How VanMoof created the world's smartest electric bike

Behind the design: The future of biking

Electric bikes are becoming a norm much to our chagrin. On top of enabling the same human laziness as tweens stroll down the street on hoverboards, they are almost all terribly unattractive with a bulky battery strapped to the frame and a big motor jutting out to the side.

This, however, is the VanMoof Electrified S, and despite looking like a completely regular bicycle, it's one of the longest lasting electric-assisted bikes you will ever ride.

VanMoof Electrified S

By all appearances it looks like a normal bike, but there's actually a 250-watt electric assist motor built into the front wheel, the central frame houses two computers, plus integrated lights and one of the biggest batteries in existence.

While touring the Amsterdam bike maker's satellite store in Brooklyn, VanMoof's Global Operations Manager Brent van Assen explains the company created the Electrified S because it saw a problem with unattractive electric bikes.

"There's are almost no bike frames specifically made to be electric and the few that exist are not designed to be pretty and functional," he said.

VanMoof Electrified S

Building on a legacy

The Electrified S is actually VanMoof's second attempt to introduce an electric bike since 2014. Named the VanMoof 10 Electrified, the two wheeler offered an assisted ride complete with an on-board computer that monitored the rider's pace.

However, the design team was still unsatisfied with their execution due to the larger engine and the computer screen welded to the top of the frame. Worse yet, the battery was installed inside of the downtube, which extends from the front of the bike to the bottom bracket shell and pedals.

"You could take the battery out, but it was terrible because you had to remove all sorts of parts," Assen grumbles.

VanMoof Electrified S

VanMoof Electrified S

"With the new Electrified S we moved the crank forward, so this entire space from here to here, almost 90cm of battery," Assen expounds as he points to the top and bottom of the bike's new downtube. "You can replace it really easily, too. What you do is take the kickstand off, flatten the rear tire and you can take the entire battery out."

Assen reasons that most people who buy the Electrified S will want to ride it for five years or more, and at some point it will need to be serviced or replaced. And aside from the computers, almost everything on the Electrified S can be serviced just like any other bike.

"The front and rear hub, the chain, the pedals, everything really isn't that different," he says. "The only thing that's new for most bike stores is the lights and the electronics, and in this case, also the motors."

VanMoof Electrified S

Custom fit

Beyond the battery, VanMoof went back to the drawing board to redesign the Electrified S around its smart capabilities.

"We used to just buy existing components and we said, 'Okay this is what we need and put it in the bike,'" Assen details. "For this we took way more time to develop, now the lock mechanism over here and the computer fits into here with the speedometer."

VanMoof Electrified S

The Electrified S (left) vs the 10 Electrified (right)

The 10 Electrified originally used off the shelf components never designed to fit inside a bicycle frame. As a result, VanMoof had to weld additional compartments to make room for the circuit board and even with that, a top plate was added to accommodate a small computer screen.

Early prototypes of the Electrified S originally used a smaller Raspberry Pi-like board, however, Assen says the team quickly realized what they really needed was custom printed circuit boards. This way the electronics could easily fit inside and stay completely hidden inside the top tube.

On top of this, VanMoof even designed a curved screen that blends in with the frame's tubes.