Harley-Davidson Leaks What Electric Motorcycle Will Sound Like

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Neilson Barnard

In 2014, the famous American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson announced that it was working on its first-ever electric bike. The endeavor is called “Project LiveWire,” and it’s going slowly, but now the company founder’s great-grandson Bill Davidson has spilled details to about what the motorcycle will sound like.

It’s an important tidbit, because the question of what electric vehicles should sound like has been increasingly debated as they become popularized. Electric machines obviously don’t run with loud petrol engines, but they still do need to make noise to make their presence known. So what artificial noise should the vehicles emit? The sound could be anything, from a waterfall to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Here are a couple examples of what a traditional Harley-Davidson can sound like:

It’s an iconic noise. Bill Davidson describes it like this: “Our typical sound is unique; it is that potato-potato-potato.” It’s an odd but surprisingly fitting way to describe that chugging growl.

The company knew that it couldn’t just replace a distinct sound with a boring one: “We know that because of our uniqueness with the V-twins [combustion engine] we want to make something equally as unique with the electric,” Davidson said.

The new noise? According to Davidson, it sounds “like a jet fighter.” So presumably something sort of like this:

Which, needless to say, is freaking cool.

Inverse reached out to Harley-Davidson about the technologies that were used to create this sound. A spokesperson elaborated that it was “created mechanically by the helical gear pattern in the longitudinally mounted gear box.”

Prototypes of the first electric Harley-Davidson bike, revealed as part of Project LiveWire in 2014.

Getty Images / Neilson Barnard

In June of last year, Harley-Davidson said that its electric bike would be released “within the next five years,” meaning June 2021 at the latest. That’s still a while to wait, though by the — ahem — sound of this news, they’re making progress, because until recently this electric motorcycle was just a purely conceptual prototype.

Correction: An earlier version of this article linked to a video demonstrating the sound of a Harley-Davidson bike that had been illegally modified. A new video has been embedded to reflect the sound of a traditional and legal Harley-Davidson.