It is 9am on a weekday and the people of Farnbrough are heading home after the school run or busily completing their morning commute to work. A gaggle of youths on eScooters are clearly late for the school bell - or are deliberately playing truant - as they are speeding along a cycle lane with reckless abandon.
I silently pull up to the traffic lights aboard BMW’s sleek CE 04 electric scooter as the crew simultaneously slams on its brakes and whips outs their smartphones to get a few snaps. I check to make sure I haven’t forgotten to put on my trousers that morning, and then realise it is the scooter they are photographing.
It’s no surprise, seeing as BMW barely changed anything from the concept bike that preceded this production model, with the same ultra-futuristic styling, the awesome solid discs for wheels and a whopping 10.25-inch colour screen replacing old-school analogue clocks.
But why go to all that effort? Well, it’s designed to replace your filthy combustion engined scooter, with a 31 kW (42 hp) electric motor powering the rear wheel, while a 60.6 Ah (8.9 kWh) battery pack providing a range of some 130 kilometres, which is around 80 miles in old money.
It’s essentially the electric equivalent of a 400cc "maxi-scooter", of which there are many, including the C 400 X from BMW, which costs £6,560/$6,795.
Worth mentioning, seeing as this electrified CE 04 costs a cool £11,700/$11,795. It turns out it is not cheap to both look like an extra from a sci-fi movie and save the planet from harmful tailpipe emissions.
An electric drag racer
For riders will a full bike licence (you will legally require that to ride one in the UK, although it will vary from market to market) there’s lots to love about BMW’s CE 04, which is a huge leap forward from the German brand’s original C-Evolution scooter.
Weight is down to 231kg, which isn’t bad but still heavier than petrol rivals. What’s more, the heavy battery packs and electric gubbins are placed as low down in the chassis as possible, while the long corridor of cells run the length of the bike and helps give the machine a predictable and stable ride. This is aided by ABS braking and traction control systems.
Despite looking like an electric drag racer from the future, the CE 04 is actually rather narrow and the perfect proportions for threading through busy morning traffic. This is helped further by the punchy performance on tap.
Anyone with even the mildest experience of an EV will be able to tell you acceleration is brisk, and the story is no different here. Pulling away from the traffic in Dynamic mode is grin-inducing stuff, with the CE 04 blasting away from pretty much anything else on the road. Its instant torque delivery leaves fellow motorists dumbfounded.
But this isn’t some 0-30mph, traffic light olympics show pony, as BMW’s CE 04 has a top speed of around 75mph, meaning you can commute greater distances (around 80 miles on a single charge) and not feel like a sitting duck on the motorway network.
Leading the charge
Charging is taken care of by a domestic socket, where a full charge takes just over four hours. That’s nothing if you are plugging in over night, but rather painful if you are thinking of covering any serious distance in one hit.
That’s not really what the CE 04 is for, but there is an option to charge at speed up up to 6.9 kW, which brings a full charge down to 1 hour 40 minutes. If you are going from 20 per cent to 80 per cent, that time is reduced to 40 minutes. It’s still not great for road trips, but better than the household plug option.
Elsewhere, the CE 04 is a tech tour de force, with a stunning 10.25-inch TFT colour screen that packs integrated map navigation and connectivity for your smartphone. There’s a little ventilated drawer for your device, complete with USB-C charging port, while the rider can connect a smartphone and control music and hands-free calls from the central console, should you own a helmet with a compatible Bluetooth headphone unit.
Interaction with the UI is via a large jog-wheel on the bars that clicks inwards and outwards to help navigate menus with ease. It’s all very intuitive and it didn’t take long for me to locate the heated grips and excellent heated seat, which is warm enough to flambé butt cheeks.
A lack of engine and exhaust system means BMW engineers were also able to free up some storage space, with enough room for a lid under the seat and a further side locker that can house charging cables, your shopping or a pillion passenger’s helmet.
Cyber-punk looks, scintillating performance and a plethora of tech treats, what’s not to like? Well, it costs almost double most petrol rivals and the inability to pull into a fuelling station and brim a tank in mere seconds will both prove sizeable barriers to entry.
But BMW is pushing on with its electric scooter technology and it is poised to launch the smaller, but equally funky CE 02 next year, which will be offered in a learner-friendly, lower-powered model for those wanting to ride on CBT. A true rival to something like the Maeving RM1.
Thankfully, the CE 02 looks set to be a good chunk of change cheaper than its big brother, too.