BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review: Coming Soon to a Future Near You

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Introduction: BMW Bets on Green

BMW Electric Scooter Review
Green, get it?. Photo © BMW

It bears a passing resemblance to BMW's internal combustion C 600 Sport and C 650 GT, but the c Evolution electric scooter concept is a quantum technological leap forward for the German bike manufacturer. Though no exact release date is being offered, it won't hit US roads any time before the year 2014... that said, I enjoyed a rare opportunity to test ride a version of the c Evolution which BMW is referring to as a "roadworthy concept that's close to production."

What's Beneath That Funky Bodywork?

Powered by three lithium ion battery modules plucked from BMW's i3 city car concept (each of which incorporates 12 cells), the c Evolution produces the equivalent of 14.75 hp continuously, or a peak of 46.93 horsepower from the swingarm-mounted motor. Interestingly, the die-cast aluminum battery housing acts as a load bearing chassis element, helping keep the bike's center of gravity low while also offering protection for the batteries in the event of a crash. A continuously variable transmission directs power to the rear wheel via a belt drive, because the engine's quiet operation highlighted the noise created by a traditional chain.

How About Top Speed and Range?

The c Evolution's top speed is electronically limited to 75 mph, and a full charge is possible in 3 hours when using a 220 volt, 16 amp hookup. Based on average riding patterns, this electric scooter is estimated to have a cruising range of 62 miles.

What's it like to ride the c Evolution through the streets of London? Click "Next" to find out.

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On the Road: 62 Miles of Silent Smiles

BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review
The BMW c Evolution electric scooter in jolly olde England. Photo © BMW

What's it Like to Ride?

Before swinging a leg over the c Evolution concept, I rode through the heart of London on BMW's gasoline-powered C 600 Sport, which achieves comparable performance parameters as Yamaha's TMAX and Suzuki's Burgman 650.

The c Evolution's ergonomics were similar to BMW's gas scooter, with a firm, tallish saddle and a center tunnel that's between .5 and .75 inches wider, yielding slightly less room for your feet. But the riding experience was dramatically different. Switch on the motor and flip up the kickstand, and a release of a safety switch makes the throttle "live"— which, I was warned, requires extra care since the torquey motor isn't equipped with traction control.

Give it a decent twist, and power flows strongly to the rear wheel, producing a good tug and a mild whining sound from the electric motor, with a surprisingly smooth and well modulated throttle response. BMW engineers say they're not yet sure if the c Evolution will produce an artificial noise in order to warn pedestrians and cyclists that it's coming, but on a personal note, I found the near-silent operation a unique asset in this world of ever escalating noisemakers.

The c Evolution can hit 30 mph in 2.5 seconds—significantly faster than the 4 seconds required by BMW's gas scooters, which is a notable figure since scooters typically negotiate stoplight drag race environments demanding exactly that sort of immediate acceleration. Though there's still an incremental pause immediately off the line, power opens up above 30 mph, and the acceleration ramp up is accompanied by an eerie lack of noise: as you're scooting along at a decent clip keeping up with traffic and weaving between cars, there's not much more than wind noise rushing around your helmet and the sound of the ignition key flapping against the bodywork to serve as a reminder of your velocity.

Acceleration feels strong until the last 15 mph of the 75 mph top speed; by the time I hit around 70 mph, power began gradually tapering off as I approached the electronically limited top speed. Ride quality is firm with some jostling on bumpier stretches of road, likely due to the ongoing task of suspension tuning which will require working around the weight of the battery packs. There's a vaguely wooden feel to the brakes, but the stoppers work effectively, with ABS kicking in as an added safety measure when needed.

For specs and my conclusion about the c Evolution, click "Next."

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Bottom Line, Specifications

BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review
The c Evolution's TFT display, which will be refined in functionality when it reaches production. Photo © BMW

Bottom Line:

If you've ever hopped on a bike without having an exact plan for how many miles you'll be riding, there's a good chance you're probably averse to the idea of an electric powered two-wheeler. There's something about the freedom of a motorcycle and its open-ended possibilities that makes it the ultimate symbol for escape— and a big reason electric rides have largely attracted first time motorcyclists, not seasoned veterans.

That said, there's something brilliant about the fact that BMW focused on the scooter genre for their inaugural electric bike. Unlike typical motorcycles, scooters are seemingly tailor made for short, urban jogs, which is a far more appropriate venue for battery-powered bikes— at least until engineers can squeeze more serious range from a two-wheeled EV. Within that context, the c Evolution makes a whole lot of sense… but, then there's the question of cost, which will remain a question for some time until the scooters hit the market, as early as 2014.

When I grilled one BMW executive for a price range, he replied saying it was too early to provide an estimate. I asked if the electric 'scoot could double the cost BMW's gas scooters (which will run between $9,000 and $10,000 when they reach the US in fall, 2012), and the answer was, "No." How about 1.5 times the price— ie, around $15,000? "That," he answered, "is probably a closer estimate."

Whether you dig the idea of a $15,000 electric scooter entirely depends on your transportation priorities— and one whose parameters will change rapidly as technology enables price drops. There are enough variables still up in the air, like pricing and whether or not the battery will be leased, which leaves some crucial question marks about BMW's effort to bring electric propulsion to the scooter genre.

Though I hope the final product will be appropriately priced, I'm also rooting for the c Evolution in the face of the inevitable market resistance primarily because it occupies a space where electric propulsion makes perfect sense: in the city, where stoplight sprints are a way of life and recharging options are plentiful.

When BMW's C 600 Sport and C 650 GT hit American roads, they'll offer buyers a big bore take on urban mobility. There's no telling how the Bimmers will sell compared to their Japanese counterparts... and the electric scooter's sales prospects are exponentially murkier. But when the c Evolution eventually debuts, this bold electric scooter will tackle a far more ambitious task: the future.

Specifications

  • Motor: Air-cooled with liquid-cooled alternator
  • Output: 11 kW continuous, 35 kW peak
  • Final drive: Belt
  • Battery: 8 kWh, air-cooled lithium-ion
  • Recharge Time: 3 hours, using 220 volt, 16 amp power source
  • Instrumentation: TFT screen
  • Charge Unit: Automotive ISO 26262 standard outlet
  • Estimated range: 62 miles
  • Brakes: ABS with energy regeneration
  • Price: TBD
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Your Citation
Wasef, Basem. "BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review: Coming Soon to a Future Near You." ThoughtCo, Jun. 25, 2014, thoughtco.com/bmw-c-evolution-electric-scooter-review-2399383. Wasef, Basem. (2014, June 25). BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review: Coming Soon to a Future Near You. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bmw-c-evolution-electric-scooter-review-2399383 Wasef, Basem. "BMW c Evolution Electric Scooter Review: Coming Soon to a Future Near You." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/bmw-c-evolution-electric-scooter-review-2399383 (accessed November 24, 2017).