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Harley's hawg goes electric with Project LiveWire, a battery-powered motorcycle

Harley's hawg goes electric with Project LiveWire, a battery-powered motorcycle

The great American motorcycle company steps into the future with a prototype model that could possibly overtake the all-electric movement.

Harley-Davidson has unveiled Project LiveWire, a nationwide tour to introduce company’s first all-electric motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson has unveiled Project LiveWire, a nationwide tour to introduce company’s first all-electric motorcycle.

Yes, you read that right. Harley-Davidson has unveiled Project LiveWire, a nationwide tour to introduce company's first all-electric motorcycle.

LiveWire is a prototype, to be precise, with few specs beyond a 0-60 in fewer than four seconds (gotta love the instant torque of electric powertrains), and no word on if and when it'll be a real product. Still, the legendary American company's entry legitimizes this fledgling part of the industry, in the same way that BMW and Mercedes-Benz's new electric vehicles lend some cachet to the econoboxy EV market.

The buzz started Wednesday, with an enigmatic video on YouTube. It's a cool, misty morning. The camera pans slowly over an empty strip of asphalt surrounded by grassy fields, then past an old, tin Route 66 sign. Suddenly a motorcyclist flashes by--blink and you'll miss it--and that sound, what was that sound? Not the hawg's classic growl, but a higher-pitched, jet-engine-like scream that wouldn't be out of place in the Tron: Legacy movie.

This is a dramatic, if necessary step for the classic American motorcycle company. It thrived on the Baby-Boomer generation's lust for the open road. But gas-guzzling is going out of style, and all-electric startups like Zero and Brammo have been the first to gain traction (however small) in the motorcycle space.

Still, the electric motorcycle faces the same challenges as the electric car: The limited range of battery-powered vehicles, plus the weight and cost of those batteries. The LiveWire prototype may let Harley join the conversation, but will it have as much to say as Tesla, which has led innovation in the car space? We'll see. You might think automotive enthusiasts get crazy about their cars, but motorcyclists love their rides even more fiercely.

Harley-Davidson clearly knows this and is taking its story directly to the people. "The Project LiveWire Experience begins a 30-city tour across America starting June 24th in New York City," the company said in a statement. "Riders will be invited to take a historic ride."

The tour dates revealed so far consist of two- to three-day stints at Harley dealerships in major East Coast cities. It starts June 24 in New York City and moves on to Boston June 27. The third will be in Philadelphia, starting July 17. Harley-Davidson promised to reveal a full schedule next week.

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