2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire ride review: Milwaukee’s big pivot to the future

When you’re ready to ride, simply flip up the side stand, twist the traditional right-hand throttle, pick your feet up and go. Engineers worked hard to make the LiveWire nimble at slow speeds, and it is exactly that. Acceleration is brisk, and Harley claims 3-second 0-60-mph times under ideal conditions. Internal-combustion superbikes costing way less are quicker, but regardless, the LiveWire is thrilling enough off the line. Then, in ginormous contrast to vibrating, bellowing ancestral Harleys, the LiveWire goes about its business in relative silence, excepting a whir from the toothed belt final drive, tire noise, some mild background motor, controller, drivetrain and cooling-fan noise — and, of course, the wind past your helmet.
The liquid-cooled motor, battery pack and aforementioned styling are the defining elements of the LiveWire. Hanging below the cast-aluminum, bolt-together chassis is a six-pole (like in Tesla’s Model 3) permanent magnet synchronous motor. Its shaft is longitudinal, as in a Mustang or Corvette. And so, turning the rotation 90 degrees to enable using a belt final drive instead of a shaft drive (like on BMW’s R nineT), the motor drives through a dedicated helical-bevel gearset to a jackshaft and drive pulley.
Company materials indicate the 86 lb-ft maximum torque is available “instantly,” and top speed for the electric motor is 15,000 rpm.