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Plug and Play

Just as it did more than a century ago, Harley-Davidson has taken a leap of faith as its next-gen LiveWire™ model gets set to lead the motorcycle industry into an all new era.

Back in 1903, as William S Harley and childhood friend, Arthur Davidson, put the finishing touches to the very first Harley-Davidson, it’s doubtful they could have foreseen its true significance. Although it was little more than a strengthened bicycle frame with an internal combustion engine attached, it gave people what they craved – personal freedom. This was enhanced when the first of the company’s seminal V-twin powered models hit the market in 1909 – an engine configuration which has been a core feature ever since.
While that is not about to change any time soon, Harley-Davidson is once again determined to lead the charge as the motorcycle industry makes the seismic shift to electrification. By offering the traditional premium look and feel of a Harley-Davidson, combined with a high performance motorcycling experience that embraces new levels of technology, the all-electric ‘LiveWire’ is set to introduce a whole new generation of riders to the brand. It’s very much a 21st Century machine and undeniably a ‘Harley’. And, for a company that has become famous for chrome, style and that signature V-twin rumble, it’s an incredibly bold move that harks right back to the pioneering spirit which first set the company on the path to being one of the most iconic brands in the world.
Electric power point
A glance at any past or present Harley-Davidson makes it obvious that the motor is designed to be a key, eye-catching element and LiveWire is no different. Taking center stage is the bright casing and muscular shape of the H-D Revelation permanent magnet electric motor which is positioned longitudinally and low in the chassis for a lower center of gravity. Mounted directly above, the cast aluminum case for the high-voltage lithium-ion battery features highly styled and functional cooling fins.
And when it comes to performance, this next gen Harley-Davidson delivers a true electric shock. Because there is no traditional transmission and no clutch, riding the LiveWire is an incredibly user-friendly and thrilling ‘twist and go’ proposition. Unlike an internal combustion engine, the H-D Revelation motor can produce 100% of its 110Nm (81ft.lb) of rated torque from the instant the throttle is cracked open and, because maximum torque is always on tap, roll-on acceleration once on the move is outstanding. The result is smooth, seamless, incredible acceleration from any speed. We are talking 0 to 100km/h in just three seconds and 100 to 129km/h in a sizzling 1.9 seconds!
With a 15.5kWh capacity, a fully charged battery provides 235km (146 miles) of city range or 152km (95 miles) of combined stop-and-go and highway range. Using DC Fast Charge technology, it’s capable of taking the battery from 0 to 80% charge in 40 minutes or 0 to 100% charge in 60 minutes. While riding, there is also a programmable power regeneration system where the motor becomes a generator to flow charge back into the battery when coasting ‘off throttle’ or when using the engine braking effect.
Electrifying color
Color is considered to be a crucial element of every Harley-Davidson but what is the right color for this landmark new electric motorcycle? According to Harley-Davidson, the paint treatment had to reflect the advanced technology of the LiveWire and, for a solution, it turned to its long-term partnership with PPG which began back in 1989. Laura Nelson (PPG Liquid Industrial Coatings ACDC Technical Manager) and her diverse and talented team are responsible for supporting Harley-Davidson from color development through to production line application. Creating colors for LiveWire formed part of the annual color program, Laura explains.
“Color is one of the features that sets Harley-Davidson apart from the competition. To them, it’s not what a color looks like but how it makes you feel. For an electric bike, you need electric colors with excitement, energy and ‘pop’.”
As a result, LiveWire buyers can choose from two exclusive colors – Yellow Fuse and Orange Fuse – as well as long running favorite, Vivid Black, which was also created in conjunction with the PPG team. In fact, for each model year PPG and Harley-Davidson develop around 40 to 50 ‘color spaces’. Of these, about 30 will make it to the showroom floor, says Laura.
“The color development process is very thorough. First, Harley-Davidson reviews their assessment of future market trends and combines that with information from PPG's Global Color Show. Harley-Davidson stylists will then provide verbal color direction of what they are seeking for the new model year. Here at the PPG support team, it’s up to us to translate those verbal color directions into what we refer to as color spaces. From there, Harley-Davidson and PPG work together to refine the color spaces during a yearly workshop. After that, the color spaces are defined and transferred the PPG’s Oak Creek, Wisconsin facility which is dedicated to Harley-Davidson. At PPG Oak Creek, the color spaces are transformed into materials Harley-Davidson can use in their production facilities. Harley-Davidson is one of the few companies that utilizes all of PPG’s coatings technologies, including pre-treatment, e-coat, liquid and powder. It has two facilities where bike bodies are painted – Tomahawk, Wisconsin and York, Pennsylvania – and PPG has in-house technical support representatives at both.”
As well as the vast experience it offers, Laura says the key to the success of the PPG team is diversity, teamwork and trust.
“When faced with an issue, we discuss it as a team and work as a team. The various experience levels and backgrounds within the team allows for some very interesting problem resolutions. And that trust in not only amongst the PPG team, it’s also with Harley-Davidson. When Harley-Davidson presents a challenge to PPG, it trusts that PPG will champion the challenge and provide a suitable resolution.”
Wired for sound
While LiveWire doesn’t have Harley-Davidson’s famous rumbling V-twin engine note, its arrival as a cutting-edge technology means it introduces its own signature sound which is actually derived from its drive components. A gearset is used to turn the H-D Revelation motor’s output by 90 degrees to align the drivebelt sprocket and the rear wheel. As the LiveWire motorcycle accelerates and gains speed, the gearset has been specifically designed to produce a new Harley-Davidson sound which represents the smooth, electric power on tap.
Harley-Davidson engineers even added a heartbeat! When the rider activates the LiveWire powertrain, the electric motor produces a subtle pulse of torque – a ‘heartbeat sensation’ – designed to let them know that the bike has come to life and is ready to ride. The pulsing stops once the bike starts to move and resumes when it comes to a stop.
Fully connected
Along with a full suite of electronic rider aids, LiveWire includes an interface designed to allow the owner to create a personalized and full-connected riding experience. A 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen is located above the handlebars to provide the rider with a range of information in a high-quality display that is bright and easy to read. As well as being tilt adjustable to get the optimal viewing angle, the screen also adjusts for brightness automatically. It functions as a touchscreen only while the bike is stationary but many of the display options can be changed by using the hand-controlled joystick whilst on the move. Speedo, range and high-voltage battery status (shown in percentage remaining) are constantly displayed but the screen can be customized with various rider selectable ‘widgets’, including:
  • A power meter which indicates how much of the available power is being used as the motorcycle is being ridden
  • Ride Mode indicator displays which of the seven selectable ‘Ride Modes’ is active
  • Charging status shows the time remaining to full change when the motorcycle is plugged into a charging system
  • Alert information and tell-tale warning lights, including turn signals, ABS active, Traction Control active and Check Engine / Battery Overheat
  • Active Bluetooth connection and available functions
    LiveWire is even equipped with H-D Connect service technology that provides cellular connectivity which can link the owner with their motorcycle via their smart phone using the latest version of the free Harley-Davidson App (available from the iOS and Android app stores).
    Altered state
    LiveWire will not appeal to everyone but, like every Harley-Davidson, it’s not meant to. What it does do is offer an all-new motorcycling experience which is entirely fitting given Harley-Davidson’s pivotal role in kickstarting the motorcycle sector. The company sees LiveWire’s tech and easily accessible performance as appealing to new riders, as well as offering a thrilling alternative for accomplished motorcyclists. Thanks to its advance technology, LiveWire radically alters many of the sensations that have previously defined motorcycling. The H-D Revelation powertrain delivers extreme power in a seamless rush, while the simplicity of operation allows the rider to focus more completely on the real thrill of motorcycling – the dynamic sensation of acceleration and motion. More than ever, LiveWire provides something Harley-Davidson motorcycles have continually excelled at since 1903 – personal freedom and exhilaration.
    Colorful relationship
    Despite her 23 years of experience formulating and troubleshooting liquid industrial coatings, Laura Nelson admits she never gets tired of watching paint come to life.
“After six years of working closely with Harley-Davidson, I'm still overwhelmed by how its stylists are able to look at a color panel and imagine the design of the bike. The blends of materials, shapes and colors make the bike become an experience rather than an object. The use of color to create this experience is simply amazing. Harley-Davidson is always pushing the envelope and looking for the next big ‘Wow’. They share what they are looking for with us and PPG makes it happen. I tell everyone it's like a puzzle. And I really like puzzles!”