USA Imagine a motorcycle gang sailing past on their Harley-Davidsons. But the ground does not shake and you hear an angry whine instead of rumbling engines. So what is wrong? Well, these bikes are powered by electricity.

The above scenario is no joke – let us get that clear from the outset. Harley-Davidson is probably the most testosterone-fuelled brand around, even if there are lots of women who also ride Harley-Davidsons. For over 110 years, the company has manufactured powerful motor bikes with a signature rumble. Enthusiasts can recognise a Harley-Davidson approaching from far away. No other manufacturer has succeeded in imitating their sound.

Nevertheless, Harley-Davidson has now developed an electrically powered motorbike called LiveWire and prefers to compare its advent to the creation of the first electric guitar than to other electric vehicles.

“It’s an expression of individuality and iconic style that just happens to be electric. The LiveWire project is a bold statement from us as a company and brand,” Harley-Davidson’s marketing manager Mark-Hans Richer says.

Unlike most electric cars and mopeds the LiveWire bike makes a sound. But it’s not the signature Harley-Davidson rumble. Instead it sounds more like the whine of a jet engine, a sound produced by the motor’s powertrain.
“The sound that we’ve developed for this motorcycle is uniquely our own,” Richlen explains. “It is not silent. It’s far from it. It has a very distinct sound that is a result of the architecture we have chosen for the motor.”

A harmonious rumble
Stig Grundvall at the University of Gothenburg, who researches biker culture, is not convinced that the LiveWire model will become particularly popular in biker circles.
“The whole macho image associated with a Harley-Davidson would get lost if someone turned up at a biker party with an electrically powered Harley-Davidson. I think that most bikers would turn their noses up at it in contempt,” Grundvall says with a quiet laugh.

“It’s not just any old noise, it really has to be the true rumbling sound. The low-rpm V-twin engine hits just the right note. It is said to lower the rider’s heartbeat and pulse and thus create a harmonious state, a ‘natural high’”, Grundvall says. “You can hear a Harley-Davidson coming from miles away, and for many people it’s sheer music. But you don’t just listen to it with your ears – it’s just as much a matter of feeling the beat of the engine in your whole body.” 

The LiveWire is currently only a prototype. This spring it was featured in the latest Avengers film “Age of Ultron”, and Harley-Davidson has also taken the model on tour in North America and Europe to get feedback from potential buyers. This electric motorbike scored highly in several tests carried out by motorbike magazines.

Want to know how the LiveWire sounds?

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