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How Will BMW Motorrad’s Sacred Cow Survive an Electric Future?

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It is an obvious fact that the motorcycle manufacturers are looking to the future, and that future is looking increasingly like one without fossil fuels.

Electric drivetrains seem to be the prevailing technology of choice for the next generation of riders, and as such BMW Motorrad has its designers busy thinking about what the first electric motorcycles from the German brand could look like.

Enter the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster concept, an electric motorcycle whose sole purpose is to imagine what BMW’s iconic boxer-twin engine shape could look like in an electric shape. Umpf!

There was a point in time when the flat-twin layout of BMW motorcycle engines served a technical function. There was a reason for the madness.

The air-cooled heads were decisively out in the wind, keeping things cool, and the configuration remained in primary balance with few vibrations and a smooth character. Make no mistake, this was an excellent choice for an air-cooled thermic engine design.

The boxer shape serves less of a purpose in its current water-cooled application though, and remains in BMW’s lineup  largely for nostalgia’s sake. To that vein, it is interesting to note that BMW Motorrad’s use of the flat-twin engine layout has become an iconic part of the brand, with the “R” bikes accounting for close to 40% of BMW’s motorcycle sales.

But what is ahead for the boxer-twin in an electric future? That is where we come back to the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster concept – a design without any purpose other than to worship at the alter for BMW’s greatest sacred cow.

You can tell BMW Motorrad is worried about the coming electric age. How will riders know that a bike is a BMW if its cylinder heads aren’t jutting out from either side of the machine? The German solution? Fake it.

Just like how Triumph puts fake carburetors on its fuel-injected Bonneville bikes to keep a vintage look, BMW Motorrad too seems to be toying with the idea of having fake cylinder heads flying in the wind.

BMW Motorrad says that the “cylinder heads” will help cool the bike’s battery pack by the channeling wind onto the cells, which is sort of like saying you subscribed to Playboy magazine for the articles, or go to the strip club for the lunch buffet.

It is obvious to everyone though, what is really going on though: BMW Motorrad is afraid to say goodbye to its boxer engine design language, and now they are bending over backwards to keep it.

To be fair, we quite like the overall aesthetic created by the BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster. There are some good elements here that make us intrigued, and some ideas we like less than others. But, it is painful to watch the German brand commit this tightrope act to keep its boxer-twin engine design alive for the coming decades. 

If you ever wanted to see proof of how the motorcycle manufacturers are still stuck in time, this is it right here. The message the Vision DC Roadster sends us is that BMW Motorrad’s plan for the future is to hold as tight of a grip as possible on the past.

Source: BMW Group

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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