Har­ley’s new elec­tric bike uses telem­at­ics to in­crease con­trol, safety and con­nec­tiv­ity

MCN - - THIS WEEK - By Jor­dan Gib­bons SE­NIOR RE­PORTER

‘We started work­ing with H-D four years ago’ DAVID TAY­LOR, PANA­SONIC

Har­ley’s LiveWire will not only be the firm’s first pro­duc­tion elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cles it will also be packed with the very lat­est tech­nol­ogy. Among its most unique fea­tures is that it’s con­stantly con­nected to the cloud via Pana­sonic’s OneCon­nect plat­form. This gives own­ers a huge range of func­tions through an as­so­ci­ated phone app in­clud­ing bike sta­tus (such as charge level), tam­per alerts and bike track­ing if it’s stolen; as well as more mun­dane things like ser­vice re­minders. But what’s truly novel is that the whole thing runs off a small box be­tween the seat and tank called a Telem­at­ics Con­trol Unit (TCU).

‘Black box’ style

You might be fa­mil­iar with telem­at­ics if you’ve taken out car in­sur­ance for a new driver re­cently. It’s mostly known as ‘Black Box’ in­sur­ance in the UK, where a small box in the boot trans­mits driv­ing in­for­ma­tion, such as speed, to a com­puter so that a new driver’s be­hav­iour can be mon­i­tored. The sys­tem in the LiveWire is sim­i­lar in that it col­lects and sends data on the bike, although you needn’t worry; no-one will be send­ing any speed data to the local con­stab­u­lary.

“We started work­ing with Har­ley about four years ago,” says David Tay­lor, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Prod­uct Strat­egy at Pana­sonic. “They brought their knowl­edge about the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and we brought our tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. It was a col­lab­o­ra­tive process.”

In sim­ple terms, the TCU is a trans­mit­ter that sends data about the bike to Pana­sonic’s cloud ser­vice via its mo­dem. It works on a whole range of bands so doesn’t need a phone con­nec­tion to trans­mit. The com­puted in­for­ma­tion is then sent back to your phone to give you all the rel­e­vant info about the bike. Pana­sonic have been of­fer­ing these ser­vices to the car mar­ket for some time but con­vert­ing it to fit a bike was a real chal­lenge.

Bad vi­bra­tions

“We had a good start point and found ways to shrink it down,” adds Tay­lor. “We had to seal it, too, from wa­ter and dust ingress.”

The TCU also had to be re­worked for the shape and size of a bike.

“Be­cause bikes are so tightly pack­aged, the in­ter­fer­ence be­tween the items in­side is more com­plex. The TCU is a ra­dio trans­mit­ter and re­ceiver, so has more op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­fere with other things.

“We also weren’t ex­pect­ing the vi­bra­tion. We un­der­stood it would be a harsher en­vi­ron­ment but didn’t ex­pect just quite how harsh. All of the vi­bra­tions are at dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies, which gave us dif­fer­ent chal­lenges on the (cir­cuit) board in the box. It was a very chal­leng­ing process.”

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