I thought this could be an interesting topic to see the reasoning for buying the ELW or LW1 instead of something else. I’ll describe my journey to buying an ELW when I never had any intentions to buy one originally. It likely was the last electric motorcycle I was considering. This turned out to be a lot more detailed post than I originally planned but hopefully helpful for others.
I was contemplating the Zero SR/S, Energica Ribelle RS and Ego primarily. I was interested in the Lightning but would need to be in California to really make it viable. Damon seemed interested but almost vaporware. The ELW wasn’t really even on my radar at first. I was aware of it but not that interested in it TBH as the range, top speed, charging times, etc. weren’t close to what I had thought my original requirements were.
I was familiar with all the Zeros and had watched and rode them while they developed over the years. The SR series was when I thought I might buy in finally. A friend suggested I check out Energica. So I took a test ride on the Ribelle and Ego in addition to the Zero SR/S.
I really hadn’t put much thought into the LW (any variation) as it didn’t really seem to tick the boxes I wanted. After riding the Energicas and Zeros I realized nothing really ticked all the boxes I was looking for.
I stumbled across a used ELW while picking up one of my bikes in from service. While looking it over in person, I thought maybe I should investigate it a bit deeper and not just dismiss it like I originally did. The fit and finish seemed very good. Ergos seemed pretty good. The price was in the range of what I wanted to spend. Only one problem the dealer wouldn’t give test rides. The owner was too concerned that it was too quick. Considering the car I drove in was quicker than the LW, I sort of found that laughable, and I had several motorcycles quicker than the LW, it put me off on the whole test ride thing. They called me back the next day and said if I wanted to buy the bike, they’d give me an hour after purchase, and if I didn’t like it, they’d refund my money.
Well that was a hard pass for me so I set out to find a dealer that would give test rides. Took a little work but I found one. As luck would have it, they had a few new ELWs and a used one. I took the used one for a ride. To their credit it was a pretty good loop and showcased a lot of what the bike had to offer. No really high speeds but I was able to easily exceed 60 mph quite a few times. We stopped after a few minutes so the salesperson could ask how I was liked it so far and see if the route was ok.
Rode it back to the dealership, got off and looked around the bike. Even before we got to the end of the ride, I felt like HD had nailed so many of the things I was looking for even if it didn’t match up as well on the spec sheet as some of the competitors. Some of the initial takeaways were they got the fit and finish right. The bike seemed to be very cohesive as in the design decisions they made were not made individually in a vacuum but made to work together. I was left thinking it wasn’t just a very good electric motorcycle but it was just a very good motorcycle period. How the hell did Harley actually create something like this? It was the most un-Harley bike I’d ever ridden. I can say I wouldn’t have been in to buy at 30k for it, but at its current price it seemed like a better value than the Zero or Energica. It felt like it could do pretty much anything I wanted to do with as long as I didn’t plan to spend my life at a racetrack. Even in the hot heat, the power didn’t wilt under a lot of full throttle runs.
So while my thoughts are still pretty fresh, I wanted to capture why I bought the ELW over the competitors. Maybe my logic will help others in their purchasing decision.
A little context about how I look at things might be helpful to put my observations/thoughts/opinions in perspective. I enjoy EVs a lot. I appreciate their good and bad. I’ve had several EV cars. I had 3 Teslas recently but sold of one of them so two remain. Before that I had a BMW i3 and a Focus electric. Longest trip I took on one was 2500 miles one way. So I get the whole charging and range anxiety that people can have. I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 50 years, and likely owned 200+ motorcycles. I lost count in the 150’s about 15 years ago. Motorcycles apparently are my addiction and thankfully my wife is supportive.
I worked for a major motorcycle manufacturer early in my career. Previously I was probably one of Harley’s least favorite fans. They just never really built what I was looking for. I was more of sport bike rider or ADV. Sure I dabbled in an occasional HD. Had a few Sportsters, bought the original Fatboy. Came back to look again when they had the Vrod but went with a Ducati Diavel instead. I have to say their new Pan America may end up in my garage yet. It is fugly but I really like it.
I was far more focused on European bikes and had over 40 BMWs. A bunch of Ducatis and I had a soft spot for a lot of the Brit bikes. It is hard to go wrong with a lot of the Japanese bikes and am serious lover of 2-stroke bikes. I have to say though that I am never blindly loyal to a brand. I always evaluate each purchase based on my needs/wants at the time. I tend to buy what I like and don't really care if anyone likes the bike or not. A case in point was a Ural. Regardless a Harley was likely to never be on my list or last on it. So for me to embrace a Harley the way I’ve done would be like changing religions.
When I look at what pushed me into buying the ELW vs the competition here are the things that did it for me
Current state of range isn’t very good really for anyone. Energica Experia is probably tops there but I didn’t want a really tall bike. It wasn’t quick enough. When I really considered how I would use the bike a real-world range of about 100 miles in mixed riding would get it done for me.
The only company with decent L2 charging speeds is Zero. Yet they lack L3. Energica and LW both have L3 and their L2 speeds suck compared to what they could be. Unfortunately LW is probably the slowest of the L2 charging rate. It was almost enough for me to pass on it but I am glad I didn’t. The Energicas support of L3 in the past meant you maybe could only get one high speed charge of L3 and the battery warmed up the point the next one would be a lot slower. Maybe that has improved. Maybe not.
Based on the ratio of L3 to L1 charges, LW should have 3 L1’s to 1 L3. So there is an impediment there to doing repeated L3 chargers in a row. Most of my riding I’d never need that anyway so less of a concern. If I am going on a longer trip, I’ll just take one of my bikes better suited to that usage anyway and has panniers. The L1 charge times are just ridiculously slow so they really should have bundled faster L2 on the ELW. Most of the time I’ll be good but I can see times when I’ll need to seek out an L3 charger for a few minutes to do a ride.
Liquid cooling of the motor was a big plus. Another reason why I passed on the Zero. Engergica’s motors are liquid cooled as well. I found that their motor’s performance would fade in hot weather under repeated load. I tend to ride in very hot areas so this is a big issue. A few hard passes and the power would throttle back. No issue at all with Energica or LW in this. The lack of a liquid cooled battery could cause an issue for the LW at sustained high speeds like on the autobahn. Not a big issue for me but one to consider.
I didn’t get a chance to try all the ride modes but for the most part I put them all in the equivalent of sport as soon as I became familiar with the bike. All the motors did a pretty good job and weren’t too intrusive from a sound perspective. The ELW sounded the best to me without being such a high pitch whine as the Energica. I think the throttle control was the most dialed in on the ELW.
I wanted something quick (0-60 mph in ~ 3 seconds). The Energicas are easily the quickest electric motorcycles I’ve ridden. For me they weren’t quicker to 60 than the LW but that was more about wheelie control. Above that they are definitely quicker than the LW but not as much difference as all the extra HP they have would lead you to believe. The Zero is fun but not in the same league as the ELW or Energicas.
As for top speed, the Energicas crush the LW. So does the Zero. I am not sure given the motor cooling of the Zero if it could maintain its top speed long before the thermal load catches up and dials back the fun. I was really hung up on this metric originally for some reason. In the end it was mostly academic as the places I can run for triple digits are limited. Considering I have bikes that will break 200 mph, and do roll-on wheelies at 120+ mph, did it really matter if the top speed of the Ribelle or Zero was 125 vs the ~115 of the LW? Even the 150 mph top speed of the Energica Ego wasn’t that much better than the others and rarely could I use it on the road. I am not much of a track rat anymore so a performance envelope of 0-90 mph was more important for 99% of my riding. Not to mention how fast the battery would drain as you are not going to get far at triple digits.
I wanted something simple and easy to maintain so I preferred belt over chain drive. I have a lot of bikes with chains and I spend a lot of time just lubing them. It is even more time consuming if they don’t have a center stand or bobbins. Yes, I know belts can snap but a lot of fun miles on my xDiavel S and I never had a belt issue or failure. While it may limit my gearing options but I am fine with the stock gearing on all the bikes so was no real benefit there.
I am a big guy and I felt pretty cramped on the Energicas. The Ribelle was a bit better and likely would have been the one I went with if I bought the Energica. My knees have seen too many years of racing and I like a bit more relaxed (compared to a racing type tuck) riding position. The Zero SR/S was probably best in this area. The ELW is pretty good but I would like a bit more leg room. Considering the range it is probably ok but might look for something like highway pegs.
As for the seat, can’t say anyone of them were great. At least with the ELW, Corbin is an option. I am a big fan of their seats other than how heavy they are. I’d want to check out the one on the ELW before plunking down the cash for it.
This is another area where I think Harley got it really right. It was never meant to be a race bike or a scalpel to slice up backroads. For its intended role and audience they did a great job. The Energicas are going to be the better canyon carvers but you can go at a pretty rapid pace on the ELW. It is more of a flowing with the road type of bike. Ride it at 8/10ths or 9/10ths and you’ll be happy with it. The suspension is dialed in pretty well. Actually it was better than all the others I rode for my weight. I am on the big side and I think HD factor’s that in with spring choices and valving.
While Zero seems to offer similar equipment as the ELW, just never felt as good. Energica does give you an option to upgrade the suspension. I didn’t have a chance to experience it on the Energica but upgrading to Ohlins on any bike I’ve had has been a nice upgrade. Not always worth the extra money but it is an option. I will take some time to dial in my ELW but for now I am pretty happy with the suspension.
One thing to note is with me on the bikes, the Energica were a lot more wheelie prone than the ELW or Zero. Therefore, I could accelerate harder on the ELW at lower speeds than the Energicas. They have a shorter wheelbase and taller seat so I couldn’t really make use of the power until higher speeds. On a daily basis the ELW will easily be quicker off the line than the others. It also meant I could grab the brakes harder with less pitching forward and unloading the rear brake more. The downside of course with the longer wheelbase is the bike will be a little less agile as mentioned above.
Energica and Harley are in a world of their own. Zero has good stuff but not great stuff. This area really surprised me on the Harley. They actually put top-notch, world-class brakes on it. Definitely comparable to the Energica and they use great brakes. The ELW ‘whoas’ as good as it goes and that is saying something. Feel on the front was great and easily as good as my S1000RR or any of my recent Ducatis. I think only my KTM Duke 890R has better brakes all around. The rear on the ELW feels a little wooden at times but I use a lot of regen so not an issue for me may be for others.
This is an area where I think Harley is dead last. Normally you would have thought that it being HD there would be a ton of stuff for it, even if just from the factory. The Energica offers a plethora of options from a lot of paint colors, different frame colors, carbon fiber, etc. that it would make Harley blush. You can start out at 23k base on the Energicas and soon be pushing 40k if you tick a lot of the tick boxes. Zero has their cursed Cyber Store. Some may like, I understand it, I don’t want to deal with it but it does give you some interesting customization options and some I wish I had on the ELW like reverse. So the area I thought Harley would just crush the competition is where it comes in dead last, by a mile.
Fit and Finish
I think Harley clearly is best here. I like the colors of the ELW better than the later LW1. The Energica was next. Its Italian heritage is pretty evident in its colors and paint. Zero feels like it is pretty bargain basement.
The Energica was very simple and displayed a fair amount of info. The light bars along the side were pretty distracting at times and I don’t think they added any value. All were pretty readable in direct sunlight. The HD seemed to give you the most ability to customize from the display. With the Zero you really need to use the app.
Dealer Presence & Support
Clearly Energica has the fewest dealers. I split my time between a few places and at best the closest dealer was almost 3 hours away. More likely I’d be looking at a 5 hour drive one way if traffic is bad. No chance of riding there on one charge. So any service work meant I’d be trailer a bike to the dealer. I got rid of my truck so this is a major inconvenience especially since I could easily make it to the dealer on one charge. So this was a major factor in my decision. I’ve heard that Energica does provide good support but doesn’t help me if I waste all day getting the bike to the dealer. Or I am stranded miles away.
Zero has a lot more dealers. They tend to be mult-line dealerships and not a lot of attention is really given to the bike it seems unless you are in California.
Harley/Livewire is I think a bit more mixed. A lot of Harley dealers but a lot fewer dedicated Livewire dealers. In my area the HD dealer I bought my bike from will pick up and drop off my bike for service or major issues for free. This is a big plus to me. While I am not a huge Harley fan as indicated earlier, my experience with their support in the past has generally been very positive.
This is an area where Energica is way behind. All bikes have 2 year fender to fender basic warranty. Energicas only have 3 yr/31k miles battery warranty which doesn’t compare with the others. They have much better battery warranties. Of course the idea is not to need the warranty but having it does give you some recourse. A long battery warranty is very important to me. The 5 year battery warranty is a big plus on the ELW and Zero. They both allow for up to 20% degradation over that period to still be in spec. I couldn’t find the acceptable degradation level for the Energica.
Another plus for my particular bike was that while it was used, it had a substantial amount of warranty left on it. In addition I was able to add a 7 year extended warranty that was fender to fender to add additional peace of mind. It also covered road side assistance, trip interruption coverage and a lot of other benefits. If I take it to my selling dealer they waive the reasonable $50 deductible.
The ELW in the orange or yellow looks better to me than any of the LW1 colors. The tank graphics on the LW1 honestly look pretty cheap given the cost of the bike. The Energica while not quite as nice as a Ducati, definitely looks like an upscale Italian bike. Some of the Zero paint choices are odd but it doesn’t look bad but not nearly as nice as the others.
I work a lot of hours, so a lot of my riding is at night. This is one area where HD has consistently done very well with their lighting. I think they really have this dialed in. The Energicas weren’t as good but the Zero did a pretty good job on the SR/S but NOT on the SR/F if you are considering that model.
Wind protection was best on the SR/S. Followed by the Energica, then ELW and Ribelle. I must say that the airflow on the ELW seemed pretty smooth even for having no fairing.
Controls are a bit subjective. I am not a big fan of the ELW grips and never liked HD’s oversized controls. In general, though their switch buttons work pretty well. They felt better (higher end) than either Energica or Zero.
I think the ELW is one of those bikes that works better in person that it might appear to on paper. The Zero looks good on paper but doesn’t meet your expectations in real life. The Energica is pretty much what you see is what you got.
If you want one of the quickest/fastest/longest range bikes out there, with the attendant price tag, Energica is the way to go. If you like Adventure Touring (ADV) bikes then their new Experia might be very compelling but hard to say how the new, lower power, motor will work out. If the ELW was still at 30k my dollars would have gone with Energica.
A lot of the advantages they have I might not really use. With the price drop on the Livewire, I couldn’t see paying a lot more for features on the Energica that I might not really use as much such as the higher top speed or better acceleration at triple digit speeds. If fast L2 charging is really important, then the Zero is your best option currently.
In the end I was able to get a great deal on a very lightly used (<500 miles) for a great price with the balance of the factory warranty. Even adding in the 7 year extended warranty, it was about the same price as the base price on a new LW1 and that was the out the door price.
In the end it wasn’t about the money though, but it was just a plus. The ELW was a great all-around package. The close and good dealer support was very important. Long battery warranty is additional peace of mind. It felt better in the type of riding that I would generally do even if the limits were higher on the Energica. I came away with a lot more grins than I thought I would. If you told me 10 years ago if I would someday buy an electric Harley, I would have thought you were crazy. If you had said electric Ducati or BMW, I would have thought you were reading my mind.
The wild card aspect of the ELW or LW1 is the future support of the bike by Harley/Livewire. A lot is riding on the Spac I think. Overall it is a much better bike than I thought it would be. It is a really well put together bike and definitely draws a lot of crowds when you stop. Recently watching a 15k mile review for someone who’s done that in a year on the ELW is pretty encouraging for its reliability. If you got this far, thanks for reading. Really interested in why people bought some variation of the Livewire.