It’s now several months since I took delivery of my Harley Davidson Livewire.
The fact that I own one of the most advanced electric motorcycles in the world just keeps blowing my mind and the reaction of people I meet is even more profound.
Last week, I saw this firsthand after embedding a nail in my rear tyre. Unfortunately, my local Harley dealer couldn’t arrange a replacement for six weeks due to overwhelming pre-Christmas workshop load – which is testament to the brand’s popularity.
Whilst they couldn’t resist cracking a few jokes about running out of petrol, they also universally admitted they all loved the power.
Lucky for me, my local motorcycle repairer was happy to help and managed to plug the hole rather than replace the near new rear tyre. He also admitted: “I took it for a test ride to make everything was ok – it goes pretty well doesn’t it?” This is motorcycle speak for “the power blew my mind”.
He also spent a rare half hour talking about various intricacies, asking questions and showing me a social media post of my bike on his bench declaring “the future has arrived – get used to it.”
Getting bailed up by motorcyclists with a million questions goes with the territory and a trip to my favourite local bar was no exception. Here, I met a local enigma, a character of legend who I’d heard about in whispers and who owns an astounding collection of vintage Spanish and Italian small capacity bikes, and was a legendary ex racer.
He did the usual triple take – “nice bike….” “oh, is that a Triumph…wait…. a Harley?” At this stage the massive lump of battery confuses people and you see new neuron paths being created in real time. “Holy crap… is that one of those electric Harley’s? I’ve heard of them but … wait, really?”
Ironically, my old school mechanic and this local collector were both excited and open minded to accepting that electric was the future and to my delight saw this as a good thing.
Fifty years of real-world experience in trying to extract seamless power and torque out of complex and delicate internal combustion engines meant they immediately saw the benefits of an electric motor.
I’ve also started doing some range testing as I prepare for some touring duties and making friends with fast chargers.
Having DC fast charging is game changing for an electric motorcycle owner, because we are slightly cobbled by smaller battery capacity and thus range so I’ve signed up to no less than five different charge networks and started doing the rounds to get familiar.
Locally, there is a Jolt charger just 3kms away where I can get 7kWh for free. To help battery life I try to keep my bike at around 30%-60% state of charge and simply nip up to this station, grab a coffee and top up before rides where I need a full tank.
Further afield, I deliberately set out with my battery at 50% on a warm sunny Sunday and rode 75km to Penrith arriving with a very comfortable 25% remaining despite 60% of my ride being at highway speeds. Plug in, grab lunch, answer inevitable questions and ping, a text message says charging is complete.
Now in this case, the Evie network owned Tritium charger had stopped at 80%. Whilst this wasn’t a problem on this occasion it did prompt calls to Harley, Tritium and Evie about why.
Thanks to a friend at Evie networks who pulled the usage logs, they could see I unknowingly pressed the “80%” button, which looks very much like the “start” button. Lesson learned!
I also dropped in on a couple of other charge stations around Sydney, which will be key way-points out of town on any given day. Whilst the number of charge stations is increasing quickly, the majority I visited had a single CCS2 outlet and at several I sat and waited for 30 minutes plus while other drivers topped up their Teslas. Waiting patiently is going to be part of today’s charging game it seems.
Exploring charge station locations also revealed that a lot of AC chargers were available. AC chargers are a terrific option if you have a car which can fit a big charger on board but not so good if you have a motorcycle with a small charger, which is common. I have also realised that many AC charge stations don’t have a cable but rather, a socket and thus, to use them I need my own Type 2 charge cable.
This is where the differences between use cases starts to become a pain. The bike comes equipped with a cable fitted with a standard 240V plug on one end and a Type 2 plug to fit the bikes AC charge port.
This is fine for home charging but utterly useless for using public AC charge stations. One thing I have learned is that whilst there are literally tens or hundreds of millions of 10A outlets around the country, public charge stations are (theoretically) accessible and available 24/7. 10A outlets are not.
So, I bought myself the most compact Type 2 charge cable set I could. But I have no-where to store it, it is a huge bulky assembly, it weighs the better part of 5kgs, is rated for 5X the current I’ll ever need and cost me $350. For goodness sake, a standard computer cable which weighs a few grams could do this job.
I’ve been diving deep into this issue to try and electrically engineer a way around it and utilise the bikes standard cable with no joy so far due to the signalling requirements of Type 2 stations and may yet start a new business called “Nige’s Sensible Electrical Motorcycle Charging Cable Shop”.
Back in the shed I also took the chance to pull the bike apart and explore, as one does. With some serious road trips beckoning me, I wanted to know how the bike was put together and had also picked up some clues and quirks from a variety of forums. How do I access fuses? Are all the screws tight? What tools might I need if something goes wrong and I’m stuck on the side of the road?
Here are a few of the things I have learned.
I only need a very limited number of tools. The Harley features prodigious use of torx screws with only a few exceptions for axels and the like, so that’s a bonus.
The bike has a USB-C charge port which is cool, but it appears to be limited to around 0.5A which is kind of odd – I guess there is a reason but I don’t know what it is yet.
I figured this might engage in dash and control bar operability, but the Bluetooth connection seems to handle this – so I haven’t unravelled this yet. I do love being able to control my phone from the toggle switch – its fantastic for navigation and comms, when connected to my helmet headset.
I also learned that the bike is equipped with a tiny 2Ah (24Wh) Lithium battery in addition to the 450W DC to DC converter, which is typical of many EV’s. The addition of a battery enables a bunch of control and security features to operate while the primary battery is disconnected and presumably a bit of a surge buffer.
However, as is the case in many EV’s the small capacity seems to be a little bit of a weak link, according to reports. I was advised not to discharge the bike to 0% because it can flatten this auxiliary battery, which bricks the bike and there and several stories about owners needing to recharge this battery to get the bike to fire up, so its something to watch.
This leads me to a very first world problem which is “how do I charge my phone under heavy use, plus 2 go pros, plus my headset and potentially heated grips at all once?” The official answer was slightly disappointingly “it’s not recommended”.
My temporary work around was to add a “charge bank” which gives me around 75Wh of storage, but I can’t help thinking there must be a way to deliver more power from the DC to DC converter?
I’ve also set myself up with a new luggage system in preparation for some touring. I chose the Kriega system because it uses really versatile flat strap attachments so I don’t need any permanent fixings and its really gentle on the body work.
With a just a few simple straps which can hide under the seat, I now have more than 40 litres of storage on the tail and tank, and fitting takes just a few minutes work. I did a test pack the other day and comfortably fit my micro tent, sleeping bag, bed roll, tarp, wet weather gear, jeans, spare boots, spare jacket, a couple of shirts and a charge cable, with room to spare for some snacks and a wee dram.
It’s a long time since Easy Rider set the scene for crazy motorcycle adventures, but I’m game to try out the EV Rider style.