The Eurobike 2012 show had a number of new and innovative electric bike products. Europe is considered the largest innovator of electric bikes.
As you have seen in previous articles on this site, mid drives are the cutting edge of electric bike propulsion technology, but is the hardest technology to engineer because of the nature of the electric motor, which runs most efficiently and reliably at high RPMs. In a system where it is desired for the motor to match the cadence of the rider, so that the motor can use the pedal gears, some kind of gear reduction is needed. (check out our article on mid drives).
Hub motors are a well worked out technology, and 90% of hub motors (including brand names such as Bionx) are being made in China. Mid drives are still in development stage, so the majority of the good mid drive systems are coming from Europe, especially Germany, who are the leaders currently in E-bike engineering and innovation.
Unfortunately all of the mid drives pictured below were made for the European market, which means they are limited to 250 watts. In the USA we are allowed to go to 750 watts but no company has yet made a mid drive to take advantage of that standard. 250 wats is very underpowered when compared to higher wattage hub motor drive systems available in the USA right now at much lower prices.
However it would be very easy for a company to amp up the power to one of these mid drives, so we think it is a matter of time before we see a high power mid drive offered in the USA. Eurobike is a sign of good things to come.
Lets take a peek at the sweet mid drive sytems introduced at Eurobike this year, and all the interesting and creative ways companies are figuring out to run an electric motor through the pedal gears:
AEG is offering a 250 watt brushless motor attached to bottom brackets of most bicycle frames. Although it looks like the frame is built custom for the system, it is not as you will see in the picture below. The system comes as a kit with motor, controller, throttle, and LiPo battery (built into the bottle). The entire system weighs only 9 pounds.
Cevedale took the concept of the Gruber Assist (read our story here), which is a 100 watt motor built stealthily into the seat tube, and made it beefier and more powerful. The Cevedale motor is 250 watts…adding significant power to one of the most stealthy solutions ever that can convert most bicycles.
Bionicon is a system still in development, but they sweetly integrated into the crank set a 250 watt power system with the full suspension mountain biker in mind. The companies idea is that a small LiPo battery can be carried in a backpack on the rider.
Protanium Shaft Drive
The shaft drive is a brand new concept in mid drive systems, and Protanium is far into the development stages of a completely sealed system using a dual planetary reduction (scheduled to debut in 2013). This is a pedelec system that senses the riders input and adjusts the motor output accordingly so that there are no unsightly throttle wires to the handlebars are needed. Here is a video illustrating the Protanium:
A brand new player in the mid drive game. Systems like the MPF (similar to the Bosch and the Panasonic) are units that are made for OEMs to design an electric bike around, since they need custom frames to accomodate the drives.
Bosch is among the big players in the mid drive design game, and they had an impressive display at Eurobike 2012. They are working towards being the major supplier of mid drive systems. Right now they are only offering a 250 watt system (read our review on a Bosch Canondale) but we have heard rumors of them entering the US market with a more powerful system.
The Evation drive system uses a bottom bracket design and a removable motor and battery pack. This system is in development stage only.
Exciting stuff brewing in Europe. How long will it take before we start to see it in the USA, and people are willing to pay the price for an efficient weight balanced mid drive?
Check out these videos which illustrate the performance advantage to mid drives.