BMW's Vision DC Roadster: Awesome show, not much go
June 26, 2019 Loz Blain
We can bang on all we like about the insane performance potential of
electric motorcycles, but the truth is, nobody's going to change the world
with bikes that don't look at least as cool as old-school combustion bikes.
That's not an easy bar to reach; motorcycle design (outside the world of
fully-faired sports and race bikes) has always been dictated by the shape of
the engine at the heart of the bike.
All sorts of angles and cues can be taken from a nice donk; in earlier days,
the cooling fins on air-cooled engines gave a nice starting point to work
from. A nicely angled V-engine has launched a thousand choppers. Crankcases,
clutch covers, pushrods, exhaust pipes - we've had more than a century to
work out how to make these things look amazing.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster: No pretense of a tank
Electric motors, on the other hand ... well, they're much smaller and
simpler. The bulk of an electric motorcycle is the battery box, into which
designers need to stuff the maximum possible number of lithium cells in
order to get the best range they can from the machine. Cells come in two
basic shapes right now: cylindrical 18650-style units like Tesla uses, and
flat pouch shapes like Zero uses. And the easiest and most efficient way to
store large numbers of both these shapes is in a big, fugly, heavy ol'
That's a pretty hideous shape to try to hide in the sensuous design of a
motorcycle, particularly when it's the biggest part of the whole bike, and
it replaces something that designers have spent 120 years making an achingly
So this is the challenge BMW is recognizing and taking on with the Vision DC
Roadster. That, and finding some way to make the designs resonate with the
brand's history. And it's chosen to do so by recalling the most famous BMW
engine of them all: the boxer.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster: Cooling elements make a visual impression
To get there, the team has wrapped the battery box in a sandwich-layered
frame of longitudinal aluminum cooling fins, and poked two special extra
cooling fans out on the sides to mimic the famous boxer cylinder heads that
have poked out the sides of so many Beemers in the past. On the Vision DC
Roadster, these heads tilt outwards when you switch the bike on – for no
other purpose than to let you know the bike's ready to rock.
A compact electric motor wraps directly around the exposed rear drive shaft
beneath the battery area, which goes out to the back wheel on a lovely
looking single-sided swingarm. The "tank" and subframe form one long piece
that lays over the top, with a beautiful open center that lets you look down
on the cooling fins while placing the adjustment dials for the nicely hidden
rear shock right where you could adjust them if you had prehensile privates.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster: Top down view
The front suspension is a luridly sexy carbon take on the Duolever forks
we've seen on so many BMWs, with a single adjustable shock unit tucked away
behind a vicious-looking U-shaped slash of a headlight that follows the
"tank" line downward in an aggressive stance. There are fluorescent stripes
on the sides of the specially-designed Metzeler 014 tires, and a nicely
detailed, bevelled hub on the left side of the rear wheel, presumably
echoing the design within that translates the torque 90 degrees from the
shaft to the wheel.
It looks awesome. It really does. This is one of the better looking electric
motorcycles we've ever seen – it's shamelessly futuristic and daring, with a
design language that speaks to a fast, aggressive road riding experience.
The dash, the handlebars, that scandalously open tank joined to the body
with carbon structural rods ... Bravo! It even gets its own fancy riding
suit, complete with an "asymmetrical rucksack" fixed to the jacket with
magnets, of all things.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster: Electric motor wraps around a shaft sending drive
to the rear wheel
But there are no power or torque figures. There are likewise no figures on
the battery size, or the vehicle's range. And some of the build pictures BMW
has provided might give us an insight into why:
BMW's Vision DC Roadster: Take a look into that gaping, hollow space at the
Take a look into that gaping, hollow space at the battery pack within: a
small, rectangular box. It's tiny. We'd be surprised if the team managed to
get even a 10 kWh capacity in there. In designing an electric motorcycle
that doesn't have a whopping big battery box in the middle of it, from what
we can see BMW has simply ignored the fact that e-motos need every bit of
lithium they can get if they wish to be practical using today's battery
So it seems the Vision DC Roadster isn't really an attempt to package a huge
battery box in an attractive bike, it's an attempt to make a hot electric
motorcycle without bothering to stick a usefully large battery in there at
all. Granted, this is a concept, but the design looks great because BMW
seems to be pretending the biggest problem in e-moto design simply doesn't
Electric performance with looks that recall BMW's heritage
And true, maybe someday it won't, when the prophecies come true and somebody
works out how to safely stuff 10 times more energy into a lithium battery
than we can currently achieve, massively boosting energy density while
staying stable in a real-world range of temperatures, offering high charge
and discharge rates and generally revolutionizing the electric car,
motorcycle and aircraft industries, while giving us mobile phone batteries
that last for weeks like the Nokias of old used to.
But when that day comes around, everyone else will be able to make cool
looking bikes with tiny battery packs too.
... BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster, a highly emotional naked bike with
electric drive ...
Blacksmith electric motorcycle offers 150 mile range and swappable batteries
Jun. 27th 2019 ... now on their third generation ... patent-pending traffic
indicators to alert riders to surrounding ...
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