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)

What we’re driving: 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire ELW

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

“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.

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

Continue reading »