Ever wished you could just pop a motor on your bike to give you a hand up those hills (no, we're not back on the subject of mechanical doping)? A new invention, the Semcon bike engine, aims to do just that, and its creators claim it could cost under €100.
Electric bikes or e-bikes are growing in popularity around the world, but they aren't cheap and they're often heavy. The creators of the bike engine set out to design a product that supplied the benefits of having a motor – less effort required to get up hills, pedal assistance on the flat – but that came in a package that was easy to use, could be swapped between bikes, fitted to any type, and used on old machines as well as new ones.
"The needs and wishes of the typical biker is what got us started," said Anders Sundin, technical director at Semcon, which describes itself as a technology company specialising in engineering and product design and development.
"The benefits of the electrified bike are obvious, but they are expensive," Sundin added. "Especially if you, like many others, already have a regular bike that you like and short distances to travel. The ambition with this engine is to make it easy, affordable and attractive for any biker to turn their bike into an electrified bike."
Semcon describes the invention as a smart engine. It fastens onto the seat tube of a bicycle and drives the wheel using a battery powered motor via contact with the tyre. It provides an output of 150 watts, and will only add drive between 7 and 25 km/h. The engine contains a small computer and sensor which detects when the rider is pedalling, and only kicks in to provided an assist at certain speeds. This on-board computer also means, Semcon says, that it can develop different apps in the future, including a way of prioritising speed or reach for managing battery life, theft control or tracking.
The engine weighs in at 1102g, making it relatively lightweight when compared to other electric motors on the market. However, Semcon has made no firm statement on the battery life of the engine or how far you could travel on it, stating that factors such as the weight of the bike, the terrain and the speed travelled at will affect this. The firm does state that it's designed to help as many users as possible, and that most bike journeys aren't that long – in Sweden, 2.8km according to Semcon.
Want one? Sadly this product is only a working prototype at the moment. Semcon, which is looking for investors, states that the prototype cost approximately €100 to produce, but that "if put into series production, the cost will of course have the potential to be reduced further. The ambition with this engine is to make it easy, affordable and attractive for any biker to turn their bike into an electrified bike".
This isn't the first such invention. Back in 2013, the Copenhagen Wheel, which was a rear wheel with integrated motor, garnered mainstream media attention with its interesting design and use of braking power as way of recharging the battery. Another product, Flykly, narrowly missed its crowdfunding target.
So far, mostly smaller tech companies have been working on this type of innovation, and they've come up with some thought-provoking ideas and products. Just think what might be achieved if – or when – one of the tech giants decides to get involved.