By Reena Jana
Posting in Cities
BMW's prototype for the C Evolution urban scooter has gotten much attention this week for its technical details. But its design details reveal innovation strategies, too.
This past week, BMW unveiled a "near-production prototype of an e-scooter" meant to perform as well as a comparable gas-fueled scooter. Reviewers have been focusing on its technical specifics (see this nicely detailed post from CNET's Wayne Cunningham) for good reason, and I'll leave the details of torque and other matters to the auto and motorcycle experts. But I think it's worth looking at the design background of the C Evolution, as it offers some interesting innovation strategies.
BMW Motorrad describes the C Evolution as a "future-oriented vehicle for commuting between the urban periphery and the city center," and the streamlined look of the scooter definitely has a futuristic, sophisticated feel (the BMW provenance doesn't hurt, of course).
- The scooter's designers adapted research from BMW's auto engineers and designers. For instance, they implemented high-voltage safety standards of leading auto makers. BMW says these have been applied to an electrically powered two-wheel vehicle for the first time with the C Evolution.
- The battery is placed in a low position, and this placement allows for a low center of gravity. This helps to allow for a sensation of "light handling" in city traffic.
- The designers created an instrument panel with a very large display of speed, battery charge state, and energy balance. The panel was based on that of the BMW i3 car--again, a nice borrowing and adaptation of a proven design across BMW's divisions.
- The energy balance visualization is depicted with a simple "progress bar," which tells the rider quickly whether energy is being used or recuperated, to prompt energy-efficient riding habits.
- The designers kept the appearance C Evolution in line with the look of other BMW motorcycles, even though it's a new eco-friendly scooter: it has the signature BMW "split face" design as seen from the front.
- According to BMW's press release, the designers added such metaphorical details such as a "boomerang-shaped, aerodynamically formed floating panel in the side trim" and a "short, sporty rear" to "[emphasize] the proactive character of the C evolution."
- Yes, there is the obligatory appearance of the color green on the C Evolution, for obvious symbolic reasons. There's also an illuminated "e" on the side trim elements, to indicate that it's an electric scooter, of course. Is the combination of both of these design elements overkill, in terms of adding signs that the C Evolution is an environmentally friendly product? To some design critics, maybe; but honestly, in traffic, they're likely to be seen as a blur. A quick flash of green or an "e" on a moving vehicle that has plenty of other eye-catching design elements might prove to be a subtle, and possibly inspiring, sight.
Aug 1, 2012
At least where I live, electricity is produced mostly by the burning of fossil fuels. So, any vehicle that uses plug-in style electricity isn't really all that clean for me here. Also, I'm still waiting to see when the recharging infrastucture improves. Maybe to commute to and from work, I can handle this. You can always use a backpack to hold your computer. As someone mentioned, winter in some areas or inclement weather would put this at a disadvantage. You may still need an automobile backup to this.
A low end Vespa can do over 180 miles on one tank of gas. What does this get for range on a single charge? They mention - meant to perform as well as a comparable gas-fueled scooter. - Does that mean handling, speed, acceleration and range?
It would also appear that it doesn't have the storage space for helmets and a couple of bags of groceries that their gas powered scooters do - if that is the case, doesn't make a good urban commuter anyway - no matter what the cost or operational costs are.
... because if it's going to cost as much as a used car I may as well just buy the car. I live in an area where driving something like this in the winter would be impractical at best, so for 3 or 4 months out of the year I'd need a car anyway. When you consider TCO how long would I have to own it before I started saving the difference in price between this and an auto?
It's pretty hard to beat the small/medium gas scooters. The Honda Helix (250 cc) will cruise at 60-65 mph, make 75 mph on a good day with a tail wind and get 65-75 mpg on regular unleaded - depending on whether you're wringing it's neck or not. Gas tank holds 3+ gallons, maintenance is minimal and only uses 1 qt. of oil at oil change and has luggage space (trunk). Carries 2 bodies easily. Pretty though to beat. If I had to guess, the e-Beemer will be in the 8K+ range. A good Helix is around 2K or less. I'd think you'd have to be intent on "making a statement" to buy one.