Demo Day at Eurobike (Conventional Bikes Need Not Apply)

August 30, 2012
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August, 2012

Part II of dispatch from Eurobike by Brett Thurber from The New Wheel Electric Bikes.

It didn’t look to be a fun demo day for Marin Bicycles of California. Their pitched tent was crowded with reps and brand new bicycles, waiting to be asked out for a spin. But of the thousands of bicycle industry people who had descended on the small town of Ratzenried for Eurobike’s annual Demo Day, hardly a soul was interested in trying a Marin bicycle.

That wasn’t the case for Riese und Müller, or Felt, or Haibike, or Stromer, or any other brand that brought their E-bike line-up to the outdoor demo. For those with E-bikes, the problem was keeping the batteries at full capacity, and having a few bikes available for the line of eager riders. Yes Eurobike’s demo day, like the rest of the European bike market, is now all about electric bikes.

 

A Riese und Müller Speed Electric Bike. 45 km/h is very fast! (28-MPH)

 

And the darling of the European E-bike market at the moment is Bosch. Introduced to the market in 2010, Bosch is now the system spec’d by a growing roster of manufacturers. The Bosch is a mid-drive system, meaning the motor drives the front chainring, taking advantage of the gears in the rear. It’s popularity, manufacturers tell me, is due to a combination of great reliability, competitive pricing, quick to market innovation, and, most importantly, performance.

Demo day was my first experience of the system. What was my take? That will have to wait for my wrap-up post later in the week, but suffice it to say Bosch is very nice. The good news (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) is that Bosch is not the Microsoft – or Apple – of drive systems. Competition is fierce, and the market is developing at a feverish clip.

Panasonic has introduced larger capacity battery packs, further adding to it’s edge in having something for everyone – you can have a Panasonic battery of up to 604 Watt Hours now – along with a new hub drive. TransX from Taiwan was also out in force, delivering a mid-drive system that many manufacturers are experimenting with. And Bionx is still being built into many bikes, especially by the German brands WheelerKTM, and Grace, although many in the industry grumble over Bionx’s lack of focus after Daimler ordered up 15,000 of their motors for their Smart ebike.

 

The big bold new Bosch console

 

There are also a growing retinue of proprietary, or semi-proprietary systems by manufacturers, with Stromer, BH Easy Emotion, and Kalkhoff being chief among them (Kalkhoff has developed their own “Impulse” motor system to sell alongside Panasonic and Bosch). The more proprietary route allows for easier integration, but also makes retailers anxious to know if they can trust the brands to stick around. The bigger the brand the better, when it comes to proprietary technology.

 

The NuVinci Harmony automatic transmission. Slick, but is it necessary?

 

When all the systems and technologies and implementations are taken together, the variety can be a bit overwhelming. Coming from the U.S. (where quality options are few and far between) to then see so many good European systems vying for primacy takes a bit of time to recover from. There is a war going on in Europe right now, and it is for the future of E-bikes. The exciting thing is that we won’t be on the sidelines for ever…

Keep posted. More to follow.

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

5 Comments

  1. If mid-drives are the ‘Holy Grail’, why would Panasonic be introducing a new hub motor design?

    • I believe its because hub-motored bikes are less complex, and as a result they are likely remain less expensive than mid-drives. For many enthusiasts, the purchase price continues to be a restriction. If your budget allows it, the mid-drive will have a wider performance range, and its efficiency will provide more miles of range from the same size of battery.

      • What appears to be happening is that hub motors are being spec’d on bikes in the performance category, as they can offer quick acceleration without shifting, where as mid-drive’s are being spec’d on comfort and touring bicycles, as they are more efficient but require more shifting.

        Which system you pick really depends on your riding style and what type of riding you anticipate doing.

  2. I would love to have a mid-drive of 400watts and a NuVinci rear hub. With the NuVinci, I like the fact you can change ratios by wire. You would have all the power you need with efficiency in a clean design.

  3. BULLS is coming to the U.S. with Brose and Bosch drive units. BULLS is the leading eBike brand in Europe. So that is great music for my ears.

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