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Motorcycles at CES 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Wes Fleming

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place every January in Las Vegas. It's a playground for electronic devices of all shapes and sizes, and this year three household-name motorcycle manufacturers joined the exhibitors to show off their latest cutting-edge technology.

While this is quite obviously a BMW-oriented website, the big news was not from BMW Motorrad. They were there, but demos of their autonomous R 1250 GS motorcycle took the pillion seat to the debut of Harley-Davidson's production Livewire electric motorcycle. Wrapping up the big motorcycle builders in attendance was Ducati, showing off the Connected Vehicle to Everything (ConVeX) system they've been developing with partners Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. (Audi is Ducati's direct parent; both are owned by Volkswagen.)

Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle; MSRP $29,799 and available for order now with delivery in August 2019 expected.

The Livewire's orange and black color scheme ("Orange Fuse") surprised exactly nobody, but the neon yellow version ("Yellow Fuse") certainly drew some raised eyebrows. (Don't worry, you can also get it in plain "Vivid Black" if you like.) Internet chatter exploded with discussions about the first street motorcycle from a major manufacturer, with many decrying the $29,799 base price as unrealistic and out of reach. Those comments were quickly followed by criticism of the Livewire's stated 110-mile range and 110-mile-per-hour top speed. (Note: A top-of-the-line, fully-kitted-out Zero DSR with maxed-out battery capacity (132-mile combined use range) plus the Power Tank (adds range) and quick charger (cuts time to full charge to under 4 hours) costs just under $20,000, but you can easily get a FSX with the same trim level for half the cost of a Livewire.)

Harley wowed the crowed gathered in the Panasonic booth with their virtual reality (VR) experience based around the Livewire, and while tons of information still has yet to get out about the much-anticipated electric motorcycle, there are some specs available.

  • 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds
  • 110 MPH top speed
  • Estimated 110 mile range (mixed city + highway riding)
  • MSRP $29,799
  • Charge from empty to full on household 120V outlet (Level 1 charging) takes nearly 9 hours. Time for Level 2 charging (240V connection, like your clothes dryer) is the same time frame.
  • DC Fast Charge (Level 3) from empty to full takes about 34 minutes - Harley's claim is 192 miles of range in 60 minutes. However, installing a Level 3 charging system at your home (if it's even allowed) or business could cost you as much as $8,000 (parts + labor). (One might assume some H-D dealerships would install Level 3 chargers, but we'll see!)
  • "The world's most connected motorcycle experience" thanks to cellular telematics (whatever THOSE are) from Panasonic (hence why H-D was in Panasonic's booth at CES). No subscription fee for "H-D Connect" in the first year of ownership, and no clue what the subscription cost beyond that will be. ("Without the subscription that is required to maintain a cellular service, owners will not be able to take advantage of any of the remote status and security features." Harley swears the bike will work if it has low cell signal.
  • Fully adjustable Showa suspension - traditional fork and rear monoshock setup
  • 180 (rear) and 120 (front) Michelin Scorcher Sport tires are standard
  • Customizable 4.3-inch full color liquid crystal touchscreen dash
  • Can be ordered now at your local Harley dealer
  • First deliveries expected in August 2019

The mere existence of an electric motorcycle that actually LOOKS like a badass street bike is exciting. It remains to be seen if the reality of the Livewire will live up to the public's expectations - or Harley's hopes for sales. There are a lot of motorcycles you can buy with 30 grand - like two Indian FTR 1200s, three Can-Am Ryker 900s, four Kawasaki Ninja 650s or six BMW G 310 Rs!

BMW's "self-riding" R 1250 GS debuted back in September to great hue and cry - "The robots win!" "When motorcycles don't need us, will we still need them!?" - so it wasn't a huge surprise to see its computerized shenanigans at CES this year.

BMW swears they're not trying to introduce robot overlords to humanity.

In case you missed the hype over the debut, BMW Motorrad swears they're using the robot bike only as a "test bed for advanced rider-assistance systems." Yeah, and the T-1000 just wants to protect me! Still, it's amazing technology and seeing a motorcycle coming to a controlled stop without a rider atop it is a humbling experience that really lets you reflect on your place in the world.

Wireless communications are all around us, so it shouldn't be a surprise that now includes motorcycles - and it should be even less surprising that motorcycle-related wireless technology should show up at CES. What is a surprise, though, is that it's coming from Ducati. Sure, the Duc Dukes are known for great bike-related racing technology and those beautiful single-sided swing arms, but those desmodromic engines are a throwback that hides the company's geekier side.

Ducati calls their wireless vehicle connectivity scheme "Safety Road Map 2025" and it starts with expanding the use of cornering ABS to cover more models and ends somewhere beyond motorcycles having forward- and rearward-looking radar systems on board, which we might see as early as next year. A Multistrada 1200 with Ducati's C-V2X ("Vehicle 2 Everything") system onboard went up against two Audis, a Q7 SUV and an A4 sedan for a demonstration that showed off capabilities that prevent a C-V2X-equipped car from violating a similarly-equipped motorcycle's right-of-way and the infamous and deadly "but I didn't see a motorcycle" left-turn collision.

Qualcomm illustration

Most motorcyclists might not think of the Consumer Electronics Show as something they should pay attention to, but as motorcycles become more and more technologically advanced, it may well be the place manufacturers debut new motorcycles in the future. CES is put on by the Consumer Technology Association and the next one takes place from 7-10 January 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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