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BMW Isn't Rushing To Make An Electric Motorcycle

Illustration for article titled BMW Isnt Rushing To Make An Electric Motorcycle
Photo: BMW

BMW currently makes something called the C Evolution, an all-electric scooter-ish vehicle that starts at $13,995 and is intended, I guess, for wealthy-ish commuters, since the range is only 99 miles. What BMW does not currently make is a proper electric motorcycle.

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Now, in other parts of the world that aren’t America, it’s pretty common to see people who you might not think of as bikers zooming along in a variety of two- and three-wheeled vehicles in big cities, presumably commuting to and from work, or doing an errand, or otherwise living life. And in that context an electric motorcycle makes perfect sense since the range doesn’t have to be huge and you can lane split where it’s legal and likely get to where you’re going faster than in a car on gridlocked streets.

And yet! We haven’t seen much demand for electronic motorcycles, even in places outside of the U.S. where motorcycling is a more common everyday occurrence. Major manufacturers also haven’t endeavored to make a ton of them, unless you count Harley’s LiveWire, which is big and heavy and has so far been kind of a flop.

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This is all likely because fuel costs are less of a concern for motorcyclists, and because a large part of the appeal of riding is a sensory experience. The engine makes noise. It smells. It can be dangerous to touch. You have to use both hands and both feet to run the thing. An electric motorcyle has none of that. Electric motorcycles also are non-starters for road trips, since their range goes down vastly at highway speeds, since motorcycles in general aren’t terribly aerodynamic.

So electric motorcycles are, like I said, perfect for urban environments where you don’t need to go far and where the noise pollution of many a motorcycle is unwelcome and sometimes illegal. And so where are these things, anyway? Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki are apparently working together on electric motorcycle standards, and Honda did have those two electrics at Tokyo this year, but the biggest manufacturers have largely stayed away.

That may remain the case for BMW as well, per an interview with BMW Motorrad boss Markus Schram in Cycle World. Schram was pretty matter-of-fact.

As the Vision DC Roadster concept shows, we see this as a power portfolio of the future. In the urban environment, it is possible that there will be an electric BMW motorcycle in five years. In the touring, off-road, and sport segments, I am not sure that we will see them.

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I agree that electronic motorcycles don’t make sense in touring or off-road contexts, but for goodness sake surely BMW can find it within itself to make one (1) electric motorcycle for other uses, if only to give itself some useful market research. The competition at the moment consists of the LiveWire, Zero, and, uh, I guess Erik Buell at some point. Make more electric motorcycles you cowards.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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DISCUSSION

demon-xanth
Demon-Xanth knows how to operate a street.

Electric motocross would be quite nice. For a short run with high torque requirements it would be great. For a scooter, electric makes total sense. People just want to sit, twist, and go. But for the classical motorcycle rider it makes as much sense to them as a 4 door electric SUV does to a muscle car fan. Not a bad thing, but totally the wrong mark.

Truthfully, a 50 mile electric scooter that can seat two and go 60MPH that costs $5000 would suit many urban people quite well. When you go dozens of miles per day and traffic speeds are often in the low dozens of MPH it lowers the threshold of what is really needed. Make a model with a box on the back and I could see courier companies buying a pair and having the delivery people ride one out, then come back, swap scooters to one that has been loaded and on the charger while the first gets charged and loaded.