What We’re Driving: 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire ELW

The Motor Company’s first electric is quick, quiet and offers DC fast charging.

The classic ‘potato-potato’ exhaust rumble is absent, but Harley-Davidson’s software engineers have programmed vibration into their first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire. (Harley-Davidson)

“Grab your helmet, you need to ride this thing!” exclaimed my pal Dave, as he parked his new electric Harley-Davidson in my driveway. I’d been working outside when he arrived but hadn’t heard him coming, not even tire noise. The LiveWire is the silent hog. I’ve been motorcycle-obsessed since childhood and currently own two hydrocarbon-fueled parallel twins, which won’t accelerate to 60 mph in three seconds like the LiveWire is capable of doing.

The Live Wire's propulsion motor generates 105 hp and 86 lb-ft. (Harley-Davidson)
It looks like a fuel filler, but the chromed lid on the faux fuel tank covers the battery charging port. (Harley-Davidson)
The 553-lb Live Wire’s listed combined-cycle range is 95 miles. (Harley-Davidson)

Nor do they sport an easy-to-use 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen or offer Level-3 DC fast charging, along with L1 and L2. Pop the cover on the top of the LiveWire’s faux gas tank and there’s a CCS charge port. Neat. But, being the eternal codger, I still love the sound and feel of a combustion-engined machine. Harley’s EV team realized most riders who can afford a $30,000 e-hog do, too, so using the motor magnets they’ve engineered a tactile vibration into the LiveWire’s driveline. You feel the subtle shakes through the pegs and handlebar. It’s counter to the automotive EV-development ethos but I get it for a Harley.

Dave alerted me to the bike’s roughly 140-mile range, of which about 90 miles remained. So, my LiveWire ride was a 20-mile scoot on my local country road. Impressions: It’s quick, quiet and doesn’t feel like it weighs 550 pounds. Most of that mass is the liquid-cooled 15.5-kWh battery and traction motor. Ride quality is between firm and Electra Glide plush. There’s no discernible heat emitted from the powertrain. But I greatly missed the clutch and gearbox that make piston-powered motorcycling so enjoyable.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire ELW

Base price: $29,799

As tested: $30,149

Highs: Quick and quiet

Lows: An expensive, short-range ride

Takeaway: Well-engineered first EV from Milwaukee

Live Wire incorporates all the expected riding-dynamics features, including traction control and antilock braking. (Harley-Davidson)