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BMW unveils electric motorcycle prototype that crushes its gas-bike rival

BMW is playing catch-up when it comes to full-size electric motorcycles, but the company is steadily making progress. The latest development shows BMW rolling out a battery-on-wheels-looking electric motorcycle prototype that they’re calling the BMW E-Power Roadster.

BMW shows of E-Power Roadster electric motorcycle

BMW invited a few European moto-journalists out to see the E-Power Roadster Prototype in action.

But apparently they were all gas moto-journalists, because I’m being forced to interpret the bike’s specs from their tentative understanding and description of electric motorcycles.

For example, MCN describes the bike’s battery as including “a nominal capacity of 13 kW,” a metric that was repeated by multiple moto-journalists from various publications, and which makes about as much sense as me describing a gas bike’s fuel tank as having a capacity of 10 horsepower.

But assuming we’re looking at a 13 kWh battery, that would put the BMW E-Power Roadster only slightly behind industry leaders today. For comparison, the Zero SR/F offers a 14.4 kWh battery and the Harley-Davidson LiveWire offers a 15.5 kWh battery, though Energica recently unveiled one of the largest batteries in the electric motorcycle industry at 21.5 kWh.

bmw e-power roadster electric motorcycle

For now, BMW says the bike has an estimated range of 110 miles (177 km), though they’re apparently working on increasing that range.

The prototype does appear to offer DC fast charging though, so at least you can top up fairly quickly.

The battery on the BMW E-Power Roadster is apparently gifted from a BMW 2-Series plug-in hybrid, which might explain why the bike looks like a battery on wheels. We recently saw a patent for a new BMW electric motorcycle that lacked a frame, instead using the battery box as a stressed component of the bike. The E-Power Roadster prototype isn’t that bike though, as a custom trellis frame has been constructed around the non-load-bearing battery.

This isn’t the first time BMW has shoved an electric car’s battery into a bike. The BMW C Evolution electric maxi scooter is built around an i-Series battery module, though they did a nicer job of packaging it on the production scooter as compared to the E-Power prototype.

The rest of the bike is largely a combination of spare parts as well. The motor is from a BMW 7-Series, the swingarm is from a BMW R1200RS, and the front end is from a BMW S1000R.

Speaking of the S1000R, BMW apparently demonstrated the performance of the E-Power Roadster prototype with an old-fashioned drag race against its own S1000R bike. BMW states that the E-Power Roadster offers an honest 1,500 Nm (1,100 lb-ft) of torque at the rear wheel after a gear reduction and power transfer via shaft drive. That’s enough for a 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) time of 2.9 seconds, which helped the E-Power Roadster positively smoke the S1000R in a heads up race — despite being electronically limited to 100 mph (160 km/h).

bmw e-power roadster electric motorcycle

Electrek’s Take

Don’t get too excited yet though — it could be years before a prototype that is this early stage can make it onto the showroom floor. And there’s a lot left to change as well, especially considering nearly everything on this bike is gifted from another vehicle. In fact, one of the few unique components looks like it might be the rear hand brake lever in place of the typical clutch. That’s an interesting move, considering most full-size electric motorcycles have opted to retain the traditional foot brake lever found on gas bikes. I love a hand brake lever, though, so I hope that is one component that actually makes its way to production.

I’m actually surprised that BMW is demonstrating the E-Power Roadster prototype by pitting it against its own gas bikes. Of course we know that it’s hard for gas bikes to compare to the extreme low-end torque of electric bikes, but nothing says “don’t buy our gas bikes” like putting one directly up against the other. And hey, I couldn’t be happier. But there are going to be a lot of die-hard BMW Motorrad gas fans scratching their heads and questioning their religion after that one.

In fact, the decision to bring the bike out at all yet seems a bit premature. To me, it feels like BMW is shouting, “Hey, we’ve got one too!”

Perhaps they’re seeing all the press that other companies are getting over their electric motorcycles and don’t want to miss the boat. Kawasaki is doing the same thing. They’ve only got a prototype but they’re showing it off like it’s months away from production when it reality it will likely be years until we have an electric Kawasaki Ninja.

Presumably every major manufacturer that wants to exist a decade from now has some form of electric motorcycle project hidden in the back of their R&D center right now. And each one is likely as much of a Frankenstein’s monster as this combination of parts. It’s sure fun to see BMW’s own e-bike prototype in action, but I’ll more impressed once it takes on its own form and actually heads toward production. Until then, these are effectively engineering school senior design projects.

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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power and the Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide.

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