BMW C-Evolution - A few days with BMW’s Electric Scooter - Words and Pictures by John Coster

Ride the revolution - with the BMW C evolution. Dynamic and athletic, clean and quiet: the BMW C evolution is the intelligent BMW Motorrad answer to increasingly heavy traffic, rising energy costs and positive environmental awareness. 100 % electrically powered for 100 % riding pleasure. Well that’s what BMW say about their electric scoot, here’s my thoughts after a few days.

At first glance, Z-Tech Control System’s C-Evolution Scooter sitting in their large business unit near Docklands is striking. Yes, it’s a scooter, a big one, but the colour scheme and graphics really make it stand out.

Looks are not deceiving, sitting on the C-Evo confirms it is big. This is good and bad, good, because it will offer comfort and road presence, bad, because it’s long and wide, and the ground is further away than it appears! The controls all look conventional, it has modes, but again nothing unusual about that with modern machines. There’s all the normal stuff, indicators, horn, lights etc, a switch like a starter button to turn it on, and there’s a button with “R” on it. Yes, this urbanister has reverse. I also have to remember it’s an auto, and what I’m used to as a clutch, is the rear brake! Oh, and the side stand also puts the rear brake on. Lets talk about modes for a moment, starting with “Sail”, which confused me at first, but this simply means power only, no regeneration facility. Sail mode provides the closest sensation to a normal twist and go, twist the throttle to go, release the throttle to coast (Sail in C-Evo speak), squeeze the brakes to stop, simple. Next, is the “Road” mode, this introduces some energy regeneration. Fully closing the throttle allows the electric motor to work as a generator, scavenging back power and providing useful ‘engine braking’, helping to increase the range. The next two, Dynamic and Eco, substantially increase this regeneration capability, and these modes take a little getting used to, but once you become dialled into this, progress in the urban environment with a little bit of forward vision and thinking (never a bad practice) means very little or no use of the brakes. Eco mode simply reduces the power to the motor to further increase the range, however, initial pickup feels sluggish, but once past walking pace things feel more normal. So for my first ride, I select Road, potential for full power, with some regeneration braking, so more like the riding sensation I’m used used to on my regular ride, a BMW R1200GS. Enough of this nonsense, time to ride. 

Pulling away is a rather uneventful affair, just like any other twist and go machine, you simply twist, and it goes, but with the C-Evo it is an eerily silent sensation. Out onto the road, and in no time you’ve forgotten this is electric, it’s got plenty of punch at urban speeds and brakes seem adequate, but more about brakes later. Joining the A12 traffic wasn't an issue, I quickly learn this machine has formidable urban pace and a lot of presence. The machine’s composure on London’s commuter 40 and 50 mph roads is so good you soon forget you’re only riding an urban commuter scoot. Later on the A20 dual carriage way it loses a little of this confidence, mainly due to the handling losing a little of it previous solid composure. I become more aware of the lack of upper body weather protection in the rain and wind and this buffeting may also be a part of the reduction of composure.  I am also becoming aware it’s very heavily sprung, and has a harshness to it’s ride at speed, combining with the 15” wheels to introduce a little bit of nervousness to proceedings, but nothing to worry about, but I’m aware of approaching it’s limits. Overall the BMW C-Evolution Scooter handles well, changes direction effortlessly, roundabouts, bends and sweeping country roads are a joy to ride. I arrive home with 40% charge left. I clean it and put in the garage and plug it in to recharge, a full charge takes about 4 hours via a normal 3 pin domestic socket.

 

The following day was a planned test of endurance, more like an eco ride. Leaving home with a full charge, my destination was Coppermills. Eco Mode reduces the punch but has little effect on it’s cruising ability. As this was a test of range, I resisted the urge to use it’s performance and I kept about 10% below the limits where safe on the dual carriage-ways and motorways into London. Once into the congestion of the A2 and the Blackwall Tunnel the C-Evo really was a pleasure to ride, the weight is low, with big wide bars, it’s a doddle to gently filter past the endless queue of single occupancy cars and vans. The EcoMode (along with Dynamic) allow for full use of regeneration, ie, close the throttle and the motor becomes a generator, so progress through traffic is a throttle sensing affair.  I truly believe if I owned one of these, I would never change the brake pads! I rode 33 miles to Coppermills and arrived without using the brakes once. But of more immediate concern, was it’s claimed range of 24 miles with 43% battery charge left !!

The ride home was the same route, 33 miles, but with less traffic and my personal eco mode evolving I arrived south of the river, with 32 miles range and 36% battery life!  Gently riding along the A2 to help to keep the load off the BMW C-Evo battery was extending the range further, I was confident I would make it back. I did have a quick little dash along the M25, I had no choice really, as there was no trucks to pace, so I just ran with the pace of the traffic around me, so I suspect this took a few miles of the range. My Eco Ride ended as I arrived back home on a round trip of 66 miles with 24% battery life left and the C-Evo claiming it had 12 miles of range left. So in a mix of road classes covering a wide range of speeds, some heaving morning traffic, means this machine has a real range potential of over 70 miles, I think with a few more battery charge cycles, and further development of my “Eco Mode” this could easily be in excess of 80 miles. I once owned a Honda Hornet that could suck it’s tank dry in less !!

In less than three hours the C-Evo was recharged, it was now getting dusky, so a little ride out into the Kent country side would test its lights and with my wife, an experienced pillion sitting on the back, a further test of this scoot’s abilities. Debbie was holding on quite tight after we left the village speed restrictions behind as I rolled on the throttle asking for more ampere’s. Motorway speeds happily attained, and the feeling though the series of roundabouts linking the M20 and M26 together proved my earlier thoughts about this machines handling, it is very capable. The run included climbing up Wrotham Hill two up, the national speed limit was not a problem for this punchy scoot on this long 10% climb. The C-Evo is a very capable pillion friendly machine, Debbie said she felt comfortable, except that it was harsh over bumps, remember Debbie is used to the lush comforts of the GS. She was surprised by the machines punch, but also said the silence was very eerie.  I also note that riding with a pillion seemed to improve the stability at speed, removing any nervousness I felt earlier, further confirming my suspicions that it ‘feels over sprung’, as two up, the rear spring was starting to work.

Last day with the C-Evo concluded by returning it.  With the C-Evo fully charged, Dynamic mode selected, me in a Lets Ride mode and a mileage target for the day of just 24, I could simply enjoy riding, and I did. It’s now back in it’s East London base with 31 miles left, so “Bold” mode still has the potential for 50 plus miles. 

Z-Tech’s vision for this machine is for verification and auditing activities in London. The C-Evo is not blessed with a great deal of storage capability, and the control’s and information available requires some familiarisation, but it’s all very teutonic and quickly becomes familiar. The range may be a limiting factor, especially in the winter months with the lights on more of the day and the occasional use of the heated grips eating away at it’s power reserves.  However, these are minor restrictions that will require a little bit of planning and practical experience to address. 

This, the C-Evolution, as BMW’s first all electric motorcycle is very good, it show’s us the future, I certainly can’t wait to ride their second model.

Thank you to Jamie for arranging the opportunity to review Z-Tech Control System’s latest addition to their growing All Electric Fleet.

Comments

"The customer focus and flexibility of Z-Tech makes it easy for a water utility to deal with. When we have a large and complex programme to deliver, planning every detail can be a challenge. Working with Z-Tech means that we can maintain delivery, knowing that resources are available to pick up the loose ends."

Jim Grandison, Thames Water

Accreditations