Electric vs petrol drag race – can the BMW eRoadster beat an S1000R?

We've had an exclusive ride on BMW's electric concept bike

40w ago

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Adam Child is a Yorkshire-born, 42-year-old, 5'7 tall motorcycle journalist. Known in the industry as 'Chad', he's a multiple UK record holder, and has been professionally bike testing for 20 years, and in that time attended more than 350 bike launches, covering over a million road test miles. He's an international road racer, with race wins at Oliver's Mount, podiums in New Zealand and two top ten Isle of Man TT finishes. Chad is just as happy elbow-down on a race track as he is kicking up mud off road, or restoring classic bikes.

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I’ve been exclusively invited to not only test ride BMW’s highly prized ‘one-off’ eRoadster electric concept prototype, but I’ve also been asked if I’d like to drag race against a BMW S1000R ridden by one of their very experienced development staff. Let’s get it on!

Let’s race

As we line up for the start, I can hear the S1000R in the next lane, revving impatiently for the flag drop. I’ve no idea what to expect, this is a first for me racing electric v petrol. Will I be able to keep with the 162bhp naked superbike, or will it be an embarrassing loss?

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As the flag drops I make the perfect launch, no wheelspin or wheelies, and we’re away. I can hear screaming revs in the next lane, but he’s not in front or even in my peripheral vision. The eRoadster’s acceleration is quick, fierce enough to push me back in the single race seat. I can feel the rear single shock squat and the S1000R forks extend, but there’s no traction control intervention, just one effortless tsunami wave of uninterrupted torque. This is quick. Now we’re away, throttle back to the full stop, 100 per cent wide open, tucked in and weight forward. We’ve touched 100kph in what feels like two seconds, and I have a sneaky peak to my left but surprisingly the S1000R is still nowhere to be seen. I sense victory.

Done 'im!

Done 'im!

The speedo climbs – 120-130-140-150kph – and the torque isn’t tailing off, while the eRoadster is still pulling hard, with a lot of wind pressure on my upper body. We are rapidly running out of runway and I know from previous experience that stopping a 290kg electric bike and rider with no engine braking or gears, can be a formidable task. As soon as I pop up from behind the small headlight cowl and apply the Brembo radial stoppers, the ‘petrol’ S1000R appears and does the same. Thankfully the superbike-spec brakes are more than up for the challenge and bring the speed down to walking pace with ease. The slightly odd sound of pads gripping discs is a little disconcerting, because this would normally be hidden by engine noise.

It may look like an S1000R, but the eRoadster uses a lot of parts from BMW's car division

It may look like an S1000R, but the eRoadster uses a lot of parts from BMW's car division

It’s an easy win (to 100mph/160kph). The eRoadster has beaten the 90kg-lighter S1000R – a minor but significant victory for the electric bike. Furthermore, BMW research has shown that only around 20 per cent of riders can launch a daunting S1000RR perfectly – balancing clutch, throttle, gears – in comparison, the eRoadster is relatively simple: anyone can twist and go.

What is the BMW eRoadster?

The eRoadster is powered by a battery from a BMW 5 Series car – a long-wheelbase hybrid version only sold in China – while the powertrain is from a BMW 2 Series plugin hybrid. The end product makes 100kW of power, which translates to 136hp. Torque is an immense 200Nm, or 147.5ftlb, all of it pretty much instant.

The motor's from a 2 Series plug-in hybrid

The motor's from a 2 Series plug-in hybrid

The clock is pilfered from the C Evolution Maxi-Scooter; the forks are from an S1000R, with modified internals to take the extra weight; the rear wheel and Paralever/swingarm are R1250R items… It’s fair to say the prototype, attractive as it is, is a bit of a mongrel, built up from a collection of BMW bike and car parts. Everywhere you look, you see bits you recognise from other BMW products. Only the frame and a few key parts are unique and bespoke to this prototype.

die-hard petrolheads will be disgusted, but electric bikes are coming

The fast-charge time is impressive: 6km range per minute of recharge or, put another way, it only takes 30 minutes for an 80 per cent recharge. Roughly, the prototype is capable of 180km after a 30-minute fast charge. By the time you’ve removed your bike kit and drunk your vanilla latte, your eRoadster will be back to 80 per cent charge.

Is it the future?

We must consider this is a first of its kind, and the final weight will be reduced on the production bike.

The throttle response is on the aggressive side with large percentage changes resulting in rapid (silent) acceleration. At slow speeds, the power is strong enough to momentarily lift the front wheel before the traction control kicks in. I bet this would be fun on the open road, and I can’t wait to try it.

I only got a slight taste of what to expect in the future, but preliminary impressions are impressive, even more so when you consider the rapid recharge time. It’s fair to say BMW is already one step ahead of the competition, possibly more. They’ve been producing electric cars for six years and the four-wheel department shares many of that technology, resource and important data with the two-wheel department.

The look of a man who's just aced a drag race

The look of a man who's just aced a drag race

I know die-hard petrolheads will be shaking their heads in disgust, but make no mistake, electric bikes are coming – and the eRoadster suggests they’re going to be fast, thrilling and equally as exciting as their petrol engine counterparts.

Riding at 100mph is just as thrilling on a motorbike whether it be electric or petrol, and the eRoadster’s acceleration time should have the petrolheads worried. And this is only the start – we are only scratching the surface, there is so much more to come. Electric motorcycle technology is only just evolving, like the petrol motorcycle industry was 100 years ago. Where are we going to be in another five to ten years?

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Comments (15)

  • It’s still faster to fill up a gas tank than charge an e-scooter 😎

      9 months ago
  • Where is the vid of the bikes crossing the checkered flag!! 😩

      9 months ago
  • That is not what I was expecting! Electric cars (and bikes) are usually heavier than their petrol counterparts, so I thought it would be easy pickings!

      8 months ago
  • The first TT Zero on the Isle of Man for electric bikes was in 2010. The winner's average speed was 96.8mph. Ten years later, the winner's average speed was 121.9mph, so obviously progress was made. Now the TT Zero has been dropped from the TT racing schedule for at least the next two years. Why? Lack of entries? (Usually less than 10 bikes), Excessive costs? ( The winning Mugen costs over £100,000), Lack of range ( A one lap race). Electric bikes may be coming, but I hope the day when they out-sell petrol powered machines is a long way off.

      9 months ago
  • the electric motor looks ghastly and it'll never sound as good as a combustion engine.

      9 months ago
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