The ever-growing list of 2020 motorcycle recalls continues to expand with another addition to the hit-list; Harley Davison’s 2020 LiveWire is unexpectedly shutting down for some riders mid-ride and in some cases not allowing for the driver to turn the vehicle back on after initial shut-off.
The issue apparently comes from the On-Board Charging software that causes the powertrain to turn off. I’m not sure if that issue will really cause *a complete* shut down of the bike with all other features shutting off, but other sources are reporting that ABS, TC, and other assists can indeed cut out as well.
This is not good news for anyone who rides their bikes in the evening or in low light, as there is potential for ABS, traction control, and your headlight to shut off mid-ride which could cause serious injury or even death.
Between the 22nd and 29th of October, 2020 LiveWire owners will be notified by mail regarding the recall and will be urged to take their motorcycles to their local H-D dealership to have the software updated for free.
Where I live, there is currently 10cm of snow on the ground, so if are like me and cannot arrange transportation of your bike to the dealership Harley-Davidson is happy to pick it up and return it back to your house absolutely free of charge.
If you are a 2020 H-D LiveWire owner it would be in your best interest to give the Harley-Davidson customer support line a ring and provide them with your VIN so they can check to see if you perhaps have one of the affected versions of the bike.
All LED, low beam, high beam and signature position lamp
Lights (as per country regulation), Tail/Stop
LED with light pipe tail
Lights (as per country regulation), Front Signal Lights
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps
High beam, turn signals, ABS, traction control, EV fault
Lights, Rear Turn Signals
4.3” WQVGA 480×272 TFT Color Display with Ambient Light Sensor, 9 warning lights, Real Time Clock and Integrated Bluetooth Connectivity to a Smartphone to provide infotainment features including turn-by-turn navigation, telephone, music, and voice recognition.
Electric Power Outlet
USB C-type; output 5V at 3A
EV Specific Content: Motor
Internal Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor with Water Jacket cooling
I’ve been riding and racing electric bikes for a few years and I’m a convert. Yes, I’ll always adore petrol engines, the smell of two-stroke still gets me excited like a toddler after an energy drink, but electric bikes are coming, and Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire is one of the best of the current crop. Let me explain why.
Adam Child on the Harley-Davidson LiveWire
If you’ve never ridden an electric bike before, or even showed an interest, let me put forward some siple facts and benefits. There is no noise, there are no gears and therefore no clutch or gear lever. Electric power is immediate: twist and go with no lag.
Torque is instant, which results in fast acceleration. There’s no heat from the engine or exhaust because there isn’t one, no petrol and therefore no need for a petrol tank, (yes, that’s a dummy fuel tank on the LiveWire). And the bike performs the same no matter what the altitude, weather or conditions.
Charging opportunities will be a big aspect of LiveWire ownership for those pushing the range envelope
Riding an electric bike is very alien at first, especially for experienced riders. But you soon appreciate the technology and advantages, like going from a landline phone to a mobile. After a ride, my kids can’t burn their paws on the exhaust when the bike is in the garage and I don’t melt in traffic from the heat normally generated from an air-cooled V-twin.
So, what is a Harley-Davidson LiveWire?
There are several production electric bikes on the market, but the LiveWire is the first to come from a major motorcycle manufacturer. Remember it’s not just a case of producing the bike, you must have a dealer network that supports the new technology, in Harley’s case this is over 250 dealers worldwide. You can walk into your local Harley showroom tomorrow and order one in most large motorcycle markets around the world, but unfortunately not yet in Australia as LiveWire is not set to debut Down Under until late this year.
The LiveWire is Harley’s most powerful bike to date, a quoted 105 bhp with 116 Nm of torque and a 0-60 mph time of three seconds; 60-80 mph in two. This isn’t slow.
To control the power you have four rider modes, Sport, Road, Rain and Range. These modes change the power characteristics, regenerative braking and traction control. The regen’ braking is like engine braking, and like the TC can be changed on the move.
There are an additional three custom modes, which can be specified to your needs and how you ride, for example: full power, no traction control or regenerative braking if you are brave enough. There is a six-axis IMU and therefore the traction control is lean sensitive. There is a noticeable change in the bike’s performance and character between modes, the Sport mode is certainly sporty, you have been warned.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire features a TFT touch screen
The range is the big question and Harley is quoting 235 kilometres on a full charge in the relative steady Range mode, and around 160 kilometres of slightly more spirited riding. On a household socket, one-hour of charge equals around 20 kilometres of range, but on a fast DC charge, that time comes down to an 80 per cent of full charge in 30 minutes, and 100 per cent in an hour.
It’s worth pointing out that you may never fully drain the battery. In the same way you don’t let your iPhone run out of charge, nor do you let your fuel level in your bike drop to zero. Typically, you re-charge or fuel up once you’re in the red with 20 per cent or so left, which in this case means a quick 30-minute charge. That’s enough time to de-kit, have a coffee, check your phone messages and continue with a full charge.
A full-colour TFT dash with touch-screen controls and connectivity comes as standard, as do high spec Brembo monobloc calipers and fully-adjustable Showa suspension at both ends, this is a quality motorcycle, make no mistake.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire also features fully adjustable Showa forks and Brembo brakes
All the fittings and design touches are high-end, the lines around the dummy tank are perfect, the ‘on show’ electric motor even looks good and is boldly on display, not tucked away. I like the design and feel, but the elephant in the room is the price; with Australian pricing expected to be in the $44K region, but no official figure announced as yet.
Yes expensive, but also comparable to exclusive, ‘high-end’ bikes from Harley. And don’t forget, you’ll never have to pay for fuel.
How does the LiveWire perform?
The norm on most electric bikes is to become immediately aware of the lack of engine noise, which amplifies the road noise, the clatter of bodywork, the noise of the final drive on the swing-arm. It sounds mechanically incorrect. But there are no such disconcerting noises on the LiveWire, this is the Bentley of the electric motorcycle world.
On the LiveWire there’s no intrusive mechanical or drive related noises, just smooth power
It’s super smooth, fuss-free and almost silent. Harley must have spent a colossal amount of effort and money ensuring the quality of fixtures and fittings. Like closing the door on a Rolls Royce, you instantly detect the quality just by the sound. Impressive.
Stopping 250 kg is no easy task, especially when you reduce the regeneration engine braking, but the powerful 300 mm twin discs with Brembo stoppers are more than up for the challenge.
The LiveWire also takes the title as fastest stopping Harley, backed up by ABS
This is one of the fastest stopping Harleys I’ve ever ridden. Even under hard use, the stoppers don’t fade. The ABS is a little intrusive on the rear, as the rear Michelin struggles to find grip under extreme braking, but otherwise faultless.
Like the brakes, the handling is head-and-shoulders above any road-going Harley I’ve ridden previously. Ground clearance is ample, it’s easy to achieve levels of lean other Harley riders can only dream about. Due to the long wheelbase, the initial turn-in is a fraction slow, but after that it just keeps leaning and leaning.
The LiveWire would also be the leader in the Harley line up, as far as possible lean angles, and performance
Fast transitions, asking too much of the chassis, can lead to a little insecurity, but this only occurs when you’re pushing the chassis to perform to track day levels of speed. For 95 per cent of the time for 95 per cent of riders the LiveWire is planted, secure and stable.
Complementing the handling is a huge tidal wave of torque. Full power mode will take even experienced riders by surprise, despite its weight and silence it can certainly drive hard from a standstill, enough to take your breath away at first.
The LiveWire is twist and go, with no clutch and no gears to worry about
From a standstill, it’s so easy to launch, as there isn’t any clutch or gears. Simply lay over the dummy fuel tank, twist and go. Form the lights it will even give a full-blown road-legal superbike a run for its money.
You end up riding the electric Harley harder than you really should as the power is so much fun and the handling there to match.
Belt final drive is also found on the LiveWire, alongside the sporty swingarm
Should you get carried away you also have a raft of helpful rider aids to keep the wheels in line. The traction control and re-intervention are smooth and effortless, and should you be worried about losing your licence you can always opt for a softer power mode. The combination of instant power, fun handling and non-intrusive electronics makes the LiveWire a truly enjoyable package.
Back in the real world, most LiveWires are going to spend some if not the majority of their life around town, which is when most electric vehicles make perfect sense, dare I say more so than their petrol counterparts. The LiveWire is like a twist-and-go scooter but with more than double the power to embarrass unsuspecting road users from the lights.
There’s also no engine heat to worry about for commutes and hot weather
Unlike any other Harley, there’s no heat, so even in the middle of summer you won’t feel like your testicles are being barbecued. Harley has even added a ‘fake’ pulse, which gives the feeling the bike is alive and reminds you not to mistakenly twist the throttle hoping for a blip of engine noise.
The weight is more noticeable at slow speeds, but I’m only 5ft 6in and never had an issue at slow speeds. But just remember, there is no engine noise so everyone can hear you swearing at bad drivers.
Is the LiveWire touring-ready?
A cruise control comes as standard and is simple and easy to use on the Livewire, simply set to 110 km/h, and with few vibrations and negligible noise, it’s a surreal experience cruising. Stability is excellent, which allows you to play with the informative clocks or simply enjoy the view ahead.
In Australia you’ll need to plan your longer trips around charging
The ergonomics are a little aggressive, reminiscent of Ducati’s Monster from a few years ago, with wide bars and a prominent stance. The seat is relatively comfortable, the suspension on the sporty-firm side, but with just a 160 kilometres range, you’re going to be stopping to rest and charge every 1.5 to 2 hours.
On our test ride around Barcelona, I was a little heavy with the throttle and spent too much time enjoying the tyre ripping torque. With heavy use, you need to start thinking about plugging in after around 120 kilometres, depending on the road and the weight of the rider.
A fast DC charge station can get you back on the road in 30 minutes in many cases
But ridden normally I believe a 160 kilometre range is easily achievable, possibly more. Ride for 160 kilometres, stop for a coffee, plug in and repeat. Touring is an option, it just needs planning, 400 kilometres a day with two half hour stops, that’s easily achievable. Plug in overnight at your hotel and repeat the next day.
The LiveWire is a true game-changer, the first mass-produced electric bike from a global motorcycle manufacturer, and it’s good. Forget the fact it’s electric for the moment; as a bike it’s fun, handles, looks good, is desirable, even has some character, which is incredibly difficult to inject on a silent machine.
The LiveWire offers a glimpse into the future of motorcycling
Yes, it’s expensive, and covering big miles in a day won’t be possible unless you have a support crew. But for everyday riding, it’s an impressive bike. Considering this is Harley’s first road-legal electric bike, they’ve got off to a good start, in many ways one of the best Harley’s to date and already one step ahead of the competition.
Who, ten years back, would have predicted that Harley would lead the way in electric bikes? I didn’t see that one coming.
Interestingly, it’s Harley bringing the first electric bike to the market from a major motorcycle manufacturer, as they expand their offerings to a much wider rider-base
A Swiss rider has just ridden a Harley-Davidson LiveWire 1723km across four nations in one day using Level 3 DC fast chargers.
Sounds good, but we did some calculations and reckon he would have spent six hours recharging!
Rider Michel von Tell, aged 39, is a journalist and comedian described as the Euro version of US comedian Bill Burr … we don’t know him either. Anyway, he’s apparently a bit of a celebrity and his YouTube channel has millions of followers.
His feat shattered the previous record of 1134.3km in one day set in 2018 by German Remo Klawitter on a Zero electric motorcycle fitted with an optional Charge Tank with Level 2 charging.
Calculations for one day record
(All images are of MBW riding the LiveWire at the world launch in 2019)
Low temperature performance means you would be less likely to get stranded if riding up in the alps.
While Enevate doesn’t give any secrets away about how it is made, the fact that it uses less lithium is another safety, economic, environmental and humanitarian benefit.
Bill explains: “Li-ion cell safety issues are typically caused by contamination or lithium-plating. For today’s conventional graphite Li-ion cells available, lithium plating typically happens at very high charge rates and/or charging at low temperatures. Enevate’s technology does not have any lithium plating and can be safer than conventional graphite cells.”
The company says the size and expense of batteries is a hurdle to widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
It’s also a particular hindrance to motorcycles which weigh less and usually cost a lot less than cars.
However, we have seen electric motorcycles at ridiculous prices. For example, the LiveWire costs almost $US30,000 in the US and could cost more than $A40,000 when it is launched here late this year.
Enevate say their batteries have much higher energy density which means they can be smaller and therefore a lower cost component of the whole vehicle cost.
Their claim that recharging will be 10 times faster means that electric motorcycles such as the LiveWire that take all night to recharge from a standard AC output could recharge in less than an hour.
LIveWires on DC fast chargers
If the rider has access to a DC fast charger, that time can drop to about five minutes with the Enevate battery which compares with Harley’s claim of 30 minutes for the LIveWire.
The big hurdle in Australia is our lack of such infrastructure, but it is gradually being installed across the nation’s highways.
On the strength of these new models, revenue is planned to increase from $US4.53b to $US4.66b in 2020.
Part of that could be the reduction in impact of Trump’s tariff war, down this year to $US30m from $US97.9 million last year. Harley has now built a factory in Thailand to side-step tariffs and keep a lid on prices in Europe.
There are no plans yet to import Thai-made bikes to Australia.
President and CEO Matt Levatich says “transformed product development” is allowing them to bring new models such as the Pan America and Bronx to market 30% faster than before.
These new models will be released in September, so their impact will not be felt until 2021.
Matt says the new products also include “electric products, motorcycles in new segments and sizes, and even e-bicycles”.
But they haven’t forgotten their core customer, increasing their domestic share in the touring and cruiser segments.
“We’re also leading the electrification of motorcycles with class-leading products developed in conjunction with our new team and our EV development centre, LiveWire labs in Silicon Valley,” Matt says.
Interestingly, American compatriot Indian Motorcycle also says it gained market share, driven by the launch of the Challenger bagger a couple of months ago and the FTR 1200 street tracker.
If both American companies are increasing their domestic share, Japanese and European tourers and cruisers must be losing out.
Critics have been lining up to foretell doom for Harley-Davidson for both being out of date with their pushrod ploughs yet too advanced with their expensive new electric bike.
But long-time Harley-Davidson expert Phil Heath (career bio at the end of the article) reckons the doom sayers have got it wrong and Harley is destined to boom in the years ahead.
We love a bit of controversy, so we present his case and invite you to leave your comments in the usual place. Doom or boom?
Harley set to grow
By Phil Heath
For a few years now, worldwide sales for Harley-Davidson have deflated and demand from the younger generations has generally not materialised. It seems that under their banner of “More Roads to Harley-Davidson”, the Motor Company has been launching trial balloons to find ones that might stay aloft.
I’m sure, however, that there is a modernisation master-plan. It’s pretty clear, and will be extremely successful. Based on the slowing and eventual end of sales to baby boomers, which were just about “guaranteed” sales each year, the search for additional buyer groups is actually proceeding well.
MBW on the Harley Street 500
Beginning with the 2015 launch of the Street 500, learner and small bike buyers have an excellent bike to buy. The huge sales success of the Street is already bringing the Harley brand into the age-groups needed. And put a Vance & Hines slip-on muffler on to the Street and the “little” bike sounds unbelievably good!
The axing of the V-Rod and Dyna platforms caused plenty of online and in-store negative comment at the time, but that mostly blew over quickly. The reality is that with the launch of the Milwaukee 8 engine in 2017 Touring models, and the all-new 2018 Softails, the younger-than-boomer but still “traditional” Harley buyer can choose from the best Cruisers and Tourers in the world.
Because the Street, Softail, and Touring platforms are relatively new, the Motor Company has learners, restricted licence riders, and traditional buyers very well covered for a long time.
The next targets are widespread, and the success of the Street line shows how Harley can successfully grasp a new (for the MoCo) market segment. So who will be brave enough to say that the Livewire, Pan America, Bronx and its related models previewed, and all those prototype small electric vehicles, are going to fail?
I know that the keyboard experts are already saying H-D’s “lost the plot”, but I’m so old I can remember when people hated the FXR because it was rubber-mounted and had a “Japanese” looking frame. I remember people hated belt drive, hated electronic ignition, the cries of “ugly…what were they thinking” about the beautiful Deuce, and people REALLY hated the V-Rod! Only two years ago the keyboarders were never buying another Harley because some of the Softail fuel tanks were smaller, or because there are no more Dynas, or because the Fat Boy headlight surround was ugly.
Doom or boom?
Change is essential, and so is accepting change. New Zealand is an example of how progressive H-D dealers are embracing the new models, reaching out to younger buyers, and taking motorcycling and the Harley brand forward.
Comparing the NZ year-end totals from 2013 and 2018 (2019 figures not available yet) sales of all new motorcycles increased 36.1%, H-D sales increased 42.2%, and market share is 13.7%.
In Australia, despite great dealers trying hard, year-end totals from 2013 and 2019 show all new motorcycle sales have decreased by 21.2%, and H-D sales decreased by 21.3%. Market share is 7.2%.
Personally, I can’t wait to ride a Livewire, Bronx, or PanAmerica. And the MoCo’s plans? The new models? Softails and Tourers? Over time, it’s all going to come together just fine.
About the author
Back in 2012 I semi-retired from a long career in Australia’s premier Harley-Davidson dealership.
I was honoured to be asked by several other H-D dealers to consult for them. Since then I’ve consulted and assisted H-D dealers in AU and NZ, established and managed an international office for one of H-D’s USA-based official licensees, worked full-time for other Harley dealers, and moved to New Zealand while retaining my Aussie home.
Now, after 40 years in the industry in AU and NZ, I’m again working in both countries for myself as Phil Heath Consulting.
You will be stunned by our choice for the 2019 Bike of the Year! Read on.
Unlike previous years, I have not ridden a lot of the new bikes this year. Manufacturers don’t seem to like what I have to say, so they don’t readily supply them.
Reviewing new bikes is getting fairly pointless, anyway. Each year bikes get that little bit better, lighter, more economical, faster, etc.
Even on paper, there are no huge advances in performance.
As for style, that’s down to personal preference.
So the exercise of naming a bike of the year seems fairly pointless.
For example, how could an adventure bike win over a sport bike, cruiser, tourer, naked, neo-classic, etc?
And each year there seem to be new niches being added to the market to target new riders.
So for me, the bike of the year is not the fastest, most powerful, prettiest, most technological, best value, the biggest seller, etc.
In fact, the bike we have chosen seems to have been a bit of a sales flop and is quite expensive. It isn’t even available in Australia yet!
So here goes … drumroll please.
2019 Motorbike Writer Bike of the Year
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric!
This is a landmark bike in our beloved industry.
It’s the first full-size electric road motorcycle from a traditional motorcycle company.
While the others have talked about electric motorcycles and shown us some future designs and working concepts, Harley got in and produced it.
Ok, it’s been a bit of a sales flop.
The bike was supposed to be released in September, but deliveries were delayed.
Then they had to temporarily halt production to fix a fault with overheating chargers.
When they did arrive in US showrooms, customers did not exactly flock to buy them at $US30k (about $A44k).
They won’t even arrive in Australia until “late” in 2020.
And when they do, they may cost more than a full-dresser Ultra Limited tourer!
But not only is the LiveWire an historic landmark in our industry, it’s also a damn good ride.
I tested one around the streets of Portland, Oregon, and into the mountains and forests around the town.
It looks great, it’s lightning fast, super-smooth, handles very well, has loads of electronic gadgetry, it’s comfortable and brakes are exceptional given the added assistance of enormous electric motor back-torque.
Apart from the price, the drawbacks are limited range (235km city, 152km highway), about 11 hours to charge off the mains and limited fast-charging infrastructure.
These issues will slowly be overcome with rapid advances in battery technology. Cleverly, Harley will be able to update easily its battery and even its supplier.
The LiveWire won’t change the minds of those who don’t like the idea of electric motorcycles. That includes those who simply want a bike to make noise, even though the LiveWire has a pleasant “whooshing” turbine sound.
Despite finding the LiveWire exciting to ride and admiring the tech, I certainly wouldn’t own one. I still love the pulse and feel of a conventional bike.
In fact, the bike I am most looking forward to riding in 2020 is the insane 208hp Ducati Streetfighter V4!
But I’m glad an established motorcycle company finally made the leap of faith with a proper electric motorcycle.
Let’s face it; electric motorcycles are inevitable, especially with countries such as Sweden planning to ban all fossil-fuel-powered vehicles from 2030.
Our decision will not be popular, but it will cause controversy and it will get people talking about the future of motorcycling.
Let’s hope the LiveWire paves the way for a future of interesting and exciting motorcycles.
What was your choice for 2019 Bike of the Year? Do you agree/disagree with our choice? Leave your comments below.
A Canadian company is working on battery technology that will recharge an electric motorcycle in about five minutes without reducing battery life.
The discovery by GBatteries is a potential boost for electric motorcycles and other vehicles as recharging time, not range anxiety, is the biggest hurdle.
Harley-Davidson claims its LiveWire electric motorcycle can be recharged to 80% in about 30minutes using DC fast chargers.
Recharge in minutes
However, this process degrades the battery, shortening its life.
Now GBatteries has discovered a process where micro pulses of power will charge batteries quickly without any degradation.
They have filed for 45 patent applications, with 10 patents granted and 28 pending.
“Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, by eliminating the final barrier of charge time and enabling electric vehicles to charge as fast as it takes to fill a tank of gas,” the company says.
“One hour isn’t what we call fast. We’re pioneering technology that will enable electric vehicles to charge as fast as it takes to fill a tank of gas.”
How it works
GBatteries isn’t developing new materials or changing battery chemistry. Instead it is working on new software and hardware.
Their ChargeSense software uses artificial intelligence to create a complex series of small charging pulses and learn about the state of the battery as it charges to avoid degeneration and overheating.
“They were really friendly and curious about what we were doing, especially Charley,” he says.
“They seemed to be enjoying South America a lot, they told me they’d just stayed at a small coastal lodge the night before and were heading to Quito the day we met. They seemed just really chilled out and open.”
Since the pair started in Tierra del Fuego in September and were last month in Ecuador, they are now expected to be somewhere in Guatemala or Mexico.
Charley and Ewan have both previously said they would like to ride the Baja Peninsula, so that could be a detour as they head north to Alaska on their adventure.
While Charley and Ewan are riding LiveWire electric motorcycles, their videographer, Claudio Von Planta is on a petrol bike.
“They told me they were really happy with their bikes, the range being somewhere between 250 and 350km, I don’t remember which,” he says.
According to Harley, range is about 150km on the highway and about 235km in the city.
“Charley said they wanted to focus on electric motorcycles on this journey and after trying out a Zero and a few other brands, they chose the LiveWires as they felt best.
“They’ve made it so far, so it seems to be working. And no, I haven’t seen any generator-laden back up trucks anywhere.”
We’ve been talking about it a long time and if the stars align we will do something like a Long Way up from Tierra Del Fuego to Alaska in the next couple of years. It really is close now. Ewan’s always had a loose relationship with Moto Guzzi so there’s no conflict there.
But rather than Moto Guzzi and Triumph, the pair have opted for the new Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
While it was thought they would go all the way to Alaska, Charley recently said the ride would go from Argentina to LA.
Maybe they don’t want to cover the same territory through Canada and Alaska that they did in the Long Way Round.
Long Way Back
It’s been a long time between trips for Ewan and Charley.
From 14 April 2004 to 29 July 2004, they rode across Europe and the USA in Long Way Round and from 12 May to 4 August 2007 they rode from the top of Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa for Long Way Down.
With Ewan becoming increasingly busy with Hollywood movies, Charley squeezed in the 2006 Dakar rally for his series, Race to Dakar, and has produced several other travel shows.