Can LiveWire S2 Del Mar put spark back into Harley-Davidson’s electric dreams?

Following the lukewarm response to the LiveWire, can Harley-Davidson turn up the temperature on its electric aspirations with the LiveWire S2 Del Mar?

LiveWire Del Mar

It’s been a busy 18 months for the freshly ‘Hardwired’ Harley-Davidson with the Pan America forging new earthy paths and the Sportster S injecting some endearing ‘future nostalgia’ into its core cruiser bloodline. 

Important though they may be, however, it is this week’s launch of the pint-size LiveWire S2 Del Mar that arguably stands to be the most crucial fresh launch from the American marque since Jochen Zeitz took over as CEO and proceeded to rearrange the company vision board.

It is the first model to come from H-D since LiveWire was spun off from its ambitious - if flawed - inaugural electric motorcycle into a fully-fledged EV brand in its own right. To say it carries a vast amount of expectation atop its compact dimensions would be an understatement…

This is - by all accounts - Harley-Davidson’s second big gamble on pushing an electric agenda that few ever expected the company to trailblaze in. 

To its credit, you have to admire the noble objective of Harley-Davidson’s rather mind-melding bit of ‘parallel universe’ model planning when it began developing the LiveWire.

Indeed, it was so at odds with anything else Harley-Davidson stood for with its range of growling bruisers that by being so nonsensical an alter ego that it ended up making some sense.  

Alas, despite surging onto forecourts on a wave of publicity, the LiveWire’s success has been lukewarm at best. As for why, two clear reasons stand out; one of its own making in that the LiveWire is an appealing but otherwise bland motorcycle that negated its low running costs by being pricey to buy in the first place, and the other being hampered by consumer appetite for electric motorcycles that isn’t even peckish yet.

For a time it looked as though Harley would park the LiveWire altogether, a move it might have been very tempted to make come the conclusion of 2021 when just 387 units left dealerships globally. By then, however, LiveWire had been rebooted into its own standalone brand, though whether you consider this fresh approach a resounding ‘vote of confidence’ or a means of distancing it from the rest of the Harley range is entirely up to you.

If at first you don't succeed, try again...

Either way, it means the S2 Del Mar is an important model across the board for LiveWire and Harley-Davidson, one that should have ironed out most of those erstwhile flaws.

Indeed, had the company owned a crystal ball back in 2015, it is unlikely it would have settled on a £20,000-plus roadster as its first foray into electric motorcycling, with the ONE standing fairly alone in a niche marketplace as incoming alternatives strike at a more cost effective price bracket.

As such, the Del Mar represents a more accessible entry point into EV biking and should benefit from engineers’ learned lessons to represent a more attractive buying proposition, while those in marketing will no doubt enjoy being less encumbered by the LiveWire’s awkward former positioning in Harley’s range.

Prices are yet to be announced but are expected to come in between £14,000-£15,000 which still isn’t terribly cheap for an 80hp compact motorcycle, which coupled to a 200kg weight should give you a range of between 50-98 miles.

However, these figures are fairly irrelevant in that the Del Mar - offered with the more compact and efficient second generation Arrow powertrain platform - will likely come with attractive lease options and is pitched primarily as an urban runaround that enjoys stretching its legs once in a while either on the highway or getting down to its flat tracker roots.

It’s disappointing then that LiveWire didn’t strive for a more striking design with the Del Mar, its Sportster S style headlight and fat tyres rather drowned out by the ungainly battery pack that - while hard to disguise on any electric motorcycle - looks particularly chunky here, while the camo-esque livery made us think we were looking at spy shots for a moment.

Still, this is the model better suited to the demographic Harley targeted but largely missed with the LiveWire and will likely be more successful at luring a younger customer to its doors.

LiveWire eyes 101,000 sales by 2026... from 387 in 2021

Key to LiveWire’s future success, however, will hinge on how the wider electric motorcycle market evolves in the coming months and years. Indeed, even though the LiveWire/ONE has been with us since 2019 now, the premium EV segment hasn’t evolved all that much since and while a full transition from fossil fuels will sneak up quicker than we may hope, forthcoming offerings from other high profile brands are coming out at a trickle for now.

It’s a gamble Harley-Davidson clearly expects will eventually pay off though. Indeed, with the shift to electric destined to become a cast iron inevitability over the next 10 to 15 years, by then the Milwaukee marque will be old hands at zero exhaust emission free motorcycling.

Together with technology in this field evolving at a rapid rate as more companies invest in innovation, Harley’s ahead of its time approach might finally get its moment. It’s just not entirely clear when that will be.

Regardless, Zeitz has high hopes of a mammoth upsurge in sales for LiveWire in the next few years and has set a target so high at 101,000 units by 2026 we had to double check it wasn’t a typo.

If the LiveWire was the starter for Harley, all that remains to be seen is whether the Del Mar will be its main course or just a snack for now…