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livewire1The famed Route 66 sits quiet, with its cracked asphalt cutting through the surrounding bright green grass. There’s a quiet hum, a purr of an engine and then nothing. If you blinked, you missed it. Project LiveWire just flew by.

Project LiveWire is “Harley-Davidson’s first foray into the electric space,” explains Ben McGinley ’10 (Industrial Design).

McGinley, recently called Harley-Davidson’s Boy Wonder for his inventive motorcycle designs, was the lead designer under manager Kirk Rasmussen for Project LiveWire.

livewire2“The intent,” McGinley continues, “is to both showcase what [Harley-Davidson is] capable of in design/engineering, and gather some feedback and input from people around the world – to see what level of interest and acceptance there is for this technology in the marketplace.”

Breaking from the traditional Harley mold caused two major challenges: brand and the technical design.

“The technical challenge was designing a motorcycle around the square box of the battery,” says McGinley. “We tried a lot of different battery configurations before deciding on the ‘T’ shaped pack for ergo and form reasons.”

livewire3“The lightweight optimized frame also has the side effect of overlaying more dramatic shapes across the box of the batteries, giving it a strong backbone loop gesture that ties the side profile to [Harley’s] heritage, but in a very modern way.”

“On the brand side,” McGinley adds, “creating any [Harley-Davidson] without a V-Twin is a difficult task. It’s the icon, the center of the bike…. We wanted to create something with just as much muscle and visual impact as today’s V-Twin engine that anchors and centers the bike in the same way.”

McGinley still incorporates techniques learned at MIAD into his design work. “MIAD was really great about learning to build physical objects by hand…. I had the opportunity in school to work with clay a lot, which is something I still use frequently to develop and communicate design.”

See additional photos of Project LiveWire.
Watch Jay Leno with Project LiveWire.
Watch Project LiveWire promotional videos.
Learn more about MIAD’s nationally ranked Industrial Design program.

Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson.