BMW's E-Power Roadster could be their missing link

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BMW have been quietly working on an electric motorcycle project for the last two years. The result is this: the E-Power Roadster Concept – a sort of halfway point between the DC Roadster concept we saw earlier this year and the eventual production electric bike we’ll see in the near future.

However, it bears little resemblance to the DC; instead it looks like a parts bin special – which isn’t surprising, because that’s exactly what it is.

The front-end has come from an S1000R, while the rear drive is from an R1200RS. The frame has been custom-made, while the drive train is borrowed from BMW’s car division: the battery pack comes from a 2-series plug-in hybrid while the motor is from a China-only long wheelbase 7-series.

Pulls like an S1000RR

It might be a bit of an ugly duckling but the result is a bike that weighs 290kg, which isn’t all that bad for a prototype electric machine (a Zero SR/F weighs a genuine 228kg) that’s got all the usual road going safety gear. With a bit more time, BMW say they could easily lop 30kg off it.

The battery itself, which is encased in that whopping great metal box, has a nominal capacity of 13kW and it’s paired with BMW’s inline drive motor (to create their signature shaft drive, naturally).

Torque is a whopping 147.5ftlb, although once it’s gone through the single-speed step-down gearbox, BMW say it has an effective torque of 1106ftlb (yes, really). Even with its whopping weight, that’s enough oomph to give it a 0-60mph time of 2.9s – 0.2 slower than the S1000RR.

Rapid charging capability

BMW E-Power Roadster charging

As ever with electric bikes, the biggest sticking point is charging the battery. The Roadster is capable of DC fast-charging, hence the name, which will fill it pretty much to the brim in just under an hour. The limit to this is heat (once the battery gets above 40°C charging slows right down) and BMW are working on an improved cooling system to get around this.

Their goal for production is to achieve 3.7 miles of charge per minute, so a 30-minute stop would put 111 miles’ worth of electricity into the tank.

As a proof of concept – to show just how much zing you can pack into some zinc – the E-Power Roadster is impressive. But it is just a concept and by the time the next evolution of this goes on sale, we’ll all be another few thousand miles down the electric highway of the future.

What’s it like to ride?

BMW E-Power Roadster riding

With one clutchless flick of the wrist, the E-Power roadster shoves its back tyre into the ground and hurls you forward with an almighty hum.

0 becomes 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80… As proof of just how nifty this thing is, BMW put one of their test riders on an S1000R – no slouch itself with 162bhp on tap. But even the pro, saving absolutely no horses or clutch plates, couldn’t even come close to keeping muster with the relentless electric drive of the E-Power Roadster.

Within moments he is behind and by the end of the drag strip, even after hitting the roadster’s 100mph limiter, the bike is a speck in the rearview mirror.

BMW’s electric future

BMW E-Power Roadster frame

“We’re really happy with what we have achieved with the ‘C evolution’ (big scooter), but it is a solution for urban transport,” said Head of BMW Motorrad, Christoph Lischka. “This E-Power Roadster is a sporty bike for someone who wants to ride in the mountains and really enjoy the ride.

“For this person the bike needs to have 200km (124 miles) of range, so we won’t be releasing a bike like this until it’s capable of 200km-300km of real riding. Right now the market and the infrastructure to support such a machine isn’t ready.

“We do not want to be like Tesla, installing fast-chargers everywhere – these cost around €110,000 each. At BMW we need to earn money, not burn money.”

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