Tesla is widely known for their electric vehicles and pioneering the electric lorry as well; we have electric bicycles, SUVs, trains and everything in-between, but I’ve always felt one vehicle, in particular, has been missing. A personal favourite of mine: the motorbike. Well, to all you bikers out there, Harley Davidson is providing us with the answer: Project LiveWire.
Around 2014/2015, Harley Davidson unveiled its Project LiveWire motorbike, notably used in the film The Avengers: Age of Ultron. This wasn’t your typical bearded, leather-clad bloke ridden hog. Instead, it looked more like a Ducati. One of the reasons for this is to appeal to a more diverse group of people, including “18 to 35-year-olds, women, African-Americans and Hispanic riders”.
What is Project LiveWire?
LiveWire is the name of motorbike itself and it is an ongoing project by Harley Davidson to bring an electric motorbike to market.
It’s taken a long time, that’s for sure, but there’s good reason for this. Harley has been using big data analytics to get real insight into the risk and reward of such a daring concept, and whether it’s worth it all together. There are other electric motorbike manufacturers;
- Zero Motorcycles – Formerly Electricross, it was the brainchild of a former NASA engineer and founded in California. This bike had a terribly slow start. It failed to reach their UK/European audience several times from inception in 2010 right through to its acceptance in 2017. This was due to a combination of things, mainly poor mileage range.
- Victory Motorcycles – A company founded in 1997 acquired Brammo Motorcycles and subsequently its electric motorbike “Empulse”. They began winding down operations in 2017. There are even more reasons for this one failing than Zero, however, the main points were its inability to compete with Harley Davidson (they do have the Indian Motorcycle range that does better do this, mind), poor build quality, and again poor mileage range.
It’s easy to see why Harley has spent these years doing the research needed to ensure it too doesn’t suffer a similar, common, fate.
How Big Data Plays a Part
If you were to think of the two phrases, “technological advancement” and “Harley Davidson”, you wouldn’t necessarily put them in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. However, what they did with Project LiveWire is most deserving of the marriage of the two phrases. Around 7,000 people have tested the bike in America and about 12,000 people have ridden it on a rolling road. That results in about 19,000 pieces of feedback. Big data is definitely appropriate here.
So what were the results? 86% of people that tested the bike said they liked it and a whopping 74% of people would consider buying it. But that’s not all… The project also gave Harley other important insights:
- How much is someone prepared to pay for it?
- Are the noises just right?
- Is it sexy enough?
- Is it fast enough? Etc, etc.
As far as launching a new product could go, Harley has given themselves a massive head start and a greater chance of survival for when they finally release the LiveWire.
As this is the Tech of the Week series, it’s about time we looked at what goes into such an electric motorbike. We can’t be sure on what the final release will look like, but we can take a look at the rumours.
Usually, the electric motorbikes the world have seen use a transverse engine. The LiveWire uses a longitudinally mounted engine (those seen in performance cars like the Audi R8, or the Moto Guzzi Jackal motorbike). Even Harley traditionally use a transverse engine. Does this suggest they’re peeking into the sports market with this model?
This oil-cooled, three-phase induction electric motor is capable of 55kW of power, producing about 74 bhp and 52lbs/ft of torque. This puts them ahead of both formerly mentioned competitors.
It sits on a lightweight, cast aluminium frame and is powered by a 7kWh battery – the same size battery in Tesla’s home ‘Powerwall’ range.
This is expected to see a range of… 50 miles. Considering one of the downfalls of Zero and Victory motorcycles was the lack of range (and both were higher than 50 miles), this is a little alarming. These figures are based on the 2014 model though, so we should expect to see big improvements on this upon release.
Other expected figures see a 0-60mph time of under 4 seconds and a limited top speed of 95mph.
“Well, that’s pretty amazing” – Joss Whedon with a grin.
In the UK, where the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles are to be banned from 2040, electric vehicles will take the top spot. Companies such as Volvo have announced their plan to make all of their new car models have an electric motor by 2019. BMW had also announced their plans to have an all-electric Mini by the same year. Billions of pounds are needed to expand the infrastructure to support so many vehicles, and people will start picking their favourite manufacturers now. If Harley Davidson can pull it off with the LiveWire, they could cement their name in the market for centuries to come.
Next in the series, Wednesday 14th March 2018…
Tech of the Week #4: “Alexa, is AI-powered voice transcription worth my time?”
Real-time, AI-powered technology is fast becoming available that takes what we say and transcribes it with an accuracy of up to 95%. It’s being used by everyone, from paediatricians to the media employees that write up interviews as they happen. But this is not your typical voice transcription technology…
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