September 2021, Bafang announced their H700 combined rear hub and automatic gear change unit. 2 speeds, automatic shifting, has a 30Nm torque rating and can be used with belt drives. It’s as amazing as it sounds and will be available for series production. At 7LB’s / 3.2kg it is pretty lightweight. Bafang says “Automatic shifting is achieved by measuring the current speed with the bike changing gear itself accordingly”. Automatic gears themselves are nothing new, however, combining them with a rear hub motor certainly looks to be a major technical step forward. With advancements like this, It feels like 2022 could be be the year the picture changes, with bigger companies adopting this impressive sounding technology. The French “Valeo System" in particular sounds good on paper. Combining a 130Nm motor with 2kW peak power and a 450% gear range, Valeo say they will start series production of this motor in 2022 with the first e-bikes with the new technology going on sale in 2023.
Perhaps 2022 will also see more developments in the wireless control area of e-bikes. Wireless units are mainly used to do relatively simple things like change power levels. However, one development that we are yet to see is wireless throttles which are a technical challenge of a higher order. Some retrofit kits out there have tried wireless cadence sensors but these don’t seem to have taken off in a big way. There is however, a wider goal across the e-bike industry. Giving riders the ability to get on an e-bike that will sense just how much effort is required and adjust the power level accordingly. One can imagine this is just a case of the bike detecting hills and applying more power, but there are of course many other factors that might affect the power required at any given moment. One must consider headwinds, and the surface under the wheels. This is much more tricky for electronic systems to detect.
With all this speculation and talk of the future, what are the trends that are here, right now? What is available now and what exactly is pushing the boundaries in the e-biking community. What can we rely on today, and what is to be expected as well?
Bafang who are previously known best for their affordable hub motors, are clearly making waves in the market after years of being kept at arms length away by tariffs and rules against e-bike imports from China. Bafang now has a presence worldwide in places such as Germany, the USA and of course here in Canada. They even opened a factory in Poland in 2019. Bafang’s success is being noticed from other large Chinese brands such as Ananda and Tonsheng, both of which have begun moving out west and following Bafang’s example. With this expansion and worldwide move, the e-bike industry is bound to see many more Chinese made motors that are not only incredibly durable and reliable, but are becoming industry standard in terms of quality. Bafang is no longer competing with brands such a Bosch, they are trailblazing forward and becoming the go to in motor technology.
Whole System Connectivity “App’s”
Staying connected while riding is becoming essential. Whether it’s using GPS, bluetooth connectivity, or staying in touch with your bikes schematics, user to e-bike compatibility is of the upmost importance. Bosch has a new “Smart” system. On the surface, it doesn’t look that different from what their previous system. However now, all of its components have become compatible, readable, and connected all together via their “Ebike Flow App” and can be easily updated wirelessly. This gives an incredible amount of freedom and potential to add new features via software updates. Their app interfaces with other app’s such as Apple fitness. There is also the ability to set the level of Power Assist to suit rider’s needs via the App. You can even stay minimal with the new remote displaying basic information such as battery charge and speed. This sort of user interface will and is the new face of user o e-bike compatibility. Having access to everything related to your bike and being able to connect it seamlessly with other apps IS the way of the future in E-biking. It’s like having your cake, eating it too, and riding off those calories in style.
Braking & Suspension
To have automatic suspension that listens and responds to riders in real time. This statement alone is what big name suspension companies such as “RockShox” are leading with. Sensors used to read riders and terrain inputs to anticipate the perfect suspension positions are becoming a reality. Why become a slave to the lay or the roads ahead when you can ride faster, longer, and spend less energy adjusting suspension. The point of riding is to focus on the journey ahead and to have an unbridled, joyful experience. RockShox “Flight Attendant” suspension is paving the way with such advanced technology. Claiming to “Feel Like Magic” the Flight Attendant was developed over thousands of trail miles, and has an on board algorithm that is scientifically engineered to do complex thinking for you. Analyzing the constant flow of ever changing data to anticipate perfect suspension for riders and what the trail demands.
Electronically monitored braking looks to be taking a back seat for the time being. Companies are now developing ABS systems that’s aimed specifically at speed, where quick and safe declaration is extra important. Efficiency and safety are leading in what’s soon becoming a race for the most reliable breaking technology. Leading the way in this new braking trend are E-Scooters. Safety concerns, especially in interactions with other road vehicles and pedestrians are constantly in the news. E-Scooters stand to benefit the most from these new automated safety features. “Unagi’s” new E-Scooters can tell you when you’re approaching a stop sign or sense a large pothole. This innovative object detection (thank’s to built in cameras and sensors) uses its technology to prompt the E-Scooter to take over and either brake or slowdown depending on the situation.
Urban Mobility & The Rise of Bike Sharing
Whether it’s to help lower the impacts of the worlds carbon footprint, the health benefits associated with it, or simply for the joy and convenience commute, bike sharing is becoming an absolute must for city infrastructures. With the amount of traffic, the headache of constantly waiting and sitting around, Bike Sharing is becoming common place and revolutionizing the transportation industry. The days of searching and paying for parking are going the way of the dodo, and at the precipice of this change sits Bike Sharing. With “Net Zero” being the thought, organizations around the world are seeing the practicality, and popularity in urban ride sharing. Expect to see plenty of belt drives and step thru frames occupying bike paths and morning commutes. By blending comfort, power, low maintenance, and an easy to store simple to ride, commuters are becoming more and more drawn to the benefits e-mobility has to offer. It’s simply a matter of time before cars will only be needed for long trips or heavy hauls.
Single Speed & Carbon Frames
We are looking at light weight and simple here. Taking the opposite approach to high tech, many single speed e-bikes are trying to become as easy to use as possible. Forget the gadgetry, how about something that you press on and go? A bike where the battery is effective, light, and built right in. The problem with most e-bikes is with all the advanced tech, they become bulky, and heavy. But with single speed, simple E-bikes, you can now own an e-bike that is as straightforward as a regular bike, can store as simply as a regular bike, and can be ridden exactly the same as a regular bike while having all the benefits of electric mobility. And the bonus? They look great. Demon’s 6ix bike is a perfect example and at the forefront of this new trend.
As the number one material of choice when it comes to regular bikes, carbon frames are also making waves with their slick designs, and their ability to weather any storm, while being lightweight. The geometry, specifications, and value can be kept at a high quality while maintaining structural integrity for all the technology housed with e-bikes. Much more forgiving than aluminium (absorbing shocks and vibrations), Carbon bikes also have longevity, lacking a shelf life, unlike Aluminium Frames which tend to corrode and rust. Carbon is weather resistant and never corrodes due to the resin on the frame itself. This is making the transition to Carbon an absolute necessity when designing e-bikes of the future.
AfterthoughtsAfter a crazy couple of years in the e-bike world, with a sales boom followed by supply chain difficulties, you might be forgiven for thinking that technical advances have been put on hold. But 2022 will see new systems and new technologies in e-bikes – some perhaps potentially game-changing new technologies. Welcome to the E-mobility boom. The popularity is growing, the technology is advancing, and it’s here to stay. It may even be here to update your way of moving, traveling, and commuting.