My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Harley-Davidson’s All-Electric Project LiveWire on Tour – How LiveWire with Range Extender PEM Hydrogen Fuel Cell is the Future of Motorcycles

Friday, July 4, 2014

Harley-Davidson’s All-Electric Project LiveWire on Tour – How LiveWire with Range Extender PEM Hydrogen Fuel Cell is the Future of Motorcycles

“We think that the trends in both EV [Electric Vehicle] technology and customer openness to EV products, both automotive and Motorcycles, is only going to increase, and when you think about sustainability and environmental trends, we just see that being an increasing part of the lifestyle and the requirements of riders”

Harley-Davidson President Matt Levatich in an interview with The Associated Press 

Electric design is coming to the Motorcycles. Previous the bane of Chinese and European Bicycle Enthusiasts and a few persons experimenting with E-Bikes and Bicycles in Jamaica, it will start with Bicycles as I’ve predicted in my blog article entitled “How to convert your Bicycle to an Electric Bicycle – Pedal Power is an amazing resource” and start spreading to the Motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson, that iconic maker of Motorcycles, is gently toying with the idea of making an All-Electric Version of the Motorcycles in what’s has been dubbed Project LiveWire as stated in “Harley-Davidson Has A Real LiveWire, Also Known As Its First Electric Motorcycle”, published 06.25.2014 at 10:54 am By Matthew de Paula, Popular Science.

They’ve started a Cross-country Project LiveWire Experience Tour since Tuesday June 24th 2014, visiting some 30 Harley-Davidson Dealerships as they ply such iconic routes as Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles. They’re showing off their prototype with its 74-horsepower Electric Motor that’s powered by a set of Li-Ion Batteries that are air-cooled and stored right above the Electric Motor, hidden by black body panels.

A clutch-less deal, it's housed in a polished aluminum housing slung low at the bottom of the LiveWire. To round it all off, it's got a nice LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlamp with a body that has a gray rough texture built on a cast aluminum frame.

And yes, like any All-Electric Vehicle, the LiveWire is quiet, making virtually no noise save for an aerodynamic sound like an Alien Flying Saucer-Jet Engine that's mostly a combination of the Electric Motor powering up and the Motorcycle slicing through the air. The video above should give you an idea of what that sounds like exactly.

That sound is the very sound it naturally makes, according to chief engineer of the LiveWire, Jeff Richlen, quote: “The sound that it’s producing is uniquely our own, very authentic and genuine. It’s not fabricated or artificially simulated or anything along that line”. Makes me want to ride another Motorcycle yet again, as I’m really do like Bicycles and Motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire – Prototype of what’s possible in All-Electric Motorcycles

You don't have to be a fan of Harley-Davidson to know that this isn't going to sell as is, though.

Aside from the quiet of the Motorcycle, which is a departure from the loud, noisy din that many associated with these mechanical horses warning of your coming presence, there's the range anxiety issue associated with All-Electric Vehicles and the lenthly Charging Time. It takes 3.5 hours with a 220-volt charger to be fully charged and when fully topped up, its battery only gives you a range of 53 miles.

Torque is also rated at 53 foot-pounds but thanks to the fact that it's an All-Electric Motorcycle, its power is instantly converted from Electrical (Li-Ion Batteries) to Mechanical, as opposed to a Traditional Motorcycle that has to go from Chemical (Gasoline) to 2 Mechanical Stages (Engine and then Gears) before it becomes readily available.

This results in an incredibly quick acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds and a top speed of 90 mps, pretty fast for an All-Electric Vehicle and yet still almost zephyr quiet. Equally impressive is when it stops, which is almost immediately once you lift your foot off the accelerator, going from whatever speed you’re cruising at to zero in mere seconds. Given this much power is at your command, it’s nice that Harley-Davidson split the power into two (2) distinct categories:

1.      100% or full power
2.      60% power to conserve on Battery life

Albeit this won’t satisfy the traditional Biker who loves the throaty roar of a loud Motorcycle, it’ll satisfy those with an interest in short commutes. With no need to change gears, it’s basically smooth sailing from point A to point B, the only worry being when you’ll run out of charge.

According to Director of the NYC Harley Owners Group, Joe Sessa, quote: “It’s just incredible, because there’s no shifting, there’s no clutching, none of that stuff. You can just ride and just go. With the other one, it’s shifting and downshifting every light, every block”.

How such a creature from the likes of Harley-Davidson will be received remains a mystery as noted in “E-asy rider: Harley Davidson takes electric Motorcycle for a spin - but fans claim the environmentally friendly hog is too quiet”, published 24 June 2014 18:05 GMT by Damien Gayle and Jonathan O'Callaghan, Daily Mail.

Good to note here that this is a prototype that Harley-Davidson's taking on a tour of some 30 dealerships around the Continental US of A. Aside from the figures I've dropped, there are no other specs, particularly the ones that count such as the battery life, Battery Charge or any other particulars. Apparently, this is Work-in-progress; Harley-Davidson might be cooking up something more special when they do eventually announce that they're officially launching an All-Electric Motorcycle.

How LiveWire is the Future of Motorcycles – Range Extender PEM Hydrogen Fuel Cell

So what will the final design for the LiveWire Engine look like, not that they’ve got the futuristic appearance part down right? For starters, they’ll have to reduce the time it takes to charge the Li-Lion Batteries. Although that may not be readily possible, then can still re-design the LiveWire so that once charged, it doesn’t need recharging via a 220 V Electric Socket.

One way that can be done is by adding a PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) Fuel Cell that sips on Hydrogen Gas in a manner similar to what’s described in my blog article entitled “PEM Fuel Cell Technology gets Japanese Government support - Hydrogen Gas Stations Coming in First World and Developing World Countries”.

Harley-Davidson needs a change of pace, though, when it comes to Motorcycles. Albeit known for making classic Motorcycles that bikers use to travel across the US of A, they've only sold 260,000 conventional Motorcycles in 2013. The company brand image suffered a 43% hit in 2009 and its profits felt this loss of image over the last two quarters of 2013.

They virtually have no presence in the light Motorcycle market since they sold their Italian Aermacchi subsidiary in 1978, they've only recently re-entered that market with the more modern VRSC and Street model families. Aside from this, their Motorcycles, for the most part, are performance showpieces of American Engineering and sales of their Motorcycles pales in comparison to Japanese Kawasaki and Honda Motorcycles.

Their most competitive Motorcycle in the Lightweight category, the Harley Sportster, is the closest any of their conventional Gasoline powered Motorcycles will come to the performance of Project LiveWire.

Clearly Solar or other form of Alternative Energy can’t work here, but a Range Extender configuration for the LiveWire is absolutely necessary if it’s gonna be competitive and also be environmentally-conscious and a speed demon with good range. I’m very interested to see the final design and name of Project LiveWire once Harley-Davidson decides to put improvements into their design and have the public travel into the Dangerzone on this pocket-rocket!

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