By Alan Brandon
When BMW released their original C1 scooter in 2000 nobody had seen anything like it on the road. And not many C1s were seen on the road after it was released either. In the three years that BMW produced the scooter-with-a-roll-cage, only about 12000 were made. The riding public didn’t quite know what to make of the C1 and BMW never sold as many as it had hoped. Now BMW has brought the urban runabout back as the C1-E concept vehicle with an electric drivetrain. Could it be the C1’s time has come?
The C1 may have been ahead of its time when it first appeared, but the times and fashion may now work in its favor. The C1-E looks right at home on the street with other modern scooters such as the Piaggio MP3, Piaggio USB concept, and Peugeot Hymotion hybrid. The C1-E also crosses over into the ultramobile four-wheeler category with vehicles such as the Nissan Land Glider, VW L1, and Renault ZE.
Where BMW’s old internal-combustion models offered a 125 cc, 15 bhp four stroke engine (later a 176cc capacity with 18 bhp), the C1-E features an electric motor and components from the Vectrix scooter company, powered by a lithium-ion battery. Although Vectrix filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, new investors may resurrect the brand. No matter the outcome, BMW hopes the C1-E will demonstrate the viability of an electric powertrain in a safe, urban commuter vehicle.
Like the original C1, the BMW C1-E is designed with an emphasis on rider protection with its front-to-back roll bar and energy-absorbing impact material in the nose. Unlike the C1 however, the C1-E also features a seat-belt for the rider. According to BMW, the scooter is the only motorized single-track vehicle that is exempt from mandatory helmet wearing in almost all European countries
The C1-E design also provides for rider comfort and convenience. The roll cage has mounting points for both a windscreen and a roof to provide wind and weather protection. In addition, there is luggage space behind the rider.
BMW Motorrad developed the C1-E concept as part of the European safety project eSUM, which stands for European Safer Urban Motorcycling. eSUM is a cooperative project between major urban European motorcycling centers and motorcycle manufacturers. The goal of the project is to develop and demonstrate ways to take advantage of the benefits of two-wheeled transportation in easing traffic flow in urban locations, while also increasing the safety of motorcycles and scooters in the city. Participating cities include Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and London; and the manufacturers are BMW and Piaggio.
The C1-E will remain a concept for now. BMW says that series production is currently not planned but that findings from the project will find their way into other future developments in the field of single-track vehicles.
For more information about eSUM visit www.esum.eu.