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E-bike equipment manufacturers double down on innovation

2018 an exciting year for e-biking: Hardware to be smaller, lighter, smarter, and more seamlessly integrated into bike designs

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.

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