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LiveWire One is Harley-Davidson’s second chance at electric motorcycle dominance

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The first electric motorcycle under the company’s new spinoff brand

Harley-Davidson is renewing its push into electric motorcycles with the reveal of its latest battery-powered product, the LiveWire One. While the new bike will roughly have the same specs as the company’s first LiveWire motorcycle, it will be more attractively priced in the hopes of luring more customers away from its gas-powered hogs.

The LiveWire One will start at $21,999, without factoring in any federal, state, or local tax benefits. (Any electric motorcycle that can go at least 45mph is eligible for a 10 percent federal tax credit, up to $2,500.) When you take into account these credits, Harley-Davidson said the price will actually fall below $20,000 for most customers.

To start out, the LiveWire One will be available to customers in only three states: California, New York, and Texas. The company is employing what it’s calling a “hybrid” approach to the retail experience, allowing customers to do most of their shopping online before taking delivery from a local Harley-Davidson dealership. Initially, 12 dealerships will be authorized to sell the LiveWire One, but the company expects that number to grow next year.

Harley-Davidson says the LiveWire One will be able to travel 146 city miles on a single charge, but it doesn’t say how that translates on the highway. (That’s probably because the range takes a significant hit the faster you go.) Still, it’s a slight improvement over the original LiveWire’s range of 110 city miles.

There are few other major differences, though Harley-Davidson did not release a spec sheet at press time. Plugged into a DC fast charger, the LiveWire One’s battery will go from 0 to 100 percent in 60 minutes, or 0 to 80 percent in 45 minutes. Much like the original LiveWire, this new bike will have a six-axis IMU (inertial measurement unit) to help with traction control and anti-lock braking.

“It’s a very different riding experience,” Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz said in an interview. “It’s exhilarating because it is an incredibly agile and fast motorcycle... you go from 0 to 100[mph] in no time.”

A more detailed side-by-side between the two LiveWire motorcycles, as well as a comparison with other electric two-wheelers, will reveal more about the new brand’s ability to attract new customers. We’ll likely have to wait for the Progressive IMS Outdoors convention on July 18th, when Harley-Davidson plans to officially unveil the LiveWire One. If you can’t wait until then, orders are available at LiveWire.com.

While the first LiveWire was praised for being well-made and fun to ride, it was often criticized for being overly expensive, with a starting price of $29,799. There was also a glaring lack of options within the company’s lineup. If you really wanted to buy an electric motorcycle from Harley-Davidson but couldn’t afford the LiveWire, you were basically out of luck; LiveWire was the only electric model offered.

It put Harley-Davidson at a competitive disadvantage in the burgeoning electric motorcycle space, with companies like Zero Motorcycles selling multiple models attractively priced between $10,000 and $16,000.

But if the first LiveWire was meant to serve as a demonstration of what Harley-Davidson could do with an electric drivetrain, LiveWire One is meant to be a more serious effort to capture those city-dwelling customers who the company sees as essential to its future survival. The question, though, is whether this market segment truly exists.

“This is not just a product within a traditional dealer network,” Zeitz said. “It’s a new brand. It’s a new go-to-market approach.”

Zeitz pushed back against the idea that the company’s core customers of aging “boomers” was a problem specific to Harley-Davidson. “The world population is aging, right?” he laughed. “So it’s not just a Harley problem.”

But he acknowledged that with LiveWire, the goal is to entice a new generation that didn’t grow up on classics like Easy Rider. “Every brand needs to innovate... and needs to excite the next generation about your product and about the experience you deliver,” Zeitz said, pointing to the 2020 television series Long Way Up, in which actor Ewan McGregor and TV presenter Charley Boorman ride LiveWires from Argentina to Los Angeles, as an example of the appeal of electric motorcycles.

With the LiveWire One, the company is recommitting itself to the electrification of an entire product line. Earlier this year, Harley-Davidson decided to spin off LiveWire into its own brand, with the goal of launching multiple electric motorcycles under that nameplate. LiveWire One is the first product of that effort, and there will be more to come.

The company telegraphed this move in its Hardwire strategic plan to reinvigorate its flagging sales over the next five years. This dedicated division would be “focused exclusively on leading the future of electric motorcycles,” the company said in its plan.

But while LiveWire will certainly play a significant role in Harley-Davidson’s future, the company is not planning to phase out gas-powered vehicles anytime soon. That’s not the case in the auto industry, with giants like Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Honda, Volvo, and others promising to go EV-only within the next decade. Meanwhile, California has said it would ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Other states are sure to follow.

There are a lot of factors holding Harley-Davidson back from going whole hog (pun intended) on electrification. For one, space is more limited on a motorcycle than in a car, which means the battery needs to be more condensed. This limits the bike’s range, which makes it a tougher sell to customers interested in cross-country trips or touring. And those people represent a significant portion of the company’s base. On top of all that, the EV charging infrastructure in the US is fractured and unreliable and frankly sucks.

“There is no path to electrifying a touring bike and giving it the three or four hundred miles that you would want,” Zeitz said. “And also bearing in mind that fast charging infrastructure is not common yet outside of the city. And even within the city, it’s not always available.”

Zeitz, who took the helm at Harley-Davidson in 2020 after serving as CEO of Puma for 18 years, noted that “synthetic fuels are not something that you can completely disregard” and said he was holding out hope for “a major revolution in that space” that would help Harley-Davidson navigate the post-fossil fuel future.

“But electrification is gonna be a significant part of it,” he added. “And time will tell. We will as a company certainly be prepared for both.”