On the left-hand side of the C Evolution’s handlebars is a button marked ‘R’. It doesn’t stand for ‘Race’ or ‘Recharge’. It’s ‘Reverse’. And as you wobble silently backwards, legs paddling furiously to stop yourself falling over, you realise that this really isn’t a normal city scoot.
There’s a name for big, powerful scooters. That name is ‘maxi’ scooters and BMW makes a couple, the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT, the chassis of which this electric C Evolution is based. Instead of a 650cc engine, there’s an electric motor and brace of lithium-ion batteries. Whereas you need a motorbike licence to ride the petrol models, this C Evolution only requires you to have a car licence, have taken a one-day CBT course and ride with L-plates, like pizza delivery guys.
Except that you’ll be going a lot quicker than those pepperoni-pinchers on their weedy 50cc and 125cc mopeds because BMW’s green machine is mighty powerful.
What's it like to ride?
Approaching it in the car park, it has the same edgy styling as the C 600 and C650, but in a more futuristic pearlescent white and green finish. Want something less tree-huggy? Better call your local paintshop. We think the broad flanks and location of the BMW logo would make for an amazing WWII fighter-plane-style shark mouth design, but we’re prone to wild imaginings.
Turn on the ‘ignition’ and the single LCD display lights up with an (initially bewildering) array of trip and charge information. Press the ‘start’ button and you’re rewarded with a beep and disconcerting silence - familiar to anyone who’s ever driven an electric car. Twist the throttle, though, and you’re off.
As it’s electric, all of the torque from its 48hp motor is available from the moment you twist the throttle. No gears; just a whine and a whoosh all the way up to over the legal motorway limit and then, trusting the ABS, all the way back down again.
It’s not ballistic, mind you, because it weighs 265kg. But it is excitingly brisk. You’ll leave cars behind at the lights but couriers, on their grungy 600cc Suzukis, will be ahead of you. They might even be contemplating the classic carbon-counters conundrum about their old combustion engine versus your new battery-powered one with its poisonous batteries.
In contrast to riding a motorbike (for which all your hands and feet and ears are required to make it go) or a scooter (in which the engine revs bear little relation to forward momentum) the C Evolution just goes. It’s supremely easy to start and stop, and a combination of the torque and light throttle make it a doddle to balance in traffic. That more than compensates for its portly proportions, giving you the confidence to aim it at a gap and go.
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The mirrors are high and large and the instrument screen – once you’ve learnt to ignore its dancing power and charge graphs – is surprisingly legible in sunlight.
Next to the aforementioned Reverse button, there’s a rocker button to muck about with the trip computer, including average power consumption, range and a Honda Insight-style eco rating. Over on the other side is the ‘Mode’ button. It lets you switch between Dynamic, Road, Sail and Eco Pro, each of which offers varying levels of on-tap power and regenerative braking.
The Mode button is not quite positioned for pressing without letting go off the throttle, which is probably deliberate – more likely you’ll choose a mode when you set off and stick with it, hitting up Eco Pro when the battery’s looking low. Which is after about 50-60 miles, depending on whether you’re riding it like you stole it. You can charge the C Evolution using a fast charger or a normal three-pin – there’s storage for the cable under the seat and the socket is in a cubby underneath the handlebars.
Power: 48hp at 4650rpmTorque: 72Nm at 0-4500rpmTop speed: 75mph0-62mph: 6.2secsCharge time: 0 to 80% in 2:45h, standard plugRange: approx 60 milesLength: 2190mmWeight: 265kg
Verdict: What's it like being you?
So. We’ve done the growling, chest-beating bit with the horsepower and whatnot, and we’ve done the experiential on-the-bike bit, so the only thing left to figure out is you. Who are you?
Who are you that would spend over £13,000 on an electric scooter? That’s Italian sportsbike money or enough for a larkish four-wheeler such as a Renualt Twingo. If you’re set on two-wheeled electric thrills, you could import a Zero FX electric motocross bike from Europe for a few grand less, or buy a Brammo Empulse R electric sportsbike here in Britain for a few grand more.
You could buy a super-economical, auto gearbox Honda NC750X motorbike for half the price of a BMW C Evolution, or you could buy a pretty tasty electric bicycle for about £4000.
What we're getting at is that while the idea of an electric BMW scooter is a good one, and it is a good scooter, £13,500 seems like an awful lot of cash to pay for one. Just imagine yourself explaining it to someone at a party. Go on.