Eurobike 2010: Electric bikes round-up

Are e-bikes entering the 'next evolutionary phase'?

Eurobike 2010 saw a swathe of companies – large and small – announcing new electric bikes and electric bike systems. Household names entering what is an extremely competitive European market included Shimano, Bosch and Cannondale.

Bosch

Bosch are newcomers to the cycling world so their new crank motor system with sensors for torque, cadence and wheel speed is being sold via a range of bike companies, including Cannondale and Scott.

According to Chris Dodman, head engineer on the Cannondale e-bike project, the Bosch system available to OEMs will have frame- (seat tube or down tube) and rack-mounted options. The main image shows a concept bike fitted with Cannondale's RiB (Removable internal Battery) seat tube housed battery system.

Cube

Cube's EPO system uses wireless technology to get rid of the weight and complexity of cable runs. Like Bosch, they've realised the seat tube area can double as a battery housing – in this case the battery is actually inside the seatpost. They've opted for a rear hub motor. 

KTM

Austrian manufacturers KTM are one of the few firms that have been brave enough to add electric assistance to mountain bikes, where wear and tear, and mud and rain, will find any weakness. They were exhibiting a fearsome looking beast, the Egnition, said to be capable of producing 1200 watts of power. 

Shimano

Shimano's STePS component group was announced at the start of summer but was seen for the first time spinning around the test track at Friedrichshafen. The system is unusual in a couple of respects – it claims to offer both regenerative power  (putting energy back into the battery when you touch the brake levers by using the motor to slow you down) and a battery life of around eight years in normal use. Currently one or two years appears the norm for lithium ion batteries. 

Suntour

Suntour's HESC system (the acronym grandly stands for Human Electro Synergy Components) is based around a front hub clamped in a 63mm-travel fork, with reinforced dropouts to dampen vibrations from the motor. The li-ion battery looks more conventional, with a claimed life of 500 recharges. The system is operated by a removable bar mounted computer with just two buttons – removal locks the wheels and cranks.

The critical question appears to be which of these systems will make it to the UK and the US – tiny markets for electric bikes compared to continental Europe but said by some in the industry to be about to expand rapidly.

Scott confirmed to BikeRadar that they won’t be offering the Bosch system in the UK next season, restricting themselves to mainland Europe to see how the system of service centres works. Cannondale told us UK availability and pricing are yet to be confirmed but their E-series is scheduled for a spring 2011 intro on the Continent with a retail price of around €2,800.

Shimano’s European office confirmed that the system would be available in the UK in 2011 but that exactly which bike manufacturers would be offering the kit ready-fitted was still being decided, as was whether they would offer it as a retro-fit option. The likely price range of complete bikes with the system would be €2,000-3,000.

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