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BMW CE 04 Review | We ride NZ's first electric BMW motorcycle

Electric motorcycles are a controversial topic, with many writing them off due to their lack of range for casual pleasure riding. Knowing this, BMW has decided to focus on where EV bikes make a bit of sense - the daily commute - with their first electric offering the CE 04 maxi-scooter.

The CE 04 joined the local BMW Motorrad lineup late last year and is the first fully electric offering from the motorcycle arm of the BMW brand in New Zealand. However, despite BMW blazing a new trail with the CE 04 it is still coming up against its challenges in trying to convince Kiwi motorcyclists to give up their internal combustion engines for the daily commute.

The first, and possibly biggest challenge is one we are familiar with when it comes to fully electric motorcycles, and that's the price tag. BMW’s CE 04 is priced at a hefty $28,490 plus on-road costs and is currently the only road-going electric offering on sale from any major European manufacturer in New Zealand. That will change, however, with its less sophisticated sibling – the CE 02 – also in the pipeline to join it in local dealerships.

In fact, with Harley-Davidson spinning off the LiveWire into its own brand and ceasing local distribution, the CE 04 is currently the only name in the game in full-size electric motorcycling to have wide distribution in New Zealand.

The CE 04 is aimed at providing an electric alternative to the brand’s C 400 scooter range, with the CE 04 motivated by an electric motor pinched from the brand's cars (think the Mini E and BMW 225xe Active Tourer) while the 8.9 kWh lithium-ion battery comes courtesy of the BMW iX. It's all mounted on a skateboard-like chassis which helps keep the weight low down and the bike surprisingly manageable between your legs.

As a result, the CE 04 boasts a rather long wheelbase for its class at 1675mm with the rear wheel hanging out well behind the rider. You’d think that this would dynamically cripple the CE 04, but surprisingly this wasn’t the case and it handled well during my test within inner city Auckland.

Unlike other electric motorcycles I’ve tested, BMW has delivered an exceptional charging experience with the CE 04. Not only can you plug it in at home via the supplied wall charger unit, but it also comes with an adapter to make use of standard EV fast chargers. Plugging in is simple, just pop open the charger port door on the right-hand side of the dash and away you go. It's so refreshing that there is no fiddling with under-seat mechanisms here that require you to leave the seat up while charging.

Depending on which charger you use, charge time varies from the standard 4 hours and 20 minutes to as little as 1 hour and 40 minutes from completely flat.

Max power is 31kW while maximum range is a claimed 130km, though as with all EVs that maximum range does come down to riding conditions and how aggressive you are with the throttle. The battery regen is very good, however, and it wasn't until we started cruising Auckland’s motorways that we saw the estimated range start to drop significantly on the bike’s simply massive 10.25-inch TFT dash.

Despite the multitude of tech behind the scenes, BMW has kept the dash a simple affair, with the crystal clear readout giving you essential info at a glance, or if you want to get nerdy you can delve deeper into the system.

With a weight of 231kg, you need decent stopping power and the CE 04 provides this in spades. Not only do you have a set of J. Juan calipers (some of my current favourites in motorcycle braking) which are clamping down on twin 265mm discs at the front, but the battery regen on deceleration is enough to haul the bike up by itself in most traffic conditions.

That weight isn’t a problem dynamically either, with the skateboard design of the bike placing the heavy battery at the lowest point of the chassis, the CE 04 is far less intimidating than its initial size implies.

The real magic, however, is when you twist the throttle and go.

Not only is it a breeze to operate, but its sheer acceleration leaves its competition utterly in the dust and 0-50kph is dealt with in just 2.6 seconds. It’s one of those bikes that you really have to hold on tight if you enjoy partaking in the traffic light drags.

Motorway commuting is also well within the realm of the CE 04 with the bike topping out at 120kph. Here, however, the CE 04 feels more like the 400cc class machine it is designed as an alternative to with a more gentle acceleration up to the legal limit than its brisk inner city alter ego.

Despite the overwhelming positives of its electric powertrain, the CE04 isn’t without its drawbacks.

Unlike other bikes in the class, wind protection for the rider’s upper body is lacking on the CE 04, and disappointingly there currently is no accessory option for a larger windscreen.

The other issue comes down to its high price point. The New Zealand market is already tough going for sellers of maxi scooters due to a variety of factors, but when you're essentially selling a commuter bike for $28,000 there are plenty of other options on the table in that price bracket, including imported second-hand hybrid cars.

BMW has a serious challenge on its hands if it wants to sell the CE 04 by the container load, but with the more affordable CE 02 reportedly also destined for our shores, maybe that will be the bike to finally break the premium EV motorcycle deadlock and become a true sales success.

2023 BMW CE 04

PRICE: $28,000 plus ORC

ENGINE: Liquid-cooled permanent magnet EMP 156 Electric Motor

POWER: 31kW Peak Power / 62Nm torque

PROS: QUICK, incredibly simple to use, easily charged on the go or at home

CONS: Limited range compared to ICE competition, lacks upper body protection from the elements, high price point.


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