Progress in e-bike technology in
recent years can be summed up in two words: More power. Batteries with greater
storage have been combined with ever more potent motors. Considering the announced
innovations to be debuted at world-leading trade fair Eurobike in
Friedrichshafen (30 August to 2 September, 2017), the main trend in engineering
progress for the 2018 model year will be smaller, lighter and smarter systems
that are even more harmoniously integrated into bicycle designs.
Component supplier Shimano, for
decades a giant of the bicycle industry, has also emerged as a leading e-bike
drive unit manufacturer, able even to challenge Bosch, the segment leader. Last
year, the Japanese company launched its E8000 drive unit, a very compact and
powerful mid-mounted motor, whose software has been fundamentally revised and
updated for 2018. The characteristics of each of the Shimano unit’s three
“steps” or modes can be fine tuned, allowing the user to determine, for
example, whether the motor provides powerful or modest assistance while
navigating through tight passages. A Bluetooth-enabled Shimano smartphone app
is used to customize these settings. For 2018, the company has also made some
fine adjustments to how their e-bike components integrate with the bike itself.
Now, the drive system’s rear-wheel speed sensor, for example, will also be
hidden from view, at least when the bike is also sporting Shimano disc brakes.
In this case, the sensor’s magnet is seamlessly integrated into the rear disc
brake, rather than being mounted on a rear spoke, while the magnet sensor has
been discreetly incorporated into the dropout.
Meanwhile, Bosch eBike Systems is
practically bursting with innovations. As of model year 2018, bicycle
manufacturers employing Bosch drive units will also be able to hide the battery
pack within the bike’s frame design. The German electronics company will be
supplying this technology under the name PowerTube 500. The key thing about
this new in-tube 500-Wh battery is that it can also be removed from the bike
frame for recharging. The second key product innovation from Bosch,
particularly for city and recreational cyclists, is the new version of its
Active Line drive system, whose 2.9-kilogram (6.4-pound) motor is a full kilo
lighter and about 25 percent smaller than its predecessor. This updated Bosch
Active Line drive system is also considerably quieter – to the point that only
those with very sensitive ears can even hear it. A further e-bike breakthrough
at Bosch is anti-lock brakes for e-bikes – an arguably long overdue development
from the company that invented automotive ABS technology. In collaboration with
German brake manufacturer Magura, it has developed a system that reduces the
front wheel from locking up when emergency braking – and thus the possibility
of the cyclist being thrown forward over the handlebars.
Brose has also cranked innovation
up another notch. Above all, the Berlin-based e-bike equipment manufacturer
sees itself as an electric motor specialist that links itself and its partners
making other e-bike components like batteries and control units with
specialists in other related fields. This offers bicycle manufacturers a lot of
latitude in implementing their own solutions. A result of this is that e-bikes
equipped with Brose drive units as well as batteries built into their frames
have already existed for quite some time. For 2018, the e-bike engineers at
Brose have, above all, focused on motor performance for sporty riders. In fact,
they have once again increased the output of the motors in the latest
generation of the company’s Drive S series by 15 percent.
While consumer preference has tended toward centrally mounted motors, rear-mounted motors offer several key advantages. At this year’s Eurobike, e-mobility specialist Alber will be presenting the latest generation of its Neodrive drive system. Like its forerunners, the rear-mounted motor operates silently and causes less wear to the drive components than a mid-mounted motor. What’s new for 2018 is that the Neodrive motor also comes with a 500-Wh battery built into the bike frame. At its Eurobike stand, bicycle manufacturer Simplon will be presenting its Silkroad model equipped with the new Alber drive system – which, thanks to this update, will only be visible to the trained eye.