Hybrids & Electrics

Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire Is Faster Than a Tesla Model 3 Performance

Harley-Davidson itself is having issues, and some of its more-expensive bikes aren’t helping. However, its lineup is also starting to look more diverse. Not only is it still seemingly working on an unreleased flat-tracker and café racer, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is a genuinely good electric bike. In fact, Harley’s electric bike can even keep up with one of the quickest, most-affordable EVs: the Tesla Model 3 Performance.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire and Tesla Model 3 Performance specs

Although Zero Motorcycles has been in the electric motorcycle game longer, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire recently beat the Zero SR/F in Cycle World’s comparison. Even though Zero’s bike was both lighter and had more torque, the Harley handled better, had a larger range, and had higher-quality materials.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Harley-Davidson LiveWire | Harley-Davidson

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire’s water-cooled electric motor produces about 93 hp and 74 lb-ft on Cycle World’s dyno. Taking into account the standard 15% drivetrain loss, that matches Harley’s claimed 105 hp and 86 lb-ft. It weighs 544 lbs, despite an aluminum frame, partially due to the 15.5-kWh battery pack. That’s actually lighter than some of Harley’s other bikes, and only about 30 lbs heavier than a Triumph Bonneville T120. And Road & Track reports sub-3-second 0-60 times aren’t out of the question.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3 | Tesla

On paper, the Tesla Model 3 Performance has quite a few advantages. For one, it has all-wheel drive: 4 powered wheels vs. the Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire single one. Its 2 electric motors produce 450 hp and 471 lb-ft, and its larger 80.5-kWh battery pack means it has a larger range. In Car and Driver’s testing, the Tesla Model 3 Performance saw a range of 220 miles. Meanwhile, Cycle World saw just under 90 miles during ‘spirited riding.’

Furthermore, the Tesla Model 3 Performance has a higher top speed. Revzilla reports the Harley-Davidson LiveWire’s top speed is 110 mph. The Tesla Model 3 Performance tops out at 162 mph. That’s likely due to better aerodynamics, Jalopnik reports.

However, the Tesla Model 3 is also heavier, weighing in at 4,087 lbs on Car and Driver’s scales. And, even after its firmware update, the Model 3 has a slower 0-60 time: Car and Driver clocked it at 4 seconds. And, looking at the range figures, the LiveWire is actually more efficient than the Model 3.

But which one would win a ¼-mile drag race?

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire vs. Tesla Model 3 drag race

YouTube team DragTimes wanted to see which EV was truly faster. So, they set up on a prepared drag strip to find out. And, in the interest of consistency, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire and Tesla Model 3 Performance raced twice.

The result? The Harley-Davidson LiveWire beat the Tesla Model 3 Performance both times. But only just. The LiveWire ran the ¼-mile in 11.67 and 11.65 seconds, while the Tesla Model 3 took 11.72 and 11.71 seconds to do the same. And, as RideApart points out, in both cases the Harley was able to get off the line faster than the Tesla.

However, the Tesla Model 3 had a higher trap speed at the end of the run. The LiveWire ended the runs at 109.87 mph and 110.53 mph, while the Model 3 finished at 113.19 mph and 114.11 mph. Meaning, if the race was any longer, the Tesla would’ve caught up and likely beaten the Harley.

Is this real-world realistic?

Although a ¼-mile drag race is a better judge of performance than 0-60 times, these results come with some caveats. For one, this was a prepped drag strip, meaning each EV had better traction than on regular pavement. So, acceleration was improved.

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S vs 2020 Tesla Model S
2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S vs 2020 Tesla Model S | Car and Driver via Instagram

Secondly, as Car and Driver has demonstrated, EV performance can quickly degrade over repeated acceleration tests. If the Harley-Davidson LiveWire and Tesla Model 3 raced back-to-back, it’s possible the outcome would be noticeably different. However, it might have actually swung even more in the bike’s favor.

Cycle World reports that even when its battery was running low, the LiveWire delivered its maximum performance. But, when Car and Driver tested a Model 3 against a Porsche Taycan, the Tesla’s 0-60 and ¼-mile times increased significantly as more and more runs were performed.

In addition, depending on where you drive/ride, a ¼-mile drag race may not necessarily be the best performance test. If you live in the city and need to sprint between lights, it’s a fairly good assessment. Out in the countryside, though, it’s a different story. Then again, there’s nowhere in the US to legally go 110 mph outside of an actual racetrack.

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