean nearly silent operation that doesn’t bother the neighbors).
As an off-road only vehicle, the main market for a bike like this would be private land owners or those with nearby trail access.
This would likely be a smaller market for the LiveWire brand, and thus I don’t think their first product being revealed next month will target this niche.
But it is very likely that we’ll still see this product at some point in the future.
Option 3: LiveWire electric moped/scooter
Call it a “moped” if you’d like (which is the more appropriate legal term these days for most states and DMVs) or a “scooter” if you’re an old fart that can’t accept that mopeds these days don’t have to include pedals.
Either way, this is the second Harley electric concept that we actually saw being tested in prototype form.
This model was also brought to Aspen in 2019 where it underwent street testing.
Unlike the light electric dirt bike from Option 2, this Harley electric moped would be a street-legal machine designed for personal transport.
The open frame would offer utility and the low-power design would mean that Harley could save a heap on smaller motors and batteries.
That might even translate into realistic prices that your average college student could afford.
This model definitely appears targeted toward a younger crowd. We’ve seen various prototypes so far with various stages of fit and finish, but all have included somewhat skateboard-like decks as the running board foot rests. The original prototype literally used a skateboard deck sawed in half. If that doesn’t scream “Fellow kids,” I don’t know what does.
At this point we have no idea what the specs for such a LiveWire electric moped might be.
It would make sense to limit the max speed to 30 mph (48 km/h) because that is the legal limit for moped-class vehicles in many US states. With that speed limit, many states allow the vehicles to be registered as mopeds, regardless of whether or not they have pedals, and then riders can operate them with just a normal car driver’s license. Alternatively, there could be multiple models with different power and speed levels to accommodate different riders and uses cases.
If LiveWire can release what is effectively a mini electric motorcycle that doesn’t require a motorcycle license, that could be huge for accessibility. Startups like Revel and Lime have shown that young urban riders are keen to commute on shared electric mopeds. Now LiveWire could find out if those same riders would be interested in buying one if it looked cooler and was priced low enough.
In fact, I wrote an op-ed nearly one year ago to the day explaining why this should be next electric motorbike Harley releases.
I can 100% see these things zipping around college campuses or beach towns, young couples riding them together as fun and affordable transportation. This could be for today’s young adults what the Honda 50 was for my parent’s generation: freedom and fun on two wheels. Only this time, it would be electric.
Option 4: LiveWire electric mountain bike
The fourth concept seen in the H-D electric concept art grid is a full-suspension electric mountain bike.
It seems to use a similar looking battery to the light electric dirt bike concept and even shares some of the same design. But its functional pedals would clearly make this a bicycle-class product.
Harley-Davidson famously developed multiple urban electric bicycles in house and then spun them off into a dedicated e-bike brand known as Serial 1.
We actually got the first-ever press ride to test out the e-bikes in Milwaukee last November, and they are a masterclass in design.
Despite the Serial 1 e-bikes launching as strong contenders in the electric bicycle space, we haven’t heard a single word about any potential full-suspension electric mountain bikes from Harley.
The only hint that the product was ever in consideration was that original concept art released in 2018. Ever since, the product has either been on super double secret lockdown or has simply not been explored further.
I don’t think this one is likely as the first LiveWire branded product. If a Harley electric mountain bike is coming one day, it will almost certainly be launched under the Serial 1 brand, not as a LiveWire product.
Option 5: A LiveWire LiveWire electric motorcycle
The last option for the first LiveWire branded product could be the LiveWire motorcycle itself.
The 2021 bike is technically still a Harley-Davidson product and carries the H-D badge.
It theoretically could be rereleased under the new LiveWire brand. If so, and if it doesn’t change its name, then it could conceivably become the LiveWire LiveWire.
That would be the most boring option of all, so let’s hope that’s not what is waiting in store for us on July 8.
Here’s where I get to place my bet.
Of all the options listed, I think the LiveWire electric moped is the most likely.
Not only is it the option with the lowest barrier to entry and the largest potential market, but we’ve seen hints along the way that H-D has actually made solid progress on the project.
Design filings discovered early last year show what appears to be a more production-ready version of the electric moped. That’s hardly a guarantee though. Those filings are nearly a year and a half old now, and the project could have been killed off since then.
I also happened to have grilled Harley fairly hard earlier this spring – perhaps too hard – for letting a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer rip off the moped concept and appear to beat H-D to market with it. So who knows, maybe the big wigs in Milwaukee realized I was right and that it was time to shift their moped into high gear (or more likely they had this planned all along and I just happen to suffer from delusions of grandeur).
What do you think? Which option would you like to see Harley roll out as the first LiveWire branded electric motorcycle? Let us know in the comments below!
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