On April Fools’ Day BMW took several scalps with a fake press release presenting an xDrive Hybrid R1200GS, with an electrically-driven front wheel. Of course there’s no such motorcycle – but it looks like something very similar might be in the pipeline.
It’s not clear whether it has a coincidence or part of an elaborate double-bluff, but just days before BMW sent out its dummy press release, a genuine patent application titled ‘Motorcycle with an electrically driveable front wheel’ was published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It’s owner? BMW.
It would be unimaginable for the firm to go to the extent of writing an filing a complete patent application simply to bolster a fleeting, one-day joke. Not least because the slow-turning wheels of the patent system mean the document was actually first filed back in September 2015.
However, the patents mirror the fictional BMW R1200GS xDrive. Where the April Fools’ release claimed the motorcycle used a ‘wheel-hub e-Drive system which functions both as electric motor and generator, the patent describes a ‘drive arrangement integrated into the front wheel comprises an electric motor...’
The idea is simple, and identical to the one dreamt up for the April Fools’ gag. The motorcycle keeps its usual, petrol-powered engine driving the rear wheel and usually works just like a conventional motorcycle. When the rear wheel loses traction, rather than simply activating a traction control system, it engages drive to the front wheel using an electric motor and reduction gear system that’s built into the front hub. The patent even goes as far as suggesting large, touring-style motorcycles would be ideal candidates for the system. Like the BMW R1200GS.
If it all seems familiar, it’s worth mentioning that a very real 2WD, hybrid-powered BMW R1200GS already exists. It’s the BMW X2 Prototype, cooked up by BMW tuners Wunderlich, who have a very close relationship with BMW’s own R&D department. Shown just weeks after the patent was filed in 2015, the X2 uses exactly the system described in the BMW document – right down to having a reverse-gear option for the front motor to help when wheeling the motorcycle around.