BMW C Evolution Scooter (2013 - ) review
The BMW C Evolution is an intriguing proposition; it's eco-friendly and cheap to run, but expensive to buy. Some may be put off by the limited range, too
Interested in buying BMW C Evolution?
Visually there’s little to differentiate the C evo from a conventional scooter, apart from its high-tech digital instrument panel and a unique white and electric-green paint scheme. Removing the bodywork gives the game away, revealing a large aluminium box that acts as the frame, with the front fork assembly and diagonally mounted rear shock bolted to it. Inside the box are lithium ion batteries — three of the eight cells that are used by BMW’s i3 car.
The layout is conventional maxi-scooter, with a roomy, near-upright riding position, and a large dual-seat that seemed comfortable and had plenty of room for a pillion. Weather protection is reasonable although the evo’s low screen can’t be adjusted, unlike those of other C scooters, and generates a fair bit of turbulence.
This depends very much on what you require from a scooter, with the main limiting factor being the range of about 60 miles. For some people that would be hopeless but if you’ll never need to ride it more than that distance without having the opportunity to recharge it, range won’t be an issue and the C evo might suit you just fine. A full charge takes about four hours, though initial charging is quicker so two hours would leave the “tank” more than half full.
Inevitably its batteries eat into the storage space. There’s room under the hinged pillion seat for an open-face helmet but nowhere near the useful room you get from many scooters. Disappointingly, there’s no clever device like the C600’s FlexCase to increase storage. There are two smaller storage areas in the fairing, but only one is lockable and would normally be taken by the charging cable. One practical bonus is that you can press a button to get slow-speed reverse gear, which can be useful for manoeuvring.
Performance & braking
On both these points the C evo is a match for just about any scooter on the road. Officially its liquid-cooled electric motor is rated at 15bhp, meaning the C evo can be ridden on an A1 licence. But that homologated figure is misleading because in normal use the evo produces 47.5bhp, which gives very lively acceleration, effortless 60mph cruising, and an electronically limited top speed of 75mph. By scooter standards the BMW is seriously quick as it surges smoothly forward with just a slight whine from the motor.
There are four riding modes: Road, Dynamic, Sail and Eco Pro. These are selected via a button on the right handlebar, and make much more difference than most bikes’ modes. Road gives an average amount of engine braking and regeneration; Dynamic gives more of both; Sail mode hardly any (like a two-stroke, the evo barely slows when you shut the throttle). Eco Pro adds range but reduces performance so most riders won’t use it unless they’re getting nervous about running out of juice.
Braking from the ABS-equipped triple-disc system is outstanding, with lots of bite and good feel through the hand levers. In most modes there’s also assistance from the regen when the throttle is shut. The evo also has a traction control system that would be useful on slippery roads due to the electric motor’s very strong, instant power delivery, though throttle response is very precise.
Ride & handling
Chassis performance is excellent, and totally normal. Those batteries mean the C evo is no lightweight, but at 265kg it only weighs slightly more than a fuelled-up C650 GT. Its centre of gravity is low, which helps give a very well balanced feel, and makes the BMW respectably manoeuvrable in traffic.
Handling at higher speeds is also very good, making the C evo fun to ride on a twisty road. Its aluminium box frame is rigid, and suspension is well enough damped to give good control, without compromising ride quality too much although there’s only 115mm of travel from the rear shock. Wheels are 15 inches in diameter, and shod with Pirelli’s capable Diablo scooter tyres. There’s also a fairly generous amount of ground clearance by scooter standards.
This is where, like any electric vehicle, the C evolution scores heavily over its gas-guzzling rivals. A full charge would normally cost less than £2.00; much less than that if you can plug it into the firm’s socket during the day. Tyre costs will be similar to those of the other C scooters, but the evo doesn’t need road tax. On the other hand, its battery performance will inevitably decrease with age, and resale values are unlikely to match those of conventional machines.
The C evo is so new and different that its reliability is unknown. Electric motors have been around for many years and the scooter’s chassis is conventional apart from its solid box frame, so there’s no reason to expect trouble. But recent problems with BMW’s fast-expanding conventional bike range have dented the firm’s reputation.
Warranty & servicing
The C evo comes with a typical two year, unlimited mileage warranty on everything apart from the batteries. These will be replaced under warranty for either five or seven years (yet to be confirmed), if performance when fully charged drops below 80 per cent of the new value. The electric motor doesn’t require servicing. BMW just say the scooter should be brought into a dealer every year, regardless of mileage, so its brake fluid and pads can be checked, and also for a battery check.
The C evo gains points for its very easily read instrument panel, whose “fuel gauge” includes bars showing percentage of battery charge used and remaining distance, both clearly displayed and detailed enough to give confidence in their accuracy. It’s disappointing that there are no neat electronic features such as smart-phone integration, but the basics are covered well. Heated grips come as standard; accessories include a taller screen and a top-box.
If you’re keen on electric technology and don’t need huge range or massive storage space from a scooter, there’s plenty to admire in the C evo. It looks good, it’s fast, handles and brakes well, and is fun to ride. It’s exotic, environmentally friendly (normal debate about the fossil fuels needed to make the electricity aside), and a great talking point. If you want one, you’d better hurry: only a couple of dozen are coming to the UK this year, and all but a handful have been sold. Demo rides can be arranged through the 21 BMW dealers that have signed up to sell it.