Full throttle ahead for BMW’s C evolution electric maxi scooter
BMW’s new electric two-wheeler is well ahead on power an performance, but also a little ahead of itself on price
Hot on the tyre tracks of its electric four-wheelers, BMW is out to show it means business with its electric strategy on two wheels as well. Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent launch of its all-new BMW C evolution electric maxi scooter.
BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of BMW, is concentrating resources on producing electric mobility, harmonising some of the technology developed to produce the i3 supermini, which is already on sale in Ireland.
The C evolution maxi scooter joins BMW’s current petrol-powered maxi scooters, the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT. Its styling is in line with its conventionally-powered siblings, albeit with a distinct white and green colour scheme.
Development of the C evolution began in 2009. The team behind it used as many synergies with the i3 as possible. Speaking at the international launch, product manager Dorit Mangold said: “The most difficult design obstacle was accommodating the battery modules as used in the i3 into the maxi scooter. The i3 car has eight module blocks, and the C evolution has three of these.”
In order to accommodate them, BMW’s engineers designed an aluminium case to encompass them, which also acts as a structure forming the mainframe, with the rear single-sided swing arm attached to the rear of the case, and the steering head support attached to the front.
The high-voltage battery is air-cooled, with a liquid cooled electric motor that produces 11kW (15hp), with a peak power output of 35kW (47hp) and 72Nm of torque. This power is transferred to the rear wheel by way of a toothed belt and ring gearing. This enables to C evolution to reach an electronically limited top speed of 120km/h, with a realistic 100 kilometre range.
When you first ride the bike, the most impressive and notable feature is the sheer acceleration from standstill. The entire bike’s torque is available from zero rpm, resulting in initial acceleration unlike any petrol-powered alternative. It’s just as well it has traction control and ABS fitted as standard: with a handful of throttle on a wet road it would be effortless to spin the rear wheel. BMW’s traction control is in fact a torque control assist (TCA); it limits the motor’s torque depending on the slip detected at the rear wheel.
When riding the C evolution you can choose one of four riding modes: Road, Eco Pro, Sail and Dynamic. All, apart from Sail, encompass energy regeneration to extend battery life; this occurs automatically when you close the throttle and under braking.
In Road mode you have maximum power available, with approximately 50 per cent energy regeneration when coasting; in Eco Pro mode this is maximised, although acceleration is restricted, with a noticeable lack of power in comparison to the other modes.
Energy regeneration only occurs in Sail mode under braking, and so you experience no braking torque when you close the throttle. This is a slightly disconcerting feeling when you first ride the bike in this mode. It’s really only practical on main roads or motorways.
The final mode, and the one I selected for the majority of my ride, is Dynamic; this furnishes the rider with full power and a large degree of drag torque under braking and with the throttle closed.
Barcelona test route
Our test route encompassed the heaving city streets in Barcelona and the surrounding hillside. The C evolution is at home in the city, albeit eerily quiet, with rapid acceleration-easing progress.
Barcelona is a hub for scooter transport. There’s suitable infrastructure in place too, with hundreds of parking bays dotted along its streets. At present there are approximately 200 charging stations around the city, all of them free to use. You can charge the C evolution with a standard 220-volt household socket; a full recharge from empty will take approximately four hours.
Its handling is balanced and predictive, with a fair degree of feedback evident when you increase your pace on twisty sections of road. There’s virtually no additional weight felt when riding, in comparison to its petrol-powered siblings. It’s just 16kg heavier than a C 600 Sport. With twin front brake discs and ABS, the C evolution can shed its speed swiftly.
When the first electric cars went into production, manufacturers’ claims of their range capability were – and in some cases still are – mostly unachievable. Thankfully BMW Motorrad’s 100km range is achievable, even riding in a manner far from smooth eco-friendly for parts of our test route. A TFT colour display screen gives the rider an abundance of information such as current speed, estimated remaining range in kilometres, and a bar graph showing the current level of power consumption and energy regeneration. Other onboard features include a helpful reverse assist, and a parking brake that’s activated when the side stand is deployed. There’s a decent-sized storage compartment under the pillion seat that can accommodate a full face helmet, along with a practical storage pocket below the handlebars.
The BMW C evolution is a genuinely capable scooter and a clear indication of BMW’s strategy to further expand its electric mobility range. There’s just one outsized obstacle for it to overcome: its price. At €16,950 it is €4,700 more expensive than its petrol-powered C 650 GT relation. When asked if we can expect further electric motorcycles in the near future, Dorit Mangold was keen to emphasise that our interest should be on the C evolution for now, although we may see further electric two-wheeled vehicles from the German manufacturer.
From electric city cars to supercars, and now maxi scooters and mountain bikes, it’s clear BMW is taking its zero-emission electric mobility strategy seriously.
BMW C evolution: The Lowdown
Electric drive system via drivetrain swing arm with liquid cooled permanent magnet synchronous motor, toothed belt and ring gearing. Peak power output of 35 kW (47hp) and 72Nm of torque.
0-50km/h 2.7 secs; 0-100km/h 6.2 secs; max speed 120 km/h
0g/km of CO2 ( road tax €35)
Standard features on the C evolution include four riding modes, reversing aid, parking brake, ABS and Torque Control Assist (TCA), large TFT colour display, LED daytime running light
A real leap forward for the electric two-wheeler, although the price may knock you back