Monday 16 December 2019

BMW brings electric power to two wheels

Dave Humphreys

BMW’s electric revolution is also moving onto two-wheels and despite its cost, the C Evolution is hugely impressive

The significant investment into electric vehicle technology by BMW hasn’t just been restricted to its new BMWi sub-brand, its two-wheeled Motorrad division has also created something battery powered and it is every bit as impressive.

 

Taking on a similar silhouette as the C600 Sport and C650 GT maxi-scooters, the C Evolution is very aptly named. Even by simply looking at it, you can tell that there’s something a little different about it - the bright flash of illuminous green at its core is one indication. As is the lack of any exhaust, meaning that the back end is a very neat design which shows off the single-sides swingarm and gloss black wheels. At the front a vertically-layered fairing design works well with the twin headlight units and also features an LED light bar running between them which acts as a daytime running light.

 

The traditional dash display has been replaced with a smart, free-standing TFT colour display screen that feeds all the necessary information to the rider while the rest of the controls are as you would expect, with front and rear brakes levers (no clutch as this is an automatic transmission) and a driving mode button which enables the rider to select one of a variety of settings to either maximise performance or increase the range and strength of the regenerative braking effect, which feels just like a stronger type of engine braking.

 

For the uninitiated it is a slightly eerie sensation, pressing the traditional starter button brings up a ‘Ready’ message on the TFT display. No sound, no movement. It already feels futuristic. Gently wind on the throttle and the C Evolution simply creeps away just like any other bike. Even if you keep it in ‘Eco Pro’ mode (its most range-efficient setting) the performance is more than adequate for town riding and when you get accustomed to the nature of the regenerative braking effect you can also gauge it to the point where you will barely even need to apply the brakes when coming up to a red light. If that sensation is a little strange for you, there is also a ‘Coast’ function which doesn’t apply any form of regenerative braking.

 

To get the most from the C Evolution you need to select Dynamic mode which then gives the maxi scooter some very impressive levels of performance. One of the best features of electric power is that you get all of the performance instantly, something that is very well demonstrated here. From a standing start the BMW feels rapid and can complete a 0-100km/h dash in 6.2 seconds although in truth it feels faster than that. The experience is made even more fun by the virtual silence - at most there is just the faint whir from the electric motor, which is then drowned out by wind noise as the speed increases.

 

In terms of handling the BMW feels no less agile than any of its internal combustion-powered rivals thanks in part to a low centre of gravity and despite the battery pack’s size, its overall weight is only 265kg. The upright riding position is quite comfortable although the shorter-than-usual windscreen doesn’t protect as well at higher speeds. Storage is slightly limited in comparison to other similarly-sized scooters on the market due to the battery pack, although there is a small boot underneath the rear seat which can just about accommodate a full-face helmet while a small glovebox in the front section can, with some careful packaging, take the BMW’s charging cable.

 

That battery pack is of course the main star of the show here. It consists of an air-cooled lithium-ion high voltage battery made up of three modules each of which contain 12 cells each. It can be fully charged from empty via a standard three-pin household plug, through its charging cable, in little over 4 hours, while a top up to around 80 per cent battery charge takes approximately two and a half hours.

 

Once fully charged the C Evolution will give a riding range of around 100 kilometres and selecting Eco Pro mode will help to eke a further 10 to 20 per cent range. That may not sound like a huge range but for most urban commuters this would mean the need to charge the battery only a couple of times a week, rather than everyday. The beauty of this battery system is that it can also be charged anywhere where there is a plug socket within easy reach rather than the need for a dedicated charging point. And should you do so from home overnight, the reduced electricity rates should make for some very cheap motoring.

 

That is, once you buy one, which, like any new technology isn’t so cheap. With a retail price of €16,849 the C Evolution is going to be out of many people’s reach although when you do work out the cost of ownership over a number of years, including the significantly reduced servicing and running costs, it does start to balance itself out. And unlike many electric cars presently on sale, there is no subsequent battery lease to be paid with the C Evolution so once you buy it you own it outright.

 

Like all new technology, the C Evolution is a pricey proposition, but BMW has made it work so well and so easily that it can still make sense, not just to the early adopters. And given the rate at which technology develops and costs decrease, the future of electrically-powered two-wheeled commuting is looking bright.

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