BMW produced 200 small folding electric bikes in 2012 as part of a public relations campaign about their new electric concept car, the i3. You could fit two of the folding i-Pedelecs in the back of the i3, with the idea that you could drive the i3 from your home to a car-park, and then ride the i-Pedelecs the final few miles to work, to the train station, or to a weekend picnic.
The i-Pedelec was well-designed, but it has never gone into mass-production. It had achieved its goal of green advertising, and served as an example of BMW’s design skill.
Last year, in 2013, they decided to brand a full-sized E-bike, but…in my opinion they chose a very generic looking frame, even though they did make the wise choice to use the well-designed Bosch mid-drive (which makes the most of the EUs 250W street E-bike power limit). The BMW 2013 “Cruise” E-bike was certainly made with quality components, but it was not distinctive in any way.
I’d like to take a minute and talk a little about BMW’s incredible history. Their name is Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), and their blue-and white symbol holds a clue to their origin. The famous BMW “Roundel” is is a graphic of an airplane propeller spinning. In 1917 they had been making aircraft engines, but in the post-war economy, they began making motorcycle engines to survive the European economic depression.
The flat air-cooled twin shown below is from 1980, but it is an excellent example of the classic engine that made BMW world famous. This engine family started in 1923 and it was the one product that most helped them survive the economic ups and downs of the next few decades until the next big product diversification…
Now, I’d like to show you the next two milestones in their history: In 1955, BMW licensed the rights to manufacture the Brazilian “Isetta” microcar, which uses a motorcycle engine in the rear. Although it wasn’t impressive, the BMW Isetta was their first commitment to becoming a car manufacturer. Then, in 1962…The struggling company introduced a sport-coupe model that would evolve into the car that would catapult them into profitability, and also into the sport-luxury market that has become the core of their modern identity…the 2002 from 1968 (two thousand cc engine displacement, two doors).
And now…to their new Ebike!
Dozens of bicycle manufacturers have contracted with Bosch to supply a mid drive motor to add an electric bicycle to their line-up. I think the full-sized E-bike that BMW produced last year was an experiment. However, I believe that their new E-bike this year is evidence that they are serious about keeping an E-bike as part of their catalog.
Their history has shown that they are a company of engineers that carefully considers their next move, and they then commit themselves to establishing themselves in that new market. Our article on car companies that branded an E-bike has shown that auto company branded E-bikes have come and gone. The 2013 BMW Cruise E-bike was well-designed and performs fantastic (in part to the excellent high-quality Bosch drive), however…the big difference this year is BMWs effort and expense that went into improving its style.
Here is a reason I believe BMW is serious about continuing to design and produce electric bikes…they have invested a serious amount of time, money, and effort into producing a very well-designed electric scooter. The easy method to making a scooter is to use a hub-motor, but BMW used a non-hub, which allows the motor to spin much faster than the wheel. It also simplifies their choice to liquid-cool the motor, so this design can absorb large temporary heat spikes. This design really cares about performance.
These things convince me that BMW is not just using a few E-bikes for their advertising, they are quite serious about this.
Written by Ron/Spinningmagnets, March 2014