BMW Revives C1 As Electric Motorcycle

BMW electric motorcycle C1-E photo

Image: BMW Press Release

No one will disagree that the BMW C1 motorcycle was ahead of its time when it was introduced ten years ago. Many bemoaned the fact that BMW overestimated bikers' desires to be rid of helmets or their willingness to trade off the thrill of risk in favor of being four-point belted into a covered motorcycle -- or to acquire a bike that costs as much as a car. And auto drivers did not beat down BMW's doors to buy into their vision for beating the hectic city streets. Only 30,000 units of the one-man car were sold; it never made inroads in the U.S. market.

But wait! The C1 is back, this time as an electric vehicle. "This is what a safe, environment-friendly and highly practical single track vehicle for city traffic could look like in the future," the BMW press release reads. Does the electric C1-E scooter on the drawing boards mean that BMW is ready to take another run at it? BMW developed the electric C1-E prototype for eSUM, a European initiative involving collaboration between local authorities in Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and London with industry partners BMW and Piaggio to develop Safer Urban Motorcycling. The objective of eSUM is to drop EU traffic fatalities from 50,000 in 2000 to 25,000 in 2010. (37,500 fatalities in 2006 were a bit above the straight-line target of 34,000).

Aficionados will be disappointed, though: BMW claims the scooter built for the study will ride alone -- no plans for series production exist. In fact, the project reads a bit like sour grapes, with 'we made a safer bike but y'all rejected us' as subtext. In this context, BMW has our full sympathies. Many a green product manufacturer suffers the same problem. You can build a better mousetrap, but you cannot make the consuming public take the cheese.

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