If there is one aspect of transport that seems to fit electrification more than any other, it’s scooters.
In cities around the world thousands of commuters travel every day on a scooter, often travelling short distances to get to work or to conduct their work. Globally, there is a massive scooter industry.
Electrification in the two-wheeled market has not been as big as you might expect. There are players such as Zero, BMW and a number of Chinese manufacturers but despite the obvious fit, the industry and consumers have been slower to take to electric bikes than one might have expected.
This does not mean the industry is not planning for a day when electric bikes and scooters will be the big thing though. In 2016, we were in Los Angeles when BMW Motorrad revealed its Vision Next 100 bike concept, a proper motorbike packed with technology, including the rather unnatural ability to remain upright by itself.
Now the company has shown its vision for the scooter market by revealing its Concept Link at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy recently.
The company is on a mission, with Stephan Schaller, CEO of BMW Motorrad, confirming that it is well on track to achieve its goal of selling 200,000 units per year by 2020. In 2017 alone it is launching 17 new products, but it is not done there.
"We don’t want to wait. Within the next six years we want lots of new product," he says.
One is the Concept Link, a full electric-drive scooter that Edgar Henirich, head of design at BMW Motorrad, describes as a "vision of future two-wheeled mobility in urban areas".
He says it combines digital needs with commuting needs, going beyond just being a means of transport to becoming a fully mobile communication device.
To that end it has minimal instrumentation, with essential information being supplied in the rider’s field of vision via a head-up display, but there is a secondary touchscreen with full connectivity. That screen can monitor everything from navigation to the rider’s calendar and BMW says the system will even be able to select suitable music for the route.
Connectivity of the future also means a connection between the bike, the rider and their gear. The concept was revealed along with a chap wearing a connected jacket. By swiping his hand down the arm of the jacket, he was able to open the storage compartment in the side of the scooter.
Storage is a big thing with the concept, because going electric means there is no need for a traditional combustion engine and this allows designers to package things very differently.
It "is not based on today’s concepts, but meets the basic functionality needs, technical architecture and the digital reality of today’s users", says Alexander Buckan, head of vehicle design at BMW Motorrad.
"The technical realities of electric drive — such as the flat energy packs in the underfloor and the compact drive on the rear wheel — allowed us to create a distinctive design which shapes a new segment. The resulting expressive power of the vehicle is new for BMW Motorrad and breaks with all conventional viewing patterns."
The design is definitely unconventional, particularly when it comes to that plastic seat, which you have to hope will be replaced by something you can actually sit on if the scooter makes it to production.
While many of the components are hidden, others are visible, such as the electric drive unit and orange cables that light up on one side between the battery pack and the motor.
The concept is all about design though, so BMW did not release any details about the motor, possible range or even how it plans to put something similar into production. However, with the Concept Link being its second major electric bike concept reveal in less than a year, it looks to us as though the company has a real plan.