March, 2012

Smart bike has taken a big step into the electric bike market and  ”looks”  to be trying to hit it out of the park with its line of new e-bikes. (Update: Bike is in production; take look at our Smart Ebike factory floor story)  However because they have chosen a 250 watt hub motor, their attempt looks like it will be more like a  bunt -dash to first base rather than a home run.

The company Smart is owned by DaimlerAG, the same company that produces the Mercedes Benz.  Daimler has some definite heavy hitters behind it…like 7 time formula 1 world champion Michael Shumacher, which Smart smartly put on a pit e-bike to help trump their new product. The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team drivers are the world’s first owners of the new smart e-bike, which will be launched on the market in April 2012. Schumacher and his team partner  Rosberg received their futuristic e-bikes at the last tests in Barcelona before the start of the season.

Its kind of trippy to see probably the best formula 1 driver in the history of the universe ride around a race track with an underpowered 250 watt e-bike and a dorky bicycle helmet.  Kind of sums up how I feel about the Smart Bike, really awesome looking, a great concept..but way too safe and pathetically slow effort so it kind of falls flat….even  though it looks stylish and fast.

 

cute couple

Smart CEO Dr. Annette Winkler says “The smart e-bike is a true smart – but on two wheels. It’s not just an extremely well designed bicycle that is sure to draw admiring glances in the city – it’s also really practical and child’s play to ride. Anyone can zip through town on it with or without exerting themselves – depending on their fitness level and as the mood takes them. And it’s even easier to find a parking space than with the fourtwo.”

Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and Annette Winkler

 

Mercedes is not new to the electric bike industry, and back in 2001 my electric bike shop was one of the few non-Mercedes dealerships to sale the Mercedes e-bike. It was slow, heavy, ugly and expensive and therefore did not sale well.  My theory was that the Mercedes e-bike was just a overpriced marketing ploy to sale to car buyers or to throw one in after an expensive car purchase. Maybe Smart has the same smart idea as its parent company Mercedes, and thus the reason its e-bikes  are perfectly color coordinated with  their cars. It will be interesting if the Smart Ebike will sale in outlets other than car dealerships.

Mercedes is obviously touting the fitness aspects of the Smart Ebike rather than the performance.  It does not make much sense that a consumer into fitness would buy a $3,800 e-bike that more than likely wont break 20mph because it looks stylish. But on the other hand the smart might be the cleanest looking electric bike ever, so they are therefore sailing into unchartered waters. The bike looks super cool and futuristic. So Mercedes has taken ugly and heavy out of the  equation (as compared to their last e-bike) and hopefully will have a different result this time then back in 2001.

No one seems to remember the 2001 Mercedes Bike and that is because it belly flopped big time, and Mercedes probably wants us to forget it. But in case anyone forgot..here is a rare picture of the 2001 Mercedes e-bike:

mercedes electric bike

 

Winkler goes on to say “We at smart have been gathering experience of electric drives and the mobility needs of city dwellers around the world for years. The smart e-bike is the logical product of this experience and complements the smart-car extremely well. We listened to what people wanted from a perfect city bike and then came up with some clever solutions such as the integrated USB port for smartphones or energy recuperation during braking. .”

It seems smart has designed an iphone holder to be used with the Smart e-bike…how the software will integrate..hopefully with a “smart” app will be interesting to see.

the Smart Bike integrates with the iphone

With a 36 volt 10ah lithium manganese  battery it looks  like the smart e-bike will have a good range, since the rider will be tempted to pedal all the time to speed things up.  I imagine a 20-30 mile range on flat ground with this set up will be easily attainable but don’t expect to get to your destination on schedule without breaking a sweat. :)  Expect this bike to be excruciatingly slow. If you buy this e-bike and get the electric bike bug, you will probably want to upgrade to something much faster.

The main components of the smart e-bike such as the frame, wheels, battery housing, handlebars, lights or mudguards have been designed and developed specifically for smart.It looks like they are using a tried and true method of building the frame in Germany and using Chinese made electrical components such as a readily available hub motor, battery  and controller and dashboard.  To make it even simpler for themselves, it seems that Smart has teamed up with Bionx to supply all electical parts from motor, to controller, to batteries and dashboard. To Smart’s credit, the frame looks like it is well designed to integrate the bionx electric components nicely.

It looks like Smart has teamed with a 3rd company Grace Ebikes to do most of the design of the bike frame. The smart is very similar to the Grace Urban Ebike although not as ballsy. The Smart bike limps around at 20mph on a bionx motor. Although the Grace also uses the bionx system, the folks at grace would overvolt their bike all the way to 1300 watts. Inevitably people who buy the smart will end up overvolting their hub motors as well or upgrade to a more powerful hub motor, which should be easy since Smart is releasing the Barbus with the upgraded 500w bionx motor which is the same motor the grace bike uses pumped to 1300 watts.

 

it seems smart bikes are meant to match up perfectly with smart cars

 

 

Its just a little disappointing that smart chose a wimpy 25o bionx watt motor for its drive train.  Obviously Smart is doing the “smart” and safe thing and making a bike that wont be considered illegal in any jurisdiction, so they do not get sued and lose their big car company which is their bread and butter. This smart bike seems like just dipping a careful toe in the water.

It seems they are also trying a higher power version. Check out the limited edition Brabus.  Smart has made a better effort with the 500 watt 25mph  Brabus.  Lets see if they push more in the high performance direction. Since Smart has Schumacher on their “team” they might as well push towards a faster bike….

The Smart Brabus comes with a 500watt motor and 25mph top speed

 

One of the most innovative things about both editions of the smart e-bike besides for their super clean design is it incorporates a belt drive. Belt drives are not easy to engineer on any bike. This is a single speed system, so if you lose your battery you will be pedaling home on one gear…but it looks to be a very slick set up none the less. The Smart Bike seems to put styling above all function.

Regarding Function,  Smart has seems to team up with Bionx to produce the entire electrical drive-line of the bike. Bionx is a Canadian company that imports most of its components for its popular and expensive kit from asia. Bionx claims to sell 40,000 motor kits a year.

 

bike comes stock with custom designed front and rear led lights.

 

The stock Smart Ebike will initially be available in two colour variants: in crystal white with electric green accent trim parts and in matt dark grey with flame orange accent trim parts.  These color schemes seem to be  designed to match identically colored cars so they show well together in the showroom :) .

 

Although it is obvious smart is focused on styling you have to hand it to them they did a nice job. Notice the wheels have spokes, and this is a custom wheel that has been built to house the bionx hub motor. A pretty sleek set up. Maybe if there proves to be a market for stylish e-bikes, Smart on later editions steps up and makes their own motor components, maybe even a mid-drive to go with their beautifully designed e-bike.

 

the smart hub motor is visually enhanced by a custom fabricated wheel

 

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