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Thread: On Sunday I rode the future

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Laurel, MD

    Default On Sunday I rode the future

    I know a lot of folks here are into motorcycles and technology in general so I thought I'd share this here.

    So a few months back this picture "leaked"

    Click image for larger version. 

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    That is a stunt double on a futuristic harley on the set of the next avengers movie. About 2 weeks later, Harley Davidson officially announced that this was a prototype of Project Livewire, an all electric motorcycle test program. They started accepting applications for test riders and I sent in my info and requested a spot. This past Sunday I got to ride one.

    In most ways this is not a revolutionary bike, electric motorcycles have been around for a century and in the US there are two brands you can buy relatively easily. Brammo has been making and selling electric motorcycles for about 10 years now and Zero is fairly new to it. The big issue with these bikes is where the hell do you take it for service? Electric bikes require much less in the way of service than traditional motorcycles, but at some point you may need to service the bike and while I'm confident in doing anything short of frame repair on my traditional motorcycle, even with a fair amount of electronics experience I'm not a fan of dealing with high voltage batteries. If Harley were to produce an electric motorcycle I might lean towards their brand over another specifically because there are dealerships EVERYWHERE. I have 5 within the range of the vehicle as it stands now.

    I have ridden the Brammo bikes, but not the Zeros. The Brammo bikes are designed as commuting machines, low power high mileage low top speed. The higher end Brammo model is very conflicted, it's got a good electric motor but still uses a 6 speed transmission instead of direct drive. These bikes are cool in their own way and were revolutionary at the time but they've seen very little advancement over the past few years.

    The Zeros are much better than the Livewire on paper. I'm going to ride one next weekend to see for sure, but if the Livewire came out as it is now versus the Zero S as it is now, I'd have to buy the Zero for sure. The fact is though, the Livewire is just a prototype right now, there are only 39 in existence. The big area where the Zero beats the Livewire, range, is the area that's easiest to improve upon using economy of scale, which Harley can do much better than Zero can. Zero can currently fit 14kWh of lithium ion battery into their bike to get you 171 miles, the livewire as is will give you up to 53 miles with only 3kWh. The Harley does have two advantages right off the bat over the zero though of aesthetics and THAT SOUND.

    So the test ride was one of the greatest riding experiences of my life. This motorcycle is the best I've ridden, and that includes the new EBR 1190RX which is an amazing machine. The riding position is an excellent mix of cruiser height and comfort with a streetfighter stance. The steering geometry is tight and the suspension is fantastic. That's where the similarities to other bikes pretty much end. The electric motor changes everything else.

    Right off the bat when sitting on the thing you notice a few things, first is that the bike feels very, very light. Even lighter than it's actual 450lbs. The weight of the motor and batteries is down so low on the bike, making it feel super light and easy to jsut flip around like a rag doll. The low CG means very low speed maneuvering is super simple, you can stop for a few seconds without putting the feet down without working at it. The touch screen you use to set riding mode is resistive, not capacitive, so you can use it with gloves on. the screen is also bright enough that you can see it easily in bright sunlight with polarized sunglasses on. The silence of the bike when not moving is expected, but what's not expected is a very small tingling vibration coming from the motor that's just enough to let you know the bike is on and ready to go. You also take one look at the mirrors and know there is no way to adjust them to be anything other than useless. They were clearly put on as an afterthought because they only thing they allow you to see is your kneecaps.

    This bike is one speed/direct drive, there is no neutral to put the bike in so you need to be aware that if you twist the throttle it will GO. The application of power is completely linear and amazing. The application of power cannot be expressed well by me in words, it's just perfect. It's as simple as that. The lack of a clutch and shifting is completely natural and you get used to it inside of 5 minutes of riding. What takes 10-15 minutes to get used to is the regenerative braking. The regen braking is applied jsut by letting off the throttle. Once used to it, there is no reason to use the brakes at all, even in stop and go traffic. All I did was tap the lever to actuate the brake lights. Unlike a normal motor, where basically it engine brakes at one rate when you let off the throttle completely - with this its progressive. You can engine brake just a little to slow down smoothly. That was probably the biggest adjustment you have to make riding it - its fundamentally different then any other vehicle you've ever driven in that the throttle basically works the same slowing down as it did speeding up, just reversed.

    It sounds like a jet engine, but quiet. The sound is all naturally generated by the drive train. You're not going to be setting off car alarms with it for sure, but it's satisfying and fun. The Brammo sounds nothing like this bike.

    HD is not saying if they'll offer it for sale, or if they do what it's pricing will be. A few people running the testing hinted at <15k and for sale in about a year and I think that's a fair price for the bike if they can get the range doubled. Just about everyone testing said 100 miles would be an ideal starting range for this bike and I certainly agree with that but to be frank it was so good I'd buy it as is even with the short range.

    In short, it's awesome. Will try the Zero to see if it's also awesome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    The Woods, CA, USA


    Owned a Zero MX since 2008 fun little bikes around town. I've yet to be pulled over on it and I have no plates or blinkers.

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