Pic: Happy guy with Livewire
I have owned my 2020 Harley Davidson Livewire for almost three years now and covered more than 18,000kms.
I predominantly commute around Sydney but have also done numerous longer weekend rides typically 600-800kms. I mostly slow charge but have also used DC Fast Charging at multiple locations.
So, after all this time what are the things I don't like about my Livewire?
Of course, likes and dislikes are a very personal and subjective thing, so you'll have to forgive me for that - but here's my list roughly in order of annoyance.
Spoiler alert: they're mostly very minor and I love this bike.
Personally I love the design and operation of the front indicators on the Livewire which from what I can tell is a unique design to the bike.
However, they stick out quite a bit and are prone to easily breaking the mounting flange - its very easy to accidentally bump them, are one of the first things to break in a minor tip over and not cheap.
Secondly, Harley have used a two button indicator switch - a switch on the left handlebar to signal left and a switch on the right handlebar to signal right. Almost every other motorcycle in the world has a single switch on the left side to operate and cancel left or right.
This may sound trivial but the standard design requires you to awkwardly use your throttle hand to signal right which more than once has upset my throttle control.
I seriously don't like it because it occasionally affects my bike control.
2. 12V battery
Like a lot of late model electric vehicles the Livewire has a 12V battery to support a variety of functions. It's a typical looking 12V Lithium battery like you would find in many bikes however, as I discovered when I pulled mine apart it actually consists of a miniscule 12V 2AH pack hidden inside a case capable of holding a far larger capacity.
Given that there is space, given the relatively common stories about problems, given that a 12V failure renders the bike dead, given that its too small to support any kind of load, I just don't understand why a better and larger 12V lithium battery is not fitted.
To be clear, I have only ever had one problem with mine, replaced it with a new one and it has been faultless - but it should be so much better. It's not a show stopper, its just dumb.
This rates second place because its dumb and a weak point.
The Livewire has a 1500Watts/6.25A liquid cooled AC charger, which is actually a pretty cool unit.
However, its big and the low 1.5kW just becomes a limiting factor in practical AC recharging applications imho.
I do understand the (probable) philosophy of making it super robust and unlikely to ever trip the average power circuit and in most day to day situations its fine but, in this day and age a bigger lighter, smarter charger makes more sense to me.
This ranks third because faster charging in more scenarios makes ev ownership and versatility better.
4. Leg room
Now this is barely a complaint, very subjective and my own damn fault - but the Livewire is very tight on leg room for a 6 ft bloke.
Despite some advantages to the low seat and the fact that I really like the riding position for how the bike handles, for me it causes cramps and discomfort on longer trips. A sheepskin helps a bit and I may try a padded cover some day but they're compromises for what I think is a bad position for my body shape and size.
Maybe it's just my aging bones but I regularly fantasise about changing the position for much better comfort. This ranks fourth because discomfort takes the joy out of longer rides.
Internationally, many newer Harley Davidson's including Livewires can connect to the bike via your phone and H-D Connect to monitor charge status, anti-theft measures and a variety of other very useful functions.
However, in some locations including Australia H-D Connect is non operational for a variety of unexplained reasons. For a cutting edge modern EV, it is a major oversight to not have remote connectivity.
This ranks fifth because remote access should be normal in such a sophisticated bike.
6. Charge adaptor
The (Australian) Livewire comes with ridiculously bulky charger adaptor which takes up all the space under the seat and gets wet in the process. Given that it only has to deliver 1500Watts/6.25A via the on board charger, its over engineered and bulky in my opinion.
A standard cable which plugged in directly would be infinitely more practical, save weight and money. If it needs safety gear, put it under the tank where there's room, simplify the cable and we'd all gain a bit of much needed storage space under the seat.
This is getting down the list in sixth but does feel needlessly complex and bulky.
7. Over and under engineered components
I understand that some parts are simply taken off other HD models and follow similar design philosophies but in some cases it seems poorly thought out for what is essentially a sports cruiser.
The front brake lever assembly for example is bulky and looks like its off a traditional Fatboy Harley. The Livewire deserves a much slimmer and sportier solution. You can get part way there with an after market adjustable sports lever (like I added) but why?
On the other hand I also discovered how flimsy the handlebars are when my bike fell of its stand in the shed and it bent the bars. They are thin mild steel and prone to creasing with the slightest bend - why?
Personally I also really dislike the extra large 25.5mm diameter of Harley handlebars. The grips just feel enormous and despite trying a few different versions I cant make it feel better. Its perhaps a very personal thing but I much prefer the 22mm diameter more commonly found on most motorcycles.
Seventh place because the handlebar size negatively affects how the bike feels in my hands.
8. Rear mudguard
The Livewire comes standard with a full length rear mudguard which is nothing short of polarising in its design. The earlier models have a large cut out towards the rear too (discontinued post 2021), which just looks odd and makes a mess on what is otherwise a really practical design for keeping you clean.
Many owners have played around to improve this and recently cut mine down to what I reckon is a much more suitable look for the bike and still protects the rear shock.
The low deflector which carries the number plate and rear lights is a solid if complicated design and really helps keep a lot of water off the rider, but looks too bulky and beefy for my eye. I can live with it, it just feels a bit out of place to me.
The mudguard design comes in eighth because I think it detracts from what is otherwise widely recognised as a gorgeous design.
9. Sort of custom dash
Very minor - the Livewire has a dashboard I really like and it works really well. In combination with the faultless toggle and touch controls its a really great feature.
My only minor complaint is that you can customise your preference of widgets and the display layout, but you it doesn't default to that layout when you start the bike.
Ninth place because its annoying but no biggee.
10. Dishonourable mentions
Lastly, I don't hate the following list of gripes but do think they are important contributing factors that will ultimately make me want to upgrade. I accept them because a)technology moves fast in this space and b) the design cycle of this machine was long so some stuff is inevitably a bit behind compared to todays possibilities.
The elephant in the room is of course price which at $50,000 originally and then around $35,000 is still way out of reach for mass adoption.
I listed this issue here instead of first place because realistically, we are still in the very early stages of the electrification of transport. I think it will be ten years (maybe five) before its possible to reduce prices to comparable levels in motorcycles, so it is a premium solution for now.
Air cooled battery
The Livewire houses its cells inside a clever, robust and heavy duty cast aluminium case which forms an integral component of the bike as a fully stressed member.
It features a finned case and in combination with some ducts does a pretty good job at keeping the battery cool - so much so that I have yet to notice any discernible impact on power delivery or charge rate acceptance over the entire time I've owned the bike.
However, I can see that the battery is a big, slow moving thermal mass. In cold temperatures (5-10 deg C) it barely warms up unless you are doing sustained riding or high power charges and discharges.
Likewise, in higher temps (30-40 deg C) it retains heat in its "sealed thermal tank" and motion (forced external air cooling) only seems to reduce temperature by one or two degrees in my experience.
This means my battery is being worked harder and presumably is limited in input and output at the extremes impacting performance and life. The trade off of course is simplicity and a some cost.
It does seem like it must of been a big issue to solve because the motor, inverter and charger are all liquid cooled already.
I will specifically look for a liquid cooled pack on my next bike, despite the negative impacts of the current design not being obvious or evident to me in the real world.
Of course, the 15.5kWh (nominal) capacity is also worthy of a dishonourable mention due to its range limiting impact.
After 3 years I am impressed at the range I continue to get and can absolutely live with it, despite is limitations. Around town I average around 60-65 Wh/Km which provides around 240-250km of real world range. On the highway I average around 100 to 110Wh/km for a range of around 125kms (but wind gradient temp and other factors can seriously impact this).
As it turns out, for me, its never an issue for commuting and roughly 1.5 to 2 hours in the saddle while touring is enough before I need a break anyway. As charging infrastructure has caught up it hasn't really been an issue - but is a touch precarious at times.
More capacity and less weight is the EV owners drug of choice, of course.
To round it all out then, if I could specify the Livewire 2.0 design, what does my unicorn bike look like? I'll keep it as simple as possible:
Fix all the stupid small things I listed - (indicators, 12V battery, charge adapter, handlebars and ditch the fat boy components)
Overall weight - drops to 230kg max for enhanced range and handling
25kWh liquid cooled battery - which will provide 250km highway and 500km urban range
10kW AC smart charger - app adjustable current limiting charger for all AC applications
Full open source connectivity - open up the public facing functions to reliable cellular apps and add remote service and firmware updates
Taller adjustable seat - make the seat and seat chassis adjustable and add some more storage space
10% cheaper - assuming a typical $35,000 price today if I got all these features at 10% less I think it would be incredibly appealing and I'd find a way to buy one.
That's not too much to ask for in the next couple of years, is it?