Photos by: Evans Brasfield
With no US publications invited to the press launch of the BMW CE 04 more than a year ago, we had to enlist the help of our friend Bertrand Gahel to send us his thoughts in the form of his First Ride Review. Thirteen months later, we finally got our hands on the BMW scoot.
Critics of electric motorcycles – and there are a lot of you – have made their points perfectly clear: An electric motorcycle simply doesn’t make sense. At least not yet. They don’t go far enough, and they don’t charge fast enough to make any reasonable sense to own.
An electric scooter with a futuristic design that’s perfect for doing scooter things. Shame about the price, though.
Editor Score: 83.75%
A scooter, however, is a different animal entirely. Unlike your usual motorcycle that’s built to whisk you away to faraway places, scooters are urban utility vehicles through and through. Built to zip around metropolitan areas quickly and with ease, scooters are all about short jaunts, running errands, and being practical alternatives to cars or standard motorcycles. This, friends, is where an electric scooter makes a ton of sense. EVs were made for this kind of thing. BMW’s CE 04, specifically, makes a strong case for itself in this very specific environment (except for one point, which we’ll save for the end).
The Case For Electric Mobility
Full disclosure; I’m writing this review after having the CE 04 in my possession for about a week, which is not nearly enough time to know every aspect of what it’s like to live with such a niche vehicle like this. A comprehensive review this is not, but it does give a taste. That said, my use case was perfect for the CE 04 (and any EV and/or scooter). I needed an around-town go-getter for making quick trips, running errands, getting a bite to eat, or going to the gym. All of these things are a 10-mile round trip, door-to-door. Max. My car or motorcycle has hardly warmed up by the time the trip is over. The CE 04 was made for this, and I ran around town for a week, multiple times. Additionally, I only plugged it in to my home 110v wall outlet at the end (with 30% charge still showing) just to see what that was like.
The CE 04 comes standard with three riding modes: Eco, Rain, and Road. Our tester came with the optional $500 Comfort Package which, among other things, includes a heated seat and a Dynamic riding mode. You can probably guess what kind of power delivery the four modes delivered, but the real difference is the regenerative braking. Eco and Dynamic modes both slow the scoot down with a fierceness when you let off the throttle. Road and Rain are somewhere in the middle and far less aggressive.
This matters because there is a small learning curve that comes with the CE 04, but if you’re familiar with BMWs, at least the user interface will be very familiar since the buttons and scroll wheel on the left bar are common amongst BMW’s other motorcycles. Me being me, I kept it in Dynamic mode 90% of the time, which gave me confidence that I could leap off the line with a bang and easily leave cars behind when the lights turned green. Conversely, if the light was red ahead and I timed it just right, I could let off the throttle and let the regenerative braking literally bring me to a stop without ever touching the brakes.
Under The Hood
BMW claims 0-30 mph in under 2.6 seconds, which is easily enough to win the stoplight drag race against fellow motorists. With 42 hp and 45.7 lb-ft at its disposal from its liquid-cooled motor, the CE 04 has its sights set squarely on its 400cc gas counterparts – hence the 04 in its name. The 8.8 kWh air-cooled battery borrows cell technology from the iX line of electric cars the German brand sells, making for efficient use of company resources and tech. The CE 04 is anything but light, coming in at 527 pounds fully charged (smirk) on the MO scales. That’s certainly heavier than any of its gas counterparts, but because the batteries basically lie flat at the bottom of the frame, the weight isn’t as clearly noticed. However, if you need a little extra help moving it or getting out of a parking spot, there’s a convenient reverse button that corresponds to the amount of throttle given.
Unlike a gas scooter, you’re not waiting for a variator to translate the engine’s intent into forward motion. The direct drive of the electric motor means you can twist and go. Despite the seat looking flat, it’s actually cushioned fairly well with a small lip in the back to keep you from scooching too far rearward, and although it’s not a true step-through design we expect from scooters, the long floorboards give your feet ample room. They even sweep upwards if you want the feet-forward position. The optional heated seat (to go with the heated grips) that came with the Comfort Package was especially welcome during the weird chilly spell we’ve been having in SoCal lately.
You’re rolling on 15-inch wheels at both ends, but these wheels have a solid face – as in, there are no spokes like you’re used to seeing on moto wheels. They add some cool style points and likely help a smidge with aerodynamics, but it does make me wonder how they would hold up in a strong cross wind…
Nonetheless, you don’t expect Cadillac levels of suspension travel from a scooter, and the CE 04 doesn’t do much to change that perception. It handles the city streets without much jarring to the rider, though some extra suspension travel in the rear would be very welcome. The 3.6 inches the shock comes with isn’t up to the task. A total of three 265mm discs (two up front, one in the rear) are paired with J.Juan calipers, and as mentioned before, if you take advantage of the regenerative braking, you’ll hardly need to touch them. However, if you do need to make a panic stop, you can use the hand levers and stop the CE 04 very quickly. The brakes are quite strong.
Thanks to the CE’s massive 10-inch TFT display, there’s really no reason why you won’t know the important stats. It’s all there in plain sight, and if you’re feeling inclined, it can also pair with your phone and show navigation on the screen. I didn’t opt to do that, though I did opt to take advantage of the dedicated cubby underneath the bars that’s equipped with a spring-loaded tray to keep your phone in place and charge cable for both iOS and Android phones. These subsystems are powered by a secondary 12v battery so as to not drain the main one.
The CE 04’s look is a big deal for the brand and its team of designers, as it’s nearly the same as its Motorrad Concept BMW unveiled back in 2017. How often has a concept made it to production looking this similar to each other? It’s not often. The futuristic design with much of the visual heft focused at the front of the scoot is all there. As you move back, the floating seat design is largely kept intact, with the under-seat storage compartment big enough to hold most three-quarter helmets, but very few full-face helmets – especially if you have communicators attached. It’s times like these that you notice the empty space between the seat and the storage compartment and wish the designers appreciated the practical benefits using all of that space would have provided instead of keeping true to the design aesthetic. But I digress…
As the eyes continue to shift rearward, you can’t help but notice the seemingly naked rear wheel standing out in the open. It helps lend to the visual narrowness of the CE 04, and if you’re so inclined, BMW has accessory saddlebags that can occupy space back there. I appreciated the narrowness, as filtering between cars and tight spaces was easy. A huge steering sweep is also quite practical because the CE 04, and its 66-inch wheelbase, is long. Combine that with 26.5º of rake angle and 4.7 inches of trail, and changing directions is not its strong suit. You’ll be glad to have that reverse button in a parking lot. Moving around at slow speeds, the front requires some muscle and active bar inputs to steer. At higher speeds, the CE feels stable, but direction changes still need muscle.
No discussion about an EV is complete without talking about charging. As mentioned at the top of the review, my specific use case for the CE 04 was exactly within the capabilities of an electric. Starting at 100%, a full week of short trips, including short jaunts on the freeway – where the BMW would routinely accelerate to exactly 79 mph and stay there unless in a draft, then it would hit 80 mph – left me with 30% by the end of it. Surely the regenerative braking around town helped restore some of that juice, too. I could have easily plugged it into my 110v wall outlet at the end of each day but didn’t see the need.
BMW claims it’ll go 80 miles on a full charge, but as we know with EVs, mileage claims vary wildly depending on how heavy your right hand is and how much highway cruising is involved. The onboard battery level indicator does seem to be extremely pessimistic – probably to scare its rider to charge long before it truly needs to. That said, BMW claims a completely drained battery will be back at 100% in a little over four hours. The optional quick charger will slice that to under two hours. Considering how rare it is for someone to truly ride an EV down to absolute zero each ride, charging from 20%-80% takes 45 minutes with the quick charger, but is still a matter of hours with a standard outlet.
The Big Hiccup
Practically speaking, the CE 04 makes total sense. Electrification of the 400cc scooter category is a smart move for someone looking within that space. The CE 04 will outperform its gas-powered counterparts in several different categories (except maybe storage) and looks infinitely better doing it. Of course, this comes at a price. Starting at $11,795, the CE 04 stops making practical sense for all but the wealthy. Then again, you already knew this scooter couldn’t compete on price to its gas-powered brethren.
In an alternate universe, where EVs could compete on price, it makes a lot of sense.
|2022 BMW CE 04 Specifications|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled permanent magnet synchronous motor with surface magnets|
|Max. Horsepower||42 hp (31 kW) at 4,900 rpm (claimed)|
|Max. Torque||47.5 lb-ft (62 Nm) from at 1,500 rpm (claimed)|
|Maximum speed||80 mph (electronically limited)|
|Acceleration 0-31mph||2.6 s (claimed)|
|Range||81 miles (claimed)|
|Energy Recuperation||Automatic recuperation when coasting and braking|
|Battery||Air-cooled lithium-ion high-voltage battery|
|Battery Voltage||148 V (rated)|
|Charging Rate||2.3 (6.9) kW, integrated charging unit (optional quick charger)|
|Charging||Charging cable with country-specific plug|
|Charging time at 110 V / 15 A||approx.. 5:30 h for 100%; 80% in approx.. 4:25 h (claimed)|
|Charging time at 220 V / 30 A||approx.. 1:40 h for 100%; 80% in approx.. 1:05 h (claimed)|
|Secondary battery||12 V / 5 Ah, maintenance-free|
|Frame||Tubular steel, double craddle|
|Front suspension||Telescopic, Ø 35 mm, non adjustable, 4.3” of travel|
|Rear suspension||Single-sided swing arm with directly mounted spring strut, spring pre-load adjustable, 3.6” of travel|
|Wheelbase||65.9 inches (1,675 mm)|
|Castor||4.7 inches (120 mm)|
|Steering head angle||63.5°|
|Wheels||Cast aluminum wheels|
|Rim, front||3.50 x 15″|
|Rim, rear||4.50 x 15″|
|Tires, front||120/70 R 15|
|Tires, rear||160/60 R 15|
|Brake, front||Twin disc brakes, 4-piston fixed calipers, diameter 265 mm|
|Brake, rear||Single disc brake, single-piston floating caliper, diameter 265 mm|
|ABS||BMW Motorrad ABS|
|Length||89.9 inches (2,285 mm)|
|Width (incl. mirrors)||33.7 inches (855 mm)|
|Height||45.3 inches (1,150 mm)|
|Seat height, unladen weight||30.7 inches (780 mm)|
|Curb Weight||509 lbs. (231 kg), claimed|
|Permitted total weight||904 lbs. (410 kg), claimed|
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