When BMW first debuted its futuristic concept electric scooter last year, it looked like a lofty design experiment without much chance for a real future. But perhaps more shocking than the design was the fact that BMW actually followed through with it, putting the BMW CE 04 electric scooter into production.
Now the high-speed maxiscooter is heading to the US early next year, and BMW thinks it stands a good chance at cornering the American market.
Considering the current market landscape, that might actually be true.
First of all, there just aren’t very many competitors in the US electric scooter market yet, and even fewer in the maxiscooter market for large, high-powered, electric two-wheelers.
But those smaller scooters are limited to speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km) for consumers and 30 mph (50 km/h) for rental fleets – at least until NIU’s 60 mph (100 km/h) MQi GT EVO arrives in the US next year.
When it comes to larger, faster electric scooters than can compete with the 75 mph (120 km/h) and 31 kW (42 hp) BMW CE 04, there just isn’t much. BMW already paved the way with its C Evolution electric scooter, but the CE 04 raises the stakes with a long-awaited design refresh and a huge heaping of new tech.
From the giant 10.25-in TFT color screen to the advanced rider aides like Automatic Stability Control (ASC) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), the CE 04 is packed with interesting new tech.
Design features like the large enclosed helmet storage under the seat also help add to the scooter’s utility and list of advantages.
The scooter’s price may seem high at first, starting at $11,795 in the US. But compared to comparably spec’d electric two-wheelers, it actually falls in line with what little competition exists.
While still not an apples-to-apples comparison, the newly-unveiled Zero FXE might be the best comparison for now. I tested that similarly priced electric motorcycle and had a blast weaving it through California’s redwood forests, but even its new design and updated electronics can’t compete with the utility and battery capacity of the BMW CE 04.
The BMW CE 04’s 75 mph (120 km/h) speed might be just a couple klicks shy of the Zero FXE’s, but its 8.9 kWh battery and range of up to 130 km (81 miles) puts the BMW over the top.
Charging advantages on the CE 04 also weigh in its favor. The built-in 2.3 kW charger offers a four-hour recharge, while an optional 6.9 kW quick charger upgrade is available to shorten that time to one hour and 40 minutes.
BMW claims that the quick charger can provide a 20% to 80% charge in just 45 minutes, which would allow nearly a full charge during a quick lunch stop.
BMW’s CE 04 can’t compete with the sportiness of the Zero, but it may win over utility-minded commuters that are likely to make up a large segment of the FXE’s target market.
A decade ago, BMW would have faced a steeper uphill battle to win the acceptance of Americans with an electric scooter like the CE 04. But with a new wave of two-wheeler adoption spurred by shifting American transportation views and accelerated by the pandemic’s new world realities, combined with increasing exposure to the benefits of electric scooters from sharing services like Revel, Americans are becoming much more receptive to vehicles like the CE 04.
And at a fraction of the cost of a new electric car, it could prove to be the first electric vehicle for many riders hoping to wean themselves off of gasoline.
Vice President of BMW Motorrad of America Trudy Hardy certainly believes the CE 04 is ripe for success. “I think what’s interesting about having a scooter in this category is I think it will start to solve some transportation challenges,” Hardy explained to TechCrunch. “It’s going to bring new people into the brand that might not have considered a motorcycle, but are going to find this to be a friendly solution.”
But the true test will be how many riders open their wallets when the new electric scooters hit US dealerships early next year.
What do you think? Will BMW find success in the US with its CE 04 electric scooter? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
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