BMW’s electric ‘boxer’

BMW has paid homage to its iconic boxer engine with the Vision DC Roadster, a concept that aims to marry electric propulsion and the company’s trademark engine configuration for wider appeal. The unveiling comes as the German giant sets out to deliver 25 electric models across two and four wheels by 2023. The design of a conventional, combustion-powered motorcycle starts with the largest item to accommodate: the engine. With electric bike, the largest items are the batteries, while the power unit itself is relatively compact.

For the DC Roadster a stack of longitudinally-mounted batteries replace the conventional boxer engine block, with the electric motor slung underneath. The two ‘cylinders’ that stick out in the breeze are actually radiators with cooling fans (that retract when the bike is parked). This gives the appearance of a classic boxer engine as well as retaining the traditional, effective air-cooling system ‘out in the breeze’ as per the original Max Fritz design of the original 1923 R32.

BMW Vision DC Roadster

BMW Vision DC Roadster

Despite its modern features, BMW has kept some elements of a traditional design, including a ‘Duolever’ fork and petrol tank shape flowing back from that for the rider to lean against. Power is delivered to the rear wheel via traditional shaft drive.

The frame itself is milled from aluminium, with huge cut-outs to provide a lightweight appearance while also echoing the finned cylinders of yesteryear. The company has not revealed any technical details or made any performance claims. BMW Motorrad head of design Edgar Heinrich says the boxer engine is the heart of BMW Motorrad, but the company stands for zero-emissions vehicle concepts, too.

“What would happen if we were to replace the boxer engine with an electric motor and the required battery? The Vision Bike shows how we’re able to retain the identity and iconic appearance of BMW Motorrad in distinctive form while at the same time presenting an exciting new type of riding pleasure,” he says.

“The high level of torque right at set-off makes for breath-taking acceleration. This almost-brutal power delivery creates a whole new experience of dynamic performance, and the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster puts a face to this experience.”

ABOVE. Duolever front-end looks a lot more modern than on the GS. RIGHT. Tank-shaped beams support the rider’s torso while the crash helmet can tuck in between them, above the vertical batteries.

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