BMW Introduces E-Bike With 186-Mile Range, 37 MPH Speed

The range is nice, but the speed is unconscionable. This should be nipped in the bud.

BMW e-bike

BMW i Vision AMBY 

BMWs attract a certain kind of driver. We once quoted a Finnish study with a Treehugger-incorrect title that concluded the drivers of expensive cars are "argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic."

So it is with some concern and apprehension that we learn BMW has introduced a new e-bike, the i Vision AMBY, that has a wonderfully big 2,000 watt-hour battery that will push it 186+ miles, but it also has a high-speed mode that will move it at 37 mph.

The author of the Finnish study was quoted in a University of Helsinki newsletter, saying “I had noticed that the ones most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars."

E-bike rider

There's no reason to think riders of fast German e-bikes would be any different. The top speed allowed in the U.S. for a Class III e-bike is 28 mph and for Class I and II, 20 mph. So why would BMW create a bike that makes it possible to go illegally fast? According to the press release, it wants to "start a conversation."

"This vehicle occupies the space between a bicycle and a light motorcycle and allows our customers to decide for themselves which roads or routes they want to travel on through an urban area," said Werner Haumayr, vice president of BMW Group Design Conception. "They have all the flexibility possible, at the same time as turning the pedals and keeping themselves fit. The modes and clever route selection are intended to make it one of the fastest travel options through a city.”

Rider on ebike

So the rider can decide whether they are on an electric motorcycle, needing licensing and insurance, or whether it is a pedelec-where you have to pedal it to move, a requirement in Europe and are limited to 15 mph. Even BMW acknowledges this could be a problem, and note in its blog:

"Interestingly, the BMW i Vision AMBY uses geo-fencing to know where the bike is, thus allowing it to automatically adjust its top speed. This way you don’t have maniacs riding at 37 mph down the bike lane and your local park."

Right. So now we have to rely on geofencing to keep the maniacs out of the bike lane. Meanwhile, the i Vision AMBY is consciously designed not to look like an e-bike. The blog notes: It is "supposed to look different than a standard e-bike. Rather than looking slim and slender, the AMBY is designed to look thick, strong, and durable. BMW claims its design is a combination of e-bike and racing bike."

The blog post adds: "The upper frame tube, crafted from four sculptural aluminium profiles, represents an expressive and modern statement of intent – and not only in visual terms. A slightly rising sweep to its design underscores the dynamic intent. "

Design of e-bime

This is the kind of aggressive design that encourages people to speed and take risks. BMW actively promotes this. When it introduced a special black paint for one of its faster cars, the designer was quoted in the press release: "Internally, we often refer to the BMW X6 as “The Beast.” I think that says it all. The Vantablack VBx2 finish emphasises this aspect and makes the BMW X6 look particularly menacing."

Now to be fair, I have to admit to some biases about e-bikes. I believe the Europeans get it right with their regulations, where e-bikes are thought of as a bike with a boost, pedelecs limited to 15 mph, and with motors limited to a nominal 250 watts so they can play nice in the bike lanes. They are bikes, not motorcycles. There is no confusion like there is in the U.S. with three classes with different speeds (20 and 28 MPH) and three times as much power.

Bike against wall

And along comes the BMW i Vision AMBY, designed to confuse, "defying categorization." BMW is proud of it.

“Everywhere you look, apparently established categories are being blown apart – and that’s a good thing. In the future, classifications such as ‘car’, ‘bicycle’ and ‘motorcycle’ should not determine the nature of the products we think up, develop and offer,” said Haumayr.

I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Bike activists everywhere are fighting for safe and separate infrastructure, where there are strict classifications and divisions so that bikes are in bike lanes and cars are in car lanes. In a BMW world, some kind of geofence or switch changes the category or classification.

"This geofencing technology enables the vehicle to recognise the type of road being used and automatically adjusts the maximum permitted speed accordingly. This means the BMW i Vision AMBY can turn from a pedelec into an S-pedelec-type vehicle or even one similar to a motorcycle. Manual mode control is, of course, also provided in order to give the user maximum freedom when it comes to using the various types of route. However, intelligent technology ensures the relevant traffic and safety rules are still kept to at all times."

Nope. This should be nipped in the bud. Limiting an electric motorcycle to e-bike speed does not make it an e-bike. It just makes it an intimidating menace in the wrong place. But then that is pretty normal for BMW.