Soon, you won’t have to worry about maintaining your e-bike’s belt or chain – or visiting a service center for software updates. New tech demonstrated at this year’s Eurobike (opens in new tab) show in Germany should make owning and running an electric bike even easier than a conventional one.
Some electric bikes (including our current top-rated model, the Cowboy 4) use a carbon fiber belt rather than a conventional chain, eliminating the need for tensioning and oiling, but what if you could eliminate the external drive system entirely?
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At the show, Germany company Schaeffler unveiled a new system that eliminates the need for a chain or belt to transfer power from the pedals to the wheel hub. As Electrek (opens in new tab) explains, the Free Drive (opens in new tab) converts energy from your pedalling efforts into electricity, which is transferred to a front or rear hub through cables, which can be routed neatly inside the frame.
It not only opens up more possibilities for frame design, with different length wheelbases suddenly much more feasible, it also means a lot less maintenance for the rider, who won’t have to worry about keeping a belt or chain clean between rides.
Do it yourself
The next generation of e-bikes won’t just be easier to maintain mechanically – you’ll also be able to update their firmware yourself as easily as installing an update on your phone.
Bosch makes motors and complete drive systems for many of the world’s biggest bike brands, including Cannondale, Canyon, Kona, Peugeot, Raleigh and Trek to name just a handful. At Eurobike, it unveiled a new ‘smart system’ including a battery, remote control, and drive unit – all connected by a mobile phone app that riders can use to customize their bike’s ride settings and install firmware updates over the air.
That’s great news for e-bike owners, who currently have to visit a workshop or service center for firmware updates. "They ensure that any bugs in the system that [the developers] have found are taken out, that all the components speak effectively together, and sometimes there can be little upgrades,” Julian Thrasher, Head of Training at Shimano, explained in a recent interview with TechRadar.
"Basically there’ll be features that come out that the new firmware accommodates. So it’s a really good virtual upgrade."
It’s not just a matter of adding new features, though – firmware updates can also deliver important safety patches. Back in April, Brompton discovered a problem with some of its folding e-bikes (opens in new tab) that could cause the motor to keep running when the rider had stopped pedalling.
The problem only arose in very specific conditions, and only one instance was reported, but owners of affected bikes had to take them to an approved workshop for a firmware update.
Brompton offered owners a voucher to compensate for the inconvenience, but with the new Bosch system, you’ll be able to install updates to patch bugs and add new features at home yourself, as soon as they’re available.
“We all use smartphones and computers,” Claus Fleischer, CEO of Bosch eBike Systems, told TechRadar, “and we get software updates frequently for all our devices. So it's a logical next step to have all the software updates for the whole system.”
The new Bosch ‘smart system’ will launch in 2022, and may well be tucked away inside the frame of your next e-bike.
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