BMW C1-E: enclosed electricity

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BMW is returning to the enclosed scooter concept, this time with an electric motor. Sold from 2000-2003, the original BMW C1 was a wonderful idea — a scooter that could protect its rider from impacts — executed poorly with odd engine choices, too high a price tag and a major misjudgment of European traffic laws. Equipped with seat belts, BMW hoped the C1 could legally be ridden in most markets without a helmet. Turns out it couldn’t and sales suffered as a result. Now, BMW has updated the styling, swapped in an emissions-free electric motor and added a whole raft of active safety technology. The BMW C1-E is currently just a concept, but could hint at BMW’s future scooter direction.
As a concept, the drivetrain isn’t the C1-E’s main focus. It’s
currently equipped with an electric motor from trouble Vectrix and
Lithium-Ion batteries. The former likely won’t be available much longer
while the latter are the best technology on the market, but are
currently too expensive for realistic production. Ignore all that,
should a vehicle based on this bike ever come to market, it could adapt
a more suitable motor/battery combo as they become available.

Much more interesting is the list of active safety technologies
combined on this bike. Tyre pressure control and stability control are
added to the BMW S1000RR’s ABS and traction control, while theoretical
future technologies could be sourced from the BMW ConnectedRide
program, which seeks to increase the level of communication between a
bike, its rider and the environment in which they operate. Combined
with the C1′s already impressive aluminum safety cage, side bumpers and
front crumple zone, that’d be a seriously safe scooter. We’re a bit sad
to see that the C1′s clever cargo/pillion area isn’t carried over to
the C1-E.

BMW has previously committed to bringing an electric two-wheeler to
market by 2015. Should that promise be met with a product like this
one, it’d offer an entirely unique proposition to urban commuters,
combining the green credentials and silent operation of an electric
scooter with most of the safety of small car. Our concern is that such
a vehicle would suffer from the same problems as its gasoline-driven
predecessor. In order to be successful, a scooter like this would need
to convert car drivers to its charms, but it could struggle to do so
with limited performance, a high price and inflexible traffic laws.
Let’s hope BMW has found better ways to address the C1′s shortcomings
because we’d really like to see something like this on the market.


  • DoubleOhTwo

    Seatbelt on a two-wheeled vehicle? Sign me OUT!

    Love the GS inspired beak, however…

  • Ben

    Something like this may have saved my friend some serious pain. While in Greece, he thought it’d be fun to rent a scooter. At some point, he locked the brakes and went down with nearly all the pressure on his elbow. Two days later, he arrived back in the US for surgery and he’s the bionic man, featuring over 20 pins and multiple plates. Doc described it as the worst elbow injury he’s seen outside of a direct gunshot.

  • generic1776

    I sorry to hear your friend suffered

    I don’t see any elbow protection on this thing… if you fall sideways and you’re belted in, you are guarenteed to hit the ground with the bike.

    Maybe the scoot he rented just had crappy brakes and your friend suffered lack sufficient safety gear.

    Nothing beats ATGATT (All-the-gear-all-the-time) but even then, people end up with pins and surgery in bad accidents.

  • JR

    not interested in being attached to a bike, isn’t the idea that you can ditch the bike when it goes down normally?

    I guess you need a seatbelt with a full windshield though, I wouldn’t want to smack into a windshield in a front end collision…

    An interesting problem to solve, I mean it would be nice to stay dry in the rain

  • Anders

    Clever cargo/pillion area? Eh. Excuse me, are we talking about the same bike here? Still remember the first time I saw a C1 with passenger on the streets of Oslo. Made a already weird looking bike even weirder. In my opninion BMW completly misjudged the C1. Instead of a chic, cool and practical city runabout, they made a K1 scooter with strange proportions and a genuinely ugly design. Image-wise it was closer to a Bond-bug than a Vespa.
    This looks like a slight improvement, even though the safety cage looks like something from out of a hospital.

  • Markkit

    Try falling sideways and not using your arms to absorb the impact..Now think of falling strapped to a 500 pound lump of metal, your arms are going to be sticking out trying to do anything that will lessen the impact. Humans have evolved over thousands of years to use their arms for more than showing off their bicepts. Like a tail your arms provide balance, go off balance and your arms are programed to move. Falling with a C1 you might save your head, but I doubt your arms.

    • Paul Motoflash

      “Falling with a C1 you might save your head, but I doubt your arms.”

      Maybe. But if you deny your instincts and keep your hands on the handlebars, your hands might just be saved. Look at the size of the side crash pads.

  • jconli1

    “I don’t see any elbow protection on this thing… if you fall sideways and you’re belted in, you are guarenteed to hit the ground with the bike.”

    There was plenty of elbow protection. You could lowside that thing with shorts, no shirt, and sandals on and be completely fine. That was largely the point of the whole exercise.

    It was a mild success in Europe, but couldn’t be brought over to the US partially due to price, ineffective engine size, and the fact that each state would require its own approval (as alluded to in the article).

  • Laurence Kuykendall

    I was at the C1 international product intro in Malaga Spain several years ago for dealers and the press. One of the U.S. dealers was hit from the side by a truck at an intersection at a fair speed (it happened right in front of me) and although he broke his arm was otherwise OK – unquestionably on a bike he would have been very seriously injured and in a small car, the results would have been the same (ie, broken left arm). All design and functionalilty issues apart, believe me the safety concept absolutely works. And it’s fast and very nimble up until 65-70 mph, despite the poor power-to-weight ratio on paper. But the state-to-state disparity on helmet laws made it impossible to bring to the U.S. And for sure, not being able to ride with a passenger right behind you didn’t help (there goes the youth market).

  • Stephen

    The things I love about my scooter- the simplicity, the light weight and the low cost of ownership – seem to be missing on this bike.

    • will

      That’s exactly what I thought.

  • Pan Dran

    I’ ve been driving a C1 for 6 years and have experienced a mild fall sideways on a slippery road. At the beginning I tried to help the bike stand upright by using my leg on the street. Then I realized it couldn help and pulled my legs an arms inside the bike. After the fall I only had i mild pain at my knee which was pressed between the bike and the street before I managed to pull it inside. By all this I mean it is somehow possible to exercise your mind not to take out arms and legs at a crash. When a crash happens at high speed, this bike must be a lot safer than other bikes, because you don’t have the time to react at all. I have been told by 2 other users that the C1 saved them from injuries at severe accidents. I absolutely believe that the head and spine are well protected at any crash. Much better than at any other conventional bike.

  • Believe me

    Just to clarify a point as a rider of a C1 200 in London for the past 9 years, i was involved in a side on impact which pushed me and my C1 onto its side in front of an oncoming car! When the impact occurs you instinctively push your feet forward into the footwells and keep hold of the handle bars (although BMW state you should let go and grip the seat belt in a crossed arm in front of your chest)…
    The C1 was written off, both of the others were not insured and fled the scene quickly, needless to say I had no other injury other than a stiff neck and a graze to my knee (happened as I got out of the C1), so I have to disagree with the negative comments from the skeptics here as this excellent designed motor scooter saved my life and I guarantee the 2 uninsured people would not have compensated my wife or kids!!!!!!! All I lost was my excess on my insurance policy, a small price to pay.

    So please BMW go into production as it’s just the narrow minded out there that do not appreciate this greatly engineered machine is the quickest and safest way to travel in our congested city center roads.

    I have been a biker for many years and yes I would prefer to ride a regular bike but the reality is the drivers who say they look but do not see as commonplace so BMW have come up with a solution….
    The C1

  • Married And Flirting

    I also think it is great that they provide an affair assurance, along with of course we can now join up for without charge.