Written by Ron / Spinningmagnets, September 2013
We initially published this article with several pictures from mbaction.com, because we could not attend Eurobike this year in person. Even though we credited them as the owners of the pics, they have requested that we remove the pic that were used from their website. They had not responded to our email for permission, but once we were contacted, we have removed the pics.
Well, Eurobike 2013 has ended, and E-bikes were well-represented this year. It is held every year in beautiful Freidrichshafen, which is a university city on the northern side of Lake Constance in Southern Germany, near the borders with Switzerland and Austria.
Bosch has clearly been more aggressive than Panasonic in lobbying for partnerships with bike manufacturers to produce a model that incorporates their 2014 mid-drive model, using everything they learned from their 2013 model drive. Although the Panasonic mid-drive is very similar, Eurobike was dominated by Bosch mid-drive models.
The Lampociclo companies’ retro-styled Cicli Blume model really caught my eye. I don’t speak Italian, and Google translate says Lampociclo means “Flashy Cycle“, and Cicli blume is a bicycle blossom. There’s a chance this mid-drive unit can be adapted to a wide variety of frames, so perhaps Italy’s “pedal-only” bicycle snob culture is softening on the idea of E-bikes.
The classic leather Brookes saddle, chrome “teardrop” headlight, and white balloon tires really add to the stylish retro image.
The Conway E-bikes epitomize for me a modern integrated and purpose-built E-bike. The hydroformed frame-tubing really adds a beautiful touch, which is very stylish. I would recommend that buyers of the hardtail models might consider adding a serious suspension seatpost.
Something I was happy to see is more triangle cases, and this was the best one…the large and form-fitting triangle battery case from Conway bicycles. Last year there was a noticeable increase in battery boxes being mounted in the triangle, but they were usually small rectangles. I would have thought that a simple and sturdy triangle case would be useful for pedal-only bikes too, simply as a trunk with no batteries inside. Last year Conway made a splash with their upscale off-road E-bike the E-rider, and I’m glad to see they are continuing to innovate.
The E-bike model shown will be available in four different frame sizes, and you can select 27.5-inch wheels or 29’s, so it appears Conway is quite committed to supporting off-road E-bikes.
The winner of the Eurobike E-bike design award was from the French company Moustache Bikes, showing the full-suspension version of their Samedi line, using 27.5 inch wheels. This diameter of wheel is halfway between the 26-inch and 29-inch wheels. 29’r wheels have grown in popularity over the past year, and the 27.5 size is an industry response to cyclists who want something larger than the common 26-inch, but not quite as big as the 29’s. The Samedi series has joined the Bosch mid-drive family, and their new model uses hydro-formed aluminum tubing for an upgraded look.
Hydrofroming is when a partially pre-shaped tube is put inside a two-piece mold, and then water at a very high pressure is pushed into the inside of the tube to force the tube walls outward. This increasingly popular manufacturing method causes the tube to take on a complex shape that would be difficult to create any other way.
When designers use a low top-bar and an off-road frame has a reasonably high ground clearance, it squeezes the frame triangle. By creating an integrated purpose-built frame that incorporates the Bosch drive unit into the bottom-bracket (BB), the small remaining frame triangle is available to use all of it’s remaining space for a battery pack.
There were a lot of Ebikes using this small “brick shaped” pack mounted in the frame triangle. I approve of using 36V as their base system, but the small 8.2-Ah size is of concern. The small size will help to keep the purchase price down (and allow them to easily fit a wide variety of frames), but even IF they are using high-discharge cells (which has yet to be verified), small packs struggle to provide adequate amps and the high heat of significant current being drawn will shorten the life of these small packs. A poor choice, but easy to upgrade once they see the light.
The Vorradler Electrolyte is a fairly straight-forward rear geared hub with the 10-speed freehub motor being supplied by the Swiss company Go Swissdrive. However, it is another nice example of the hydro-formed tubing that has been increasingly used in frame design these days. The black background was a poor choice for this presentation, because the large triangle battery pack is one of its best features, and the dark background makes it seem almost invisible.
The down-tube on this attractive frame could have been moved slightly more forward, to allow a bigger battery pack without hurting the pleasant shape. the base model pack could be the same size, but then customers would have the option of upgrading to a larger triangle pack, if they wanted.
The wheels are 29’r, which suggests it is focused on off-road use, but 29-inch wheels are also being seen on street bikes. The direct-drive (DD) motor coupled with a sine-wave controller runs especially quiet, but…at a power level only 250W (using 36V), this is a European street commuter system, and not really an off-road E-bike. The “Electrolyte” name is an awesome choice, and hopefully this model can evolve into something a little more innovative and exciting.
This model has hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, so that is definitely an upscale feature.
Our recent Bosch-drive article listed many of the off-road bikes in the European market that are not currently available in North America, and Ave bikes is another company I hadn’t heard of before (based in Germany). This is their XH5 model with full suspension and 27.5-inch wheels. The chain-guide roller, to make sure the chain doesn’t jump off the sprockets under hard downhill riding is a nice touch.
I like how the doen-tube wraps under the drive unit to provide some protection when crawling over logs and large rocks. It has yet to be seen if a slightly larger triangle battery pack will be an option.
Another interesting E-bike is the Kreidler Vegas. Although 350W may not be considered very powerful by North American standards, the Bosch-45 drive unit (capable of 45 k/h speed using 36V) is creating a flood of mid-drives all across Europe. This model is also using the new 27.5-inch wheels.
Europe has no power limit for off-road only E-bikes, so it is odd that they are being so conservative. I can only imagine that they are being cautious about making a long-term production commitment to something that may not sell well. Hopefully the European customers will respond to the higher-powered off-road bikes, and increased performance models will result.
Univega Renegade Impulse
Univega has recently decided to get into the off-road E-bike market with their Renegade Impulse model. They are experienced at making off-road bikes, but even though they are coming late to the E-bike game, they are making some safe choices with this Bosch-powered 27.5-inch wheeled design.
The German bicycle company Ghost presented a model that is similar in layout to the well-known Stromer ST1. The battery is integrated into the frames downtube, and it uses a rear geared-hub. Although, this model looks like it is intended for only light trail riding, while the Stromer is marketed as a street E-bike commuter.
They have several models available, here are the details on their top-of-the-line E-Hybride Trail 9000.
As we move down this page, there are Ebikes worth mentioning from companies that we haven’t heard of before, but the most interesting models and innovations were put near the top. The Simplon company presented their Dilly model with a rear hub and small triangle pack added. They speak German, and are located in Lichtenstein, a small country nestled between Switzerland and Austria.
This shows how smaller companies who had ignored E-bikes before, are now scrambling to add an affordable model to their line-up.
KTM is located in Austria, they speak German, and they also make electric off-road motorcycles. I wanted to like KTM’s off-road model, the E-Lycan (electric wolfman), but they appear to be trying to catch up. Their off-road model uses a 48V system, which is exceptional for a European factory E-bike. However, the extra voltage is acquired at the cost of reducing the Amp-hour size of the pack down to 6.6-Ah, and 317-WH.
The rear hub is a very quiet DD model from BionX, but I feel this type of hub is simply too small to handle an off-road bike on slow steep uphills. This is clearly designed to be an off-road bike, but it would make a good street commuter if you can sneak it by without getting a ticket from the polizei. Their website also lists their hardtail eRace model as using the BionX rear hub, but their eCross is listed as using the Panasonic hub.
Below is a pic of the single-speed 3.0 model from Coboc eCycles. It may seem unremarkable at first glance, but it seems they are focusing on the stealth market. Since it is only a single-speed, the small rear 350W SWXH Bafang geared-hub appears to be simply an Internally-Geared-Hub (IGH), like the Nexus, Rohloff, or NuVinci. It sports “bullhorn bars” which are popular with the college-age bicyclists in large cities.
The hidden charging socket, along with the system-wires being completely hidden inside the frame tubing, suggest that its stealthy nature was not an accident. The somewhat smallish 8.7-Ah battery pack is hidden completely inside the downtube (with access under the BB). The Faraday Porteur is another bike that has hidden their batteries inside the frame tubing.
Although the stealthy and small motor and battery are discrete, their modest size also helps keep the weight of this bike down to only 14-kg (31-lbs). In spite of the small Ah of the pack, they managed to utilize enough frame volume to get 36V for this system, which is quite good. For longer rides, it may be possible to plug in a backpack battery, or a water-bottle battery to increase range.
Using 36V was a good choice for this bike considering its goals. It’s much easier to add more battery-Ah in parallel, but very hard to modify the voltage of a system for more power (if a 24V battery with more Ah was too weak). On reasonably flat roads, this should actually perform quite well. The Bafang SWXH is the same stealthy motor our friend Kepler used on his super-commuter.
The power application is through a modern torque-sensing BB, so this pedelec must be pedaled to get any power, there is no hand-throttle option. Of course, this is the stealthiest configuration. Imagine you zoom by ze Polizei going up a steep hill at its 15-MPH top-speed limit…but without any pedaling? depending on where you are in Europe, street e-bikes could be fined and even confiscated.
Although this model is somewhat pricey, its aluminum frame is made from 7020 aircraft alloy, and instead of paint, each frame is powder-coated for a much tougher finish that is guaranteed to last. The Coboc eCycle 3.0 was given the gold award in the pedelec design category.
The RoPD Charging Interface
The pic below is the top tube (near the head-tube), with the bike upside down. It shows the hidden battery charging connector, which is held on by a magnet when charging. This is the “Rosenberger Power/Data=RoPD” charging interface, and it was developed for electric wheelchairs, which use a similar range of voltages and amps as E-bike battery packs. They are rated for 12V-48V and DC current up to 40A. Below is the same connector on the Specialized Turbo e-bike. Some European cities have adopted this connector for free public charging of E-bikes and E-wheelchairs.
Here is a pic of the Specialized Turbo frame showing the RoPD charging socket.
The Vorradler Electrolyte also uses the RoPD charging interface.