I have recently published a review of the electric scooter from BMW, the C Evolution, but that was a translation from one of the French top motorcycle sites (link ). I had the opportunity recently to try the electric scooter myself, courtesy of the BMW dealer in Rouen, Moto Technic Evolution . Due to circumstances, my announced purchase of the electric Zero DS fell through, and I have been looking again for an electric motorcycle for local use. Having read the initial review on my site about the BMW C Evolution, it looked like a good alternative.
Click here to read my series of articles about riding an electric motorcycle in a rural environment.
But I have never ridden a scooter before, but I do like the futuristic look of the Beemer. It looks like straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. So Moto Technic gave me the scooter for a few hours to play around with. Here is my initial impression.
Note: All photos can be clicked on for a bigger version (but wait for the whole page to load), and at the bottom there is a small video of me riding the scooter (but don't expect a professional video, it's not).
As I said, the scooter looks like straight out of the Blade Runner Sci-Fi movie. Straight clean lines, white and fluorescent green and a big body. A nice design altogether.
From the front with its double LED based optics, it does look rather like a standard scooter.
The business end, ie the dashboard, is very clean and uncluttered. There is a small windshield which proved to be more than adequate, even for a tall rider like myself.
Mirrors are easily adjusted and do the job very well. They extend out perfectly, and are high enough to "sail" over car mirrors when splitting lanes.
The dash itself is even more straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. Starship Enterprise would be proud to have such instruments. The top has all the indicator lights (lights, ABS, contact, turn indicators, etc), while the main screen has a very readable information display, even in direct sunlight. The information presented are the standard ones, like speed, several trip and odometers, and more important, battery level and expected distance before you'll be pushing the scooter.
In the middle you will also see the riding mode you have selected. Four modes are available; Dynamic, Road, Eco, and Sail. Each mode affects the available torque and more important, the regenerative power used by the engine. At it's strongest, it means that you barely don't have to use your brakes; the engine does the job for you.
For most of the review, I used Dynamic and later Road mode. Dynamic uses the battery the quickest and regenerates the most. I propose to BMW that they rename Dynamic mode to "Rocket" mode......
On the front left part of the scooter is a compartment which houses the electric charging port. The C Evolution comes with a long, blue, cable that gets plugged in your scooter in the charging port shown here, and the other side gets plugged into an electrical outlet.
The outlet can be any outlet; at home but also at a commercial charging outlet. They accept up to 16 Amps charging points, meaning you can fully charge the scooter within 2 - 3 hours. It also means, at least here in France, that you can plug it in one of the electric car sharing stations.
Normally, on a house outlet (220V/12A) it takes approx. 4 h to reach 100%; 80% in 2:45 hours. On a 220V/16A mode 3 commercial charger, you reach 100% in 3 hours and 80% in 2:15.
On the right side there is a (very) small glove compartment. And that is about all you can put in there; gloves. It's very small and can really only be used to put maybe your garage door opener, spare change and your gloves. The compartment can be locked.
The pillion seat opens up for more space. It's wide and deep enough to fit a modular or integral helmet, but only one. But at least there is place to store stuff. Although I think most of these scooters will be sold with a top case.
You can see that there is a lot of space below the rider's seat, but that is closed off. That is where the battery is located, and the battery is none other than those used by BMW electric car, the BMW i3. So it's good to know that the batteries are used by their cars, since it does mean a level of continuity. The battery is air-cooled lithium-ion high-voltage (133 V) with a booster fan.
Both wheels are equipped with BMW's ABS. The dual 270 mm front disc provides a very good stopping power, and couple that with the strong engine brake, you can stop the scooter very rapidly and safely.
The single 270 mm rear disc brake is surprisingly strong, in fact it caught me of guard. The rear wheel itself is driven by a belt that is neatly hidden away. Since it's hidden, it makes absolutely no noise and gathers no dust or mud.
So my only experiences with riding electric motorcycles was a few years ago on a Blade and last year 2 weeks on a Zero DS. I have also never been on a scooter, which did mean several times I was trying to find the rear brake with my right foot (embarrassing).
At the "go" moment, when leaving the garage I was in "Road" mode. Open the throttle (it's all ride-by-wire here) and the scooter moved forward faster than what I would have thought. In fact, comparing it with the Zero, it will blow the Zero away in acceleration from a red light. The Zero leaves like a good 125 cc, the BMW C Evolution leaves like a 600 cc motorcycle. Unbelievable speed! And even in high speed, the stability is such that you could take your hands of the handlebar were it not that your engine will start braking immediately. But no vibrations or sluggish moves to the side.
I switched to "Dynamic" mode and the scooter became more aggressive. A twist of the right wrist meant an immediate movement since you have 100% of the torque available all of the time. Riding at 90 kph, I opened the throttle wide, and the scooter immediately jumped to its maximum speed of 120 kph (it's limited by software, physically it should be able to go 150 kph or so, but to spare the battery, BMW are limiting the top speed). The pickup speed is mind blowing. At any speed, open the throttle and there is NO wait time for the revs to come; it jumps and goes.
Several red lights later, and several motorcycles who cou
ld only see my tail lights, I was sold. This is one very fast scooter. It's really a 500-600 cc scooter, but here in France, you are allowed to ride it with a 125cc license.
As I mentioned above, the brakes are very good and powerful. But in reality, you'll not be using brakes that often, since the engine braking is more than enough to slow you down, and at the same time regenerating your batteries. Even when set to "Sailing" mode, the mode that allows you to glide, there still is enough engine braking.
The seats are very comfortable, but then maybe that's a scooter thing, but even my "old" BMW GS had a rock hard saddle. The C Evolution is like sitting on a gel pad. Any defects in the road, from cracks to potholes, were dealt with between the saddle and a very good suspension.
The saddle is reassuring when braking hard, no slipping. Although I didn't ride with a pillion, I'm sure that it's comfortable for one. The pillion seat is slightly raise, about 5 cm, above that of the rider, giving the pillion a good view.
The BMW is quite heavy, although when you reach 10 kph, you don't feel it. But if "feels" wide, and my initial lane splitting was very cautious, but once you're used to it, it is easy. The scooter is very nimble and can turn on a dime. Despite the heavy battery, it is located nicely in the lower middle, making the Center of Gravity very low and in the center. Great for quick turns.
Many bikers say they will never buy an electric motorcycle because of the lack of engine sound. And that was what I initially though, but after a few 100 meters you notice that you are entering into another dimension; you can actually hear what's around you. Birds, dogs, cows - all sounds that you would not hear before.
Compared to the Zero, the BMW is about 50% quieter. You barely hear the belt, nor do you hear the wheels. You will notice in the video below that there is a lot of sound, but that is because I placed my GoPro camera on top of my helmet, so the microphone was getting the full wind blast. Below 70 kph you'll notice that there is barely any sound.
Personally, after riding several days with the Zero and a few hours with the BMW, I love being able to hear sounds around me and not just the throb of my engine. It's a whole other dimension to your riding experience.
As I said, acceleration is very fast. Typically, depending on the mode selected, it'll be around 5 to 6 seconds for 0 to 100 kph. That's the quoted performance, I have to say that it felt much faster, more like 4 to 5 seconds.
Top speed is limited to 120 kph, and with motorways in France that can be a problem since they have a speed limit of 130 kph, so no maneuvering room. But if you never intend to use the motorway, there's no problem. Country roads are limited to 90 kph, so you have plenty of overtaking speed available, and that speed is available immediately.
You get a maximum of 48 hp (35 kW), and 72 Nm of torque at the "crankshaft" in theory it makes for 600 Nm of torque at the rear wheel in practice, enabling acceleration from 0 - 50 km/h in 2.7 seconds.
Range, as is usual with all electric vehicles, is an issue, and can be a deal breaker for many. The limit is around the 100 km, depending on your ride style and mode selected. It's not that the battery can not handle more, because it can. But BMW have limited to battery use between 20 and 80%. Anything outside that range means the bike has ran out of juice, although the juice is there. The reason for that is to protect the battery life. If you drain the battery completely, it's bad for the battery life. Keeping it in between, the 20 to 80% means the battery will last a very long time, and since the battery is one of the most expensive components, it's a good thing.
Since the battery can be recharged within 2 hours, it should not be a big problem. The majority of commutes is 70 kilometers, round trip. Even if you have a one way trip of 60 to 70 kilometers, if there's a charging point close to your office, you've got a winner.
This is a very good, if not excellent, scooter from BMW. It's typical BMW who have been building up their experience with scooters with their 650 GT and C600 Sport scooter. The workmanship is perfection, no bits loose, no cracks, and solid and durable materials.
The design is very nice, very modern and well suited in today's traffic. Comfort is excellent, and if you would of had the range, you could go for nice long rides, but that is not in the cards.
As for performance, this will see many mid range and even top range motorcycles blush. Or turn green in envy. If you ride a 600 cc motorcycle and a scooter blasts past you, you'll know it's an electric BMW one.
Because the scooter is heavy (256 kilos), BMW have had the foresight of putting a reverse on the scoot. Press the "R" and gently turn the throttle and the scooter rolls back. Very handy getting in/out of a garage or backing out of a parking.
Before going on to see the video below, the only thing I can say is go for a test ride. Just go and ride one. But make sure you bring money, because many of you will want to buy one on the spot. They are that good! Because that's what I did... yes, I'm buying one. It's expensive, but worth it. Now the raid my piggybank.
Below is a (very amateurish) video, made with two cameras. One was the GoPro mounted on my helmet, which unfortunately is slightly titled, something I didn't realize, so sorry about that.
You'll notice that I purposely left the sound on in the video, and you will hear engine sounds regularly, but they are not from the scooter but from traffic. It also shows you how silent it is, since you hear a lot of the noise around you, but not your scooter's sounds.
Finally, you'll see at the beginning when I ride away that the Beemer's rear light is flickering. That is just because of the video camera, in real life it doesn't flicker.