2022 BMW CE 04 review: Can this electric scooter hack it in daily life?

BMW’s electric scooter isn’t cheap, but the CE 04 is a futuristic flag bearer that will help convert bikers to the zero emissions cause, even in Singapore.
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SINGAPORE - Scooters have always been prime candidates for electrification, and BMW’s first electric motorcycle/scooter for Singapore, the CE 04, proves that premise right with an excess of technological style.

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BMW is a pacemaker for EVs here, there’s little doubt of that. The German brand was the first to offer an EV for public sale here with the awesomely futuristic i3 city car back in 2014, and while the CE 04 isn’t Singapore’s first electric motorcycle, it’s the first electric scooter we’ve tested here that can actually, feasibly, turn your two-wheeled commute zero emissions.

In fact, the CE 04 is actually BMW Motorrad’s second electric scooter, following the C Evolution from 2014. Not that you could tell, because that looked like an ICE (internal combustion engine) bike with fancier plastics, but the CE 04 ditches convention for an entirely new and funky style of presentation. 

Design : Flippin’ stark

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In packaging, the CE 04 adopts classic EV tactics: A battery in the lowest part of the vehicle. Space is always tighter on bikes, so the motor and power electronics are close to the belt-driven rear wheel. To accommodate those bits, the bike has a long wheelbase, a single-sided swingarm, and a side-mounted shock.

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The seat, unlike traditional maxi-scoots, is fixed, and that helps accentuate the whole low-slung look and emphasis on long, unbroken lines. But the CE-04 doesn’t just look different for the sake of it, it’s also shaped by aerodynamics.

The plastic front fender covers most of the brakes, and there are wings on each side of the front too.  We’ve made cyberpunk comparisons before, but given its zero emissions nature, the tech onboard, it’s more appropriate than ever and would look entirely at home on the streets of Night City.

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The seating position’s spacious, and low to the ground. The bike is heavy, but it doesn’t feel more massive than a normal maxi scoot (230kg wet, versus 203kg for a T-Max).

In any case, there’s the super convenient reverse gear. The last bike we tested with an electric motor reverse gear was the polar opposite, but also a BMW: the hulking tourer with a screaming inline six engine, the K 1600.

This bike is the complete, utter, total, mega opposite of the CE 04 – and it’s delightful.
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Riding experience : Torquey mother

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Starting the bike is easy – hit the ‘on’ button like any keyless bike, then hold the brake and hit the ‘starter’ button. The EV ‘start’ is anticlimactic of course, in that there isn’t the expected response, no cough of the starter, no vibrations, nothing.

The bike display shifts to ‘Ready’ to indicate it’s ready to roll. Like almost all EVs, it’s the low-speed work that really throws the contrast into starkness: If you’re in traffic, everything around you seems extra noisy, and you can’t hear any aural feedback from the motor unless it’s relatively quiet – then a low hum is audible.

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Given the engineering choices, it’s perhaps no surprise the bike rides just like an electric car drives. The instant electric torque is good for a chuckle-filled launch or two, but more useful for navigating traffic. Below 70km/h it’s punchy and almost unbeatable in a drag race, but runs out of puff early and tops out at a limited 130km/h.

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At town speeds, it’s biddable and easy to steer, the low-slung weight gives it surprising agility and it handles quite well once you’re used to the slightly slow steering (weight, again).

But you’d never call this a super agile darty bike, like the Energica, the front end feeling is a bit vague, and you just have to trust it in the dry, then you’ll find some smiles in corners. In the wet, it becomes more remote, and you ride conservatively (not that you shouldn’t when it’s raining.

Another EV point – the faster you go, the more the drain. Averaging about 80km/h on the highway delivers excellent energy consumption (low 5.0kWh/100km), but it bumps up to mid-5.0 if you hang at 90km/h or higher.

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The tuning of the bike also seems to force a low cruising speed – you need to turn the twist grip  quite a bit to sit at 90km/h cruising. In Rain mode it’s even more obvious, and can get tiring because you need to rotate the twist grip so much.

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The bike is speed limited to 130km/h for a good reason: High speed is where EVs suffer most in efficiency. But to its credit, it’s rock-solid and stable in high-speed handling, and the brakes are more than up to the task. Our only real dynamic complaint, wrist twisting aside, is the jiggly ride. But plenty of regular bikes do that too.

Practicality : Scale ‘lectric

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More importantly, can it hack it in daily life just like a petrol maxi scoot? In energy management terms, yes, but with caveats. With efficient riding of 5-ish kWh/100km, you’ll get 150km from a single charge, so the average 50km-a-day-Singaporean will need to charge days to be safe.

Luckily, it takes less than two hours, and doesn’t require a super-high AC wattage (6.9kW). For high mileage riders – like delivery riders with an eye on quiet, cheaper per-km costs – this probably won’t work.

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In practicality terms, yes. If you use bikes like the Honda X-ADV 750 or Yamaha T-Max as benchmarks, that is. There’s space for a full-face helmet in the compartment beneath the seat – it’s at least as big as the compartment on a Honda NC 750X. BMW also sells an optional top box, so there’s a degree of practicality with the CE 04. Plus, parking is very easy thanks to reverse gear. 

The first electric motorcycle we tested in Singapore was the Italian Energica Esseesse.
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If you’re waiting for the big but, it’s the price. Unlike cars, which have VES and the Early EV Adoption Rebate, electric bikes don’t get jack in terms of handouts or benefits. Why?

Don’t ask me, write to your MP if you want to see change. But in any case, the take home charge point is that at S$53,800 without a COE, you could take home any number of much more powerful, long-ranging, and dynamically capable petrol machines.

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But, like it was with the BMW i3, that’s obviously not the draw if you want to buy a CE 04 at this point (and some already have). You’d get the CE 04 if you want a super-cool bike that looks the way it is – the way of the future – but you can realise it today.

And like the i3, which still has practicality and usable range even today, you won’t need to worry about future-proofing if you keep your range expectations in check. It’s the sort of low-key halo bike electric motorcycling needs to help spread the gospel of electric motorcycles.

Drivetrain type Electric 
Power 42hp at 4900rpm
Torque 62Nm at 1500rpm
Battery type / capacity Lithium ion / 8.9kWh
Range  130km (WMTC)
Charge Type / Time 6.9kW AC / 1 hour 40 minutes
Fast Charge Type / Time N/A
Weight  231kg otr
Seat Height  780mm
Agent Performance Motors Limited 
Price  $53,800 machine price 
Availability Now
Verdict  Futuristic looks suit a new age type of scootering/motorcycling, but riding the future early doesn’t come cheap

This article was first published in CarBuyer.