With the serial production of the BMW C evolution imminent, 'field trials' have been taking place in the Italian city of Rome. This is the final stage in the innovative e-scooter's journey from early concept to finished product, which is expected to go on sale to the public in May 2014. What better place for field trials than an overcrowded city where driving is hazardous and parking is near impossible...
The Italian capital is so packed full of traffic, with everyone seemingly driving around looking for an elusive parking spot, which is almost impossible to find. Furthermore, the city centre is full of narrow twisty streets that were never built for traffic of the four-wheeled variety. But on a powered two-wheeler, it's a different story. Scooters are king – and for many, are the only way of getting around the city reliably and quickly.
A fleet of BMW C evolution all-electric scooters are ready and waiting at the capital's premier BMW Motorrad Roma dealership for the next round of participants to take part in final field trials before serial production begins. The trials started towards the end of November and involve a significant number of riders, all selected from within the BMW Group. During the three-week trials, all riders play their part in the latest evaluation of this technically-advanced e-scooter in the final stages of its development.
As Andreas Tomec, Project Manager Vehicle Validation, explains, it's the balance of independent feedback from a variety of riders that is important: “Every year I send out a communication within the BMW Group, asking for volunteers to be considered for events like these. People are able to register their interest as we do a number of these field trials every year and then if they are selected, they have the opportunity to participate.”
So, the trials could involve people from the production side, from after-sales, from the factory or just about any part of the BMW Group. Participants need to have held a motorcycle licence for more than three years and be competent at riding large-capacity bikes. They will be expected to ride over 6,000 kilometres a year, and to have completed safety or racetrack training to an advanced level. In short, they need to be competent, experienced riders capable of exploring and evaluating a powered-two wheeler in detail.
Despite already having covered many thousands of test kilometres during its development, this final 'real world' trial for the C evolution is unique in that it includes people with no direct involvement in the project, and aims to seek their impartial opinions on a number of factors. Following each riding session – of which there are two per day over approximately five days – there are detailed questionnaires filled in by participants, who are asked to rate the C evolution in many different areas.
Just about every conceivable area of the e-scooter is covered in field trials such as this one. In the case of the BMW C evolution, participants will be asked to comment in detail about a variety of subjects, from the design, feel and functionality of various components, to the seating comfort, ergonomics, simplicity and operational efficiency of all controls and switchgear. No stone is left unturned and just about everything is rated, from the performance, acceleration and range, right down to the under-seat storage capacity, side-stand action, and even the effectiveness of the rear view mirrors. If certain patterns are recognised from the detailed feedback, then it is clear that some further modifications may be necessary.
With around three weeks of detailed evaluation taking place in Rome, there is a new group of riders that arrives approximately every five days, by the end of which time they will have racked up some serious kilometres aboard the e-scooter. They will also experience a variety of routes, as the prestigious BMW Motorrad dealership where the fleet is based, is situated right on the city limits. This allows participants to head into the centre of the capital to take on the legendary Rome traffic. There are also some peripheral routes to choose from, heading away from the urban jungle and allowing riders to experience the top-speed and longer-distance capability of the C evolution, on a mix of roads from autoroutes to mountain twisties.
One pattern that has emerged so far from the field tests is just how much fun the BMW C evolution is to ride – and that's coming from dedicated motorcyclists too. One rider returning from a morning's testing commented that: “It rides fabulously well. You can't really compare it to a motorcycle because it's so much easier to get through the traffic. The acceleration is unbelievable. No other scooter was able to come close to matching the power of the C evolution. All the Italian riders that dared to race away from the traffic lights – no one came close!”
Another satisfied 'prospective customer' stated that: “I cannot imagine anything better. In downtown Rome and outside of the city up in the mountains, the handling was excellent. The acceleration, stability and aerodynamics are all just amazing. There's nothing better currently available on the market.”
Summing up a common theme of surprise and enjoyment with the C evolution, another rider concluded that: “This e-scooter represents the slogan of BMW – the ultimate riding machine. Whoever rides this cannot fail to be impressed by the dynamic acceleration, whether inside or outside of the city. There is a pure enjoyment to riding it. I currently ride an 800cc motorcycle and if you're asking about performance and acceleration, it doesn't come close to the C evolution.”
Strong endorsements indeed, but then the C evolution has that capacity to impress. With just a few months to go until it appears in dealer showrooms, it looks as if this fast-charging, all-electric scooter won't stay plugged in for long. Its place is on the streets, beating the traffic and leading the way in zero-emissions urban mobility.