Over the past few years, more and more automakers have entered into the electric vehicle segment, offering either electric or plug-in hybrid variants of existing models or brand-new models designed from the start to be electric-only. Slowly and surely, those same automakers are learning the advantages of plug-in powertrains over gasoline and diesel-power: instant torque, silent operation, and great economy.
But while the world of electric motorcycles is alive and kicking thanks to niche-market manufacturers like Zero Motorcycles, mainstream brands have been cautious to embrace all-electric technology. So far, the best we’ve seen comes in the form of BMW’s C-Evolution — a step-through, highway-capable maxiscooter designed for urban travel — and Harley Davidson’s LiveWire concept.
And while the C-Evolution is an extremely competent ride capable of hitting 70 mph and offering a range of 60 miles per charge, its MaxiScooter form factor won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The LiveWire isn’t due to enter production any time soon, and the only other electric motorcycles from established brands we’ve seen are limited-performance, limited-range mopeds for city use. The only other mainstream electric motorcycle we can think of is the Victory TT Electric Motorcycle (nee Brammo Empulse), which was acquired rather than developed in-house.
Today, BMW made what could be the first step to change that by teasing an all-electric experimental Supersport motorcycle based on the S 1000 RR, its adrenaline-fuelled roadster that makes you long for an open stretch of highway to open the throttle up on.
Making reference to its work with the BMW i3 and i8 electric cars and the revolutionary carbon-fibre reinforced chassis and lightweight aluminum chassis which gives both vehicles impressive energy efficiency, BMW’s Motorrad division says the new vehicle — called the Concept eRR — “embodies an idea of an electric powered supersport motorcycle made by BMW Motorrad.”
Built in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich, the eRR wears the usual RR style fairing — albeit slightly tweaked — with the rider sitting in the usual low-down race position you’d expect from a BMW Supersport. Look on one side, and you’ll see a heavy-duty sprocket transferring power from the electric motor to the rear wheels via the same chain setup found on the S1000RR. Meanwhile, the front half of the frame seems to hide the battery pack, with the low, straight-edged frame hinting a low-down placement for low centre of gravity.
Sadly, BMW isn’t ready to reveal the technical specifications of the e-RR to us right now, and promises those will come in due course. Given the gasoline S1000RR produce somewhere around 146 kilowatts at 13,500 rpm and a claimed 83 pound-feet of torque, we’re hoping the all-electric version can output similar figures — or at least match the 3.06-second 0-62 mph time of its fossil-fueled sibling thanks to the wonders of high-torque electric motors.
We’ve spent the best part of half an hour scouring the photographs for other key snippets of information but for now we’re drawing a blank. The only other thing we’ve noticed? While the eRR has the usual foot-operated rear brake you’d find on any regular motorcycle, there’s no visible gear lever, suggesting this all-electric concept uses a single-speed transmission.
That’s hardly unusual: most electric cars and most electric motorcycles don’t use gearboxes because electric motors can provide instant torque from 0 RPM and almost continuous power delivery up to maximum RPM. But on electric motorcycles where fixed-gear transmissions are used, there’s also no need for the left-hand clutch lever you’d find on a traditional geared motorcycle.
In some cases — and to aid the learning curve for those who aren’t used to riding a motorcycle — some manufacturers move the foot-operated rear brake to the left handlebar.
This concept clearly has its foot brake, making us wonder just what that left handlebar lever is for.
We’ll likely find out in the fullness of time, but for now, we’re sure of one thing: if BMW can produce the eRR as an electric motorcycle with the same kind of performance as the gasoline S1000RR and a real-world range of at least 100 miles per charge, it will change the world of motorcycles forever.
But that, as we’re sure you’ll appreciate, is a big “if”. BMW hasn’t even confirmed it wants to produce an electric supersport motorcycle yet. Given that we prefer our BMW motorcycles with GS suffixes rather than RR suffixes however, we’d be just as happy if BMW decided to build an all-electric eGS instead.
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