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If BMW’s CE-04 is a sign of things to come, the future’s looking pretty bright

Kel takes the electric BMW CE-04 for a quick spin.

It didn’t make any sense. I’m riding the exact same route, albeit in reverse, that I rode two weeks prior and both times I started with a fully charged battery.

I was pleasantly surprised on the first trip, which was a 77km journey from the dealership to home via the freeway. Despite the dash assuring me I had 110km of range, I wasn’t exactly comfortable with a buffer of only 33km, not when I saw how quickly that number dropped a few days earlier when I hooked up with the photographer. But when I reached my exit on the freeway that signalled I had just over 13 clicks before I was safe and sound and near a power point in my garage, the bike said I still had 52 percent of my available battery. And when I rolled into my garage, I had 33 percent – or 35km – still up my sleeve.

Given how many electric motorcycles I’ve ridden and how familiar I am with just how wrong these range predictions can be, I was impressed by the accuracy of the BMW. And because I’d ridden it home in Eco mode, which gives me maximum regenerative braking, I attributed those two extra kays to what I managed to make up on the run home. But given how much experience the German brand has with electric vehicles, I should hardly have been surprised. Which is why when I was returning the CE-04 a fortnight later, I couldn’t understand the anomaly.

And not understanding it is one thing, but genuinely thinking I wasn’t going to make it only after I passed the one and only service station on the freeway between home and the exit ramp, is a different thing all together. It’s not as if I can get a lift to back to pick up a jerry can of kilowatt-hours.

It turns out I did make it. And the 12km that the large TFT screen told me I had remaining when I turned into the driveway of the dealership suggested I’d made it quite comfortably, too. What it didn’t let on was those 12 kays of range showed available for the last 11 kays of my trip.

The two starkly different experiences on what was essentially the exact same journey is, for me, the hardest thing to get my head around when it comes to electric bikes. I couldn’t give two hoots about the lack of sound or character-giving vibrations that many others carry on about. I’m a huge fan of electric vehicles, of their performance and of what they represent for our future. But range anxiety is real and something I just don’t think I have the ticker for. Not yet, anyway.

But range anxiety aside – which, let’s be honest, is my shortcoming and not the BMW’s – the CE-04 is a bold and brilliant thing. Bold in its styling, which I personally love. It looks about twice as long as it actually is and it turns more heads than an obnoxious-sounding chopper does. The single-sided swingarm adds to its swagger, as does the boxy tail unit and floating seat, while the all-white and rather plain colour scheme actually highlights its unique design.

The brilliance is in its execution. It employs the conventional BMW interface with the huge 10.25-inch full-colour TFT screen operated by the now familiar multi-controller wheel on the inside of the left-hand grip. There are predictable switchable riding modes in Eco, Rain, Road and Dynamic – all of which accelerate pretty hard with the most noticeable difference in the amount of regen that’s dialled in. Acceleration in Dynamic mode is laugh-out-loud quick, as the thing grabs handful after handful of the available 62Nm of torque and slings it at the rear wheel. And because there’s no gear lever to work or clutch to disengage, all you can do is twist the grip to the stops and enjoy the rush. It doesn’t sound like a lot of torque – certainly when compared to the Zero DSR/X’s 225Nm – and the limited 120km/h top speed isn’t anything to write home about either – but it’s 62Nm at 1500rpm and off the line feels as quick as anything I’ve ridden. It’s just fun.

Down the other end of the scale in Eco mode, the regen is dialled in so heavily you hardly need to squeeze brakes levers when you’re scooting about town; just open the throttle to go forward, and close it to slow down. Depending on your speed, the regen will slow you all the way to a stop in a pretty timely manner and light up on the dash what I’d describe as a reverse tacho. With neutral power usage represented as the centre mark, as you accelerate the ‘tacho’ swings around to the right to represent how much pull you’re drawing from the power bank. Conversely, as you decelerate, you get a visual representation of how much juice your regen is putting back into the stores.

On that initial run from the dealership to home, I drew an average of 7.4kWh/100km, while all I managed to feed back in was 0.9kWh. But what I fed back in did increase significantly when I used the CE-04 in more stop-start urban conditions where I was asking more of the regen system. It’s fair to say freeways and electric motorcycles aren’t mates. Well, not yet, anyway.

I did miss cruise control, but given that constant speed is a constant draw on the battery, I understand why it isn’t a feature. But there is both cornering ABS and traction control (or ASC as BMW likes to call it), there’s the firm’s adaptive cornering lights and it boasts a heated seat and grips as standard fitment, too. There’s a fan-cooled storage compartment to charge your phone, a large storage compartment that accessed through a panel on the side of the bike, rather than by lifting the seat, and both compartments lock when the ignition is switched off. There’s a heap of other features and info available through the on-board computer, too, like real-time tyre pressure monitoring.

There’s a reverse gear, activated via a button on the left-hand switch block that when pressed while twisting the throttle, it will walk the bike backwards at a really manageable pace whether you’re seated on the bike or standing alongside it. And given the bike weighs 231kg, it’s a pretty useful feature. So too is the easily accessible sidestand that actuates a parking brake when it’s down – genius, really.

The one-piece tubular chassis feels like nearly every other scooter I’ve ridden despite the fact the motor is mounted within it and not directly onto the rear wheel hub, with power transferred to the rear wheel via a belt final drive. The battery is mounted really low in the package, down underneath the footboards – which, incidentally, are really long and give you great scope to move your legs to wherever feels comfy; from beneath your bum to stretched out cruiser-style. And carrying the weight of the battery low in the frame makes it feel far lighter than 231kg should feel once you’re moving.

The 35mm right-way-up Showa fork adds to the conventional scooter feeling and while it is predictable enough in the urban environment, it didn’t cope particularly well with decent hits from rain-effected roads – though that may be exaggerated because of the 15-inch wheels – but more than suitable for what it’s designed to do. The Showa monoshock means the rear feels far better damped than most twin-shock scooters though, and the long 1675mm wheelbase means the whole shebang feels as solid as a rock. Especially through quick corners which, thanks to the sporty Maxxis Supermaxx SC tyres, you can hook into with gusto.

Pulling it up are three 265mm discs gripped by a pair of four-piston calipers at the front with a single-piston affair at the rear. It’s backed up by Bosch’s 9.3 two-channel ABS system, which is also programmed to intervene if the regen causes the rear to lock on low-grip surfaces, too.

The charging cord is stowed in the side compartment and is fluro yellow, which the teenagers in my house thought was particularly cool. The standard 240-volt male plug goes into the wall while the other end plugs into the bike via a charging socket that’s compatible with the public Level 2 chargers, which I think is pretty cool because it isn’t always the case.

There is an optional fast charger in the accessories catalogue, but it’s integrated into the vehicle, so you need to decide before you place your order as it can’t be retrofitted. Well worth considering, though. At $1330, it’s not a particularly cheap addition to what’s already not a particularly cheap scooter, but it does reduce the 0-80% charging time from around four hours to one.

The CE-04 is $21,960 (ride away), but there’s a lot of tech fitted as standard fitment. BMW says its ‘04’ moniker indicates it slots into the 400cc-equivalent segment, so if you compare it to machines of the same capacity (see breakout), it’s pretty pricey. But when you consider the level of tech that’s fitted as standard and the far lower cost of ownership over the longer term, if the length of your commute makes an electric bike a viable option, then it can easily stack up as representing pretty decent value. Well, once you get that range anxiety in check, anyway.

The 400 club

Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
$7875 (ride away)

Kymco Xciting S 400i ABS
$9990 (ride away)

Kawasaki Ninja 400
$7344 (plus on-road costs)

BMW C 400 GT
$11,605 (ride away)




Type Permanent magnet synchronous motor
Controller Not given
Cooling Liquid
Transmission Single speed
Clutch Not applicable
Final drive Belt


Type Air-cooled lithium-ion
Capacity  60.6 Ah (8.9 kWh)
Recharge time Wall charge: 0-100% 5h25m, 0-80% 4h23m


Power 31kW @ 1500rpm(claimed)
Torque 62Nm @ 1500rpm (claimed)
Top speed 120km/h (limited)
Range 110km (claimed)


Type Bosch
Rider aids  ABS, traction control
Modes Eco, Rain Road and Dynamic


Frame material Steel
Frame layout  Tubular trellis
Rake 26.5˚
Trail 120mm


Type  Showa
Front: 35mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable, 110mm travel
Rear: Direct-action cantilever monoshock, non-adjustable, 92mm travel


Wheels Cast aluminium
Front: 15 x 3.5  Rear: 15 x 4.5
Tyres Maxxis Maxxis Supermaxx SC
Front: 120/70R15  Rear: 160/60R15

Brakes Brembo, ABS
Front: Twin 265mm discs, four-piston calipers
Rear: Single 265mm disc, two-piston caliper


Weight 231kg (constant, claimed)
Seat height 780mm
Width 855mm
Height 1150mm
Length 2285mm
Ground clearance Not given
Wheelbase 1675mm


First service 1000km
Minor: 10,000
Major: 40,000
Warranty Three years, unlimited km


Price $21,960 (ride away)
Colour options Light white