BMW transform striking electric concept into reality. Introducing BMW’s all-new electric CE 04. Or, as BMW call it, ‘the silent revolution: a new chapter in electric powered urban two-wheeled mobility’.

BMW have metamorphosed concept into reality with the dramatic all-electric CE 04. Using BMW car technology, this stunning A2 electric scooter is all-new for 2022, boasting a 120km (75mph) top speed, 0-50kph (31mph) in 2.6 seconds, and a fast charge time of 1h 40min from 0-100%. We flew to sunny Barcelona to see if BMW’s £11,700, fully electric bike performed as well as it looked.

Sticking to the concept

BMW first unveiled their daring and dramatic CE 04 as a styling exercise back in 2017 – but I don’t think even the most devoted BMW supporter would have envisioned that the production bike would be so like those daring early sketches. But BMW has stuck to its guns, let the designers have free rein, and produced a bike that looks like it’s 10 years ahead of its time, like a prop for a sci-fi film rather than an actual production bike you can buy.

Shared platforms

But this isn’t just a design exercise, this is the next step in the production of electric bikes. BMW famously jumped into the electric market with the BMW C-Evolution back in 2014. I rode the prototype back in 2012 and was immediately impressed. But now BMW has significantly moved the game on.

Technology and expertise have been shared across BMW platforms, the CE-04 using modified, smaller versions of car battery cells from the iX range, ensuring reliability and safety. Maximum claimed output is 42hp @ 4900rpm (rated 20hp), top speed a claimed 120kph/75mph, and acceleration an impressive 0-50kph (31mph) in 2.6 seconds.

Compared to the C-Evolution, weight is significantly down, charging times have been shortened, and the claimed range stands at 130km (80 miles) for the A2-compliant model and 100km (60miles) for the A1, 125cc equivalent.

Speed and power

BMW has used technology and know-how from their four-wheel division, using the same lithium-ion battery module found in the BMW iX and i4. This means the CE 04 has a maximum power output of 42hp (31KW) in its A2 format. The claimed top speed of 120kph (75mph) is the same on both the A1 and A2 versions but acceleration is dramatically different. Our test model was the full power 42hp version, delivering 0-50kph (0-31mph) in 2.6 seconds and 0-100kph (0-60mph) in 9.1 seconds. This is a quick scooter.

The lithium-ion battery can be charged from a regular household socket from flat to full in 4 hours 20 minutes, or with an optional extra quick charger (6.9kw) in 1 hour 40 minutes. A 20%-80% charge takes just 45 minutes, again with the optional fast charger, or 1h 40mins with a conventional standard charger. A 45-minute fast charge equates to a short lunch or a long coffee break while you upload images of your cool CE 04 to social media. The A1 version, with less power, takes a shorter time to charge.

Fully charged range is a quoted 130kph (80 miles) but this can depend on how you ride, plus the riding mode selected. As standard, there are three modes to choose from, each with a different re-gen (recharging the battery whilst on a closed throttle, like engine braking) plus an optional Dynamic mode.

Let’s get going

Press the keyless ignition, press the starter button while holding a brake lever (both brakes are on the bars like any modern scooter) and you’re ready. The side stand acts as a handbrake or kill switch, you can’t move forward with it down. The 10.25-inch TFT dash lets you know you’re ready, then it’s twist the throttle and go – that simple.

Yes, conventional petrol scooters are much the same but with no engine noise or build-up of revs the first few metres are like walking for the first time, as the initial turn of the throttle and acceleration takes you a little by surprise. But after a few feet, it becomes natural and second nature, especially as the throttle connection on the new CE 04 is excellent.

Ride modes

Ride modes In standard spec the CE 04 has three riding modes to choose from – Eco, Rain and Road – each with its own throttle response and engine braking (re-gen), while our test bike was also fitted with the optional Dynamic mode. The Dynamic mode also changes the standard traction control and ABS to lean-sensitive (ABS PRO and Dynamic Traction Control). For those new to electric bikes, Eco and Rain modes are probably the safest options as they deliver very soft power, with a super-smooth transition from a closed to an open throttle.

Some electric bikes can feel jerky, like flicking a switch rather than turning a throttle, but BMW have overcome this with the CE 04. Road mode and the Dynamic option make a significant difference. The throttle remains smooth but the torque kicks in hard, impressively so considering the CE 04 is comparable to a 400cc petrol scooter. There is no lag or clutch delay, just instant drive (peak torque is at just 1500rpm). The CE 04 can embarrass almost anything away from the lights and do so in perfect silence. The lights go green… twist the throttle… and you’ve left the traffic far behind. Hitting white lines or manhole covers can activate the traction control and in damp and cold conditions, the rear Pirelli will need plenty of assistance from the TC. Meanwhile, the silence just adds to the fun of putting over-excited car drivers in their place.

VIDEO: A look at the CE 04 on the road

Aside from throttle response, engine braking is significantly different in each mode, with Eco delivering very strong engine braking and more recuperation of the battery (converting kinetic energy into electrical energy). Around town, with timing and experience, you can rely on the re-gen and almost get away without using the brakes. Road and especially Rain mode have much softer braking strategies. To add to the oddness, CE 04 is also fitted with a reverse drive, which is activated via a button on the left bar. Then, simply twist the throttle and the CE 04 moves slowly backwards, while remembering to keep both feet on the ground for stability.

Carving up Barcelona traffic

Weight is down compared to the C-Evolution, which broke the scales at 275kg, with the CE 04 trimmed down to a respectable 231kg. But despite this dramatic weight loss, it’s 25kg heavier than BMW’s own C 400 X (206kg). Hence the handy reverse gear. But BMW have cleverly placed many of those kilos low in the chassis, with the dense and bulky battery cells carried horizontally on a platform under your feet. This means the CE 04 has a low centre of gravity and certainly doesn’t feel heavy on the move.

The relatively low, 780mm seat height and narrow proportions of the bodywork exacerbate this sense of lightness. The BMW is much narrower than the conventional, petrol-drinking competition, especially towards the rear (where normally you would find an engine and an exhaust).

A single, directly mounted shock with spring pre-load adjustment and 35mm Showa forks work to control the weight and power. The steering comes more from the middle of the scoot: you notice that the centre of gravity is low in the chassis and how the CE 04 swings from one turn to the next. Cutting through traffic is easy, despite a long wheelbase, and that low-slung weight really helps. You only really notice its mass when riding on more open roads during faster direction changes at speed, or when you want to suddenly change your line or add more lean-angle. But this urban dweller wasn’t designed to behave like a sports bike, and in a blind test you’d be hard-pressed to guess its actual weight as it feels so light on the move. And, of course, reverse helps with parking. The Showa ride quality is impressive, taking on speed bumps and road imperfections with relative ease. Perhaps it doesn’t feel as plush as some of the competition, but the CE 04’s silent running means you can hear the suspension moving, which somehow makes it seem like it’s working harder, or is firmer…
The job of stopping 231kg of e-scoot is down to two four-piston callipers grabbing two 265mm discs, with a single 265 disc on the rear. They do an adequate job of hauling up the CE 04, backed up by all that engine braking, which is especially strong in the Eco mode. The brakes are not linked, and ABS comes as standard. If you want ABS Pro (cornering ABS) you’ll have to pay £380 extra for the Dynamic package. During the test I found myself mainly using the back brake or the strong engine braking found in Eco mode, but the ABS isn’t intrusive and the stoppers are smooth and progressive. I was expecting span adjustable levers, and would prefer a shorter span, but such things are personal.

How far can we go?

The flat seat might look as comfortable as a skateboard, but it’s far more accommodating than it appears, plus BMW offer six different seat options. All-day comfort doesn’t rank high on the list of must-haves for a city scooter, and with a 130km (80-mile) range you’re unlikely to spend more than a couple of hours in the saddle. I did just under 70km on BMW’s test route, mainly in short blasts, and all shapes of riders found the riding position roomy and comfortable.
I didn’t get the opportunity to try the pillion seat, but it should be fine for hops around town, though it’s a shame the pillion pegs appear to be a styling afterthought.

BMW quote a range of 130km, and there’s a clear range indicator on the 10.25-inch colour screen, showing how many miles you have left. After 60km, I still had 60km in reserve, which equates to a 120km range or 75miles, and my riding was ‘spirited’ at times. I guess riding normally in Road or Eco modes would easily see 130km (80 miles) possibly more before panic set in. It all depends on how and where you ride; hills and maintained high speeds will usually have the most dramatic effect on battery range.

Storage

The standard CE 04 comes equipped with under-seat storage, enough for a full-face helmet, which is accessible from the side as the seat is fixed in place and very neat, like a large pannier. There’s also phone storage upfront which is cooled by an electric fan to stop your phone from overheating. Obviously, the TFT dash has connectivity as well as integrated map navigation. Switchgear and the BMW navigation wheel are simple and easy to use.

Like the ignition, the under-seat and phone storage are all keyless. The feel and touch of the storage is first class. And should you require more storage there are neat side and rear bags available.

If you want to pay a little more

Three riding modes, ABS and TC come as standard. For lean-sensitive ABS, TC and riding aids and the additional Dynamic mode, you need the Dynamic Package (£380). This package also adds Headlight Pro and daytime running lights.

Our test bike came in the dramatic Avant-garde colour package (£220) and was equipped with the Dynamic package.

BMW also fitted our test bike with the City package, including much-needed heated grips, tyre pressure control, an anti-theft alarm and centre stand (not shown on test bike) which costs £780. Additionally, there is the fast charger for another £850.

Should you wish there is an additional Comfort package for £450 (heated grips and a comfier heated seat), and a high windshield for £90. As you’d expect BMW offer a wide range of accessories including rider equipment, a Tokyo Connect GTX jacket with LED light strips and the Sao Paulo helmet.

The bad news

The standard full-power A2 BMW CE 04 is £11,700 but, as ever, our test bike was fitted with a few added extras which pushed the price up significantly to £13,930. This included the fast charger (£850), City Pack (£780), Dynamic Package (£380), and the Avant-Garde styling (£220).

The price has dropped since the now old C-Evolution, but at £11,700 in standard trim that is a substantial sum of money. Yes, you don’t have to pay for petrol and if you can plug in at work, it’s almost free running on the CE-04. But BMW’s highly rated, petrol-drinking C 400 X starts at just £6250, which is less than half the price of our test bike CE 04. Obviously, the C 400 X is more expensive to run, doesn’t have the looks, style and kudos, but still it is considerably cheaper. Even BMW’s own 400 GT is just under £7000, and if you want to just focus on price, Honda’s Forza 350 is just £5459.

Verdict

The CE 04 is hugely impressive, both as a styling exercise and as a usable, rideable motorcycle. If money was no object, I’d take the CE 04 over its petrol equivalent every time. Aside from its battery range, there are no disadvantages over normal combustion-engine scoots, and I believe a 130km (80-mile) range is large enough for this type of bike. It’s easier to ride, silent, quick, and incredibly stylish – a brilliant example of clever engineering and design.

But you can’t hide the price, which is around double the petrol equivalent. £11,700 for the base model is expensive, and to get the best out of the CE 04 you really need the fast charger (£850) and the Dynamic pack too (£380).

If you want quality, the latest tech and style, and money isn’t a problem, then for commuting I’d highly recommend the CE 04. After a 25% deposit, £137.94 per month on PCP makes it seriously tempting. But for many it may be just too expensive despite its ultra-low running costs.

Words: Adam Child 'Chad'

Technical Specification

New price: £11,700
Engine layout: Lithium high voltage battery
Engine details: Liquid-cooled, 8.9KW, magnet synchronous motor
Power: 31W/ 42hp @ 4,900rpm
Torque: 62Nm /45.7 ft lbs @ 1,500rpm
Top speed: 120kph 75 mph (claimed)
Transmission: Automatic, belt drive

Charge time: 10A 4.20 hours 0-100% 30A (fast) 1.40 hours 0-100%
Max range to empty: 130km
Rider aids: Riding modes x 3 ABS, optional Dynamic mode
Frame: Tubular steel frame
Front suspension: Showa 43mm forks
Front suspension adjustment: No adjustment, 110mm travel
Rear suspension: Pre load
Rear suspension adjustment: Single rear shock, direct 92mm
Front brake: 2x265mm 4-piston calliper with ABS
Rear brake: 265mm single-piston calliper
Front wheel / tyre: 120/70 R 15 Pirelli
Rear wheel / tyre: 160/60 R 15 Pirelli
Wheelbase: 1675mm
Seat height: 780mm
Ground clearance: 180mm
Weight: 231kg
Warranty: 2-years

Website: Bmw-motorrad.co.uk