With each annual edition of the tradeshow season, there seems to always be at least one discernible trend. Manufacturers and the industry seems to latch onto a concept in lock step and then all of a sudden it’s the show of 29″, 650b, fat bikes, and now plus bikes. E-bikes are a little different. For years, they’ve been there. Silently charging in the background just waiting to take over the world. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but we have been seeing e-bikes at trade shows for years, but this year stood out.
Eurobike has always been a haven for e-bike technology, but for 2016, Interbike had almost an entire wing of the show floor devoted to anything and everything with an electronic motor. So what does that mean for the future? From what we saw at the show, it seems that most manufacturers feel that they can no longer ignore the category. Considering brands like BMC were showing off elaborate prototypes of future e-models, there are a lot more companies building e-bikes than just a few years ago. The depth of the e-bikes at the two shows also serves to highlight just how vast the difference between separate motor technologies can be. Some bikes provide just enough boost to feel like you’re having a great day on the bike, while others shown were literally electronic street motorcycles.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. While there certainly were some WTF machines, the majority of the bikes seem to be headed in the reasonably powered, pedalec direction (meaning you have to pedal). After all, a throttle is the only thing that separates an e-moped from an e-bike (pedalec)…
Maybe it was the matte grey finish or the odd grey plus tires, but BMC’s prototype e-bike had a futuristic, almost menacing look. One of a number of new bikes to be built around the new Shimano XT level STEPS e-bike system, the bike seems to follow Specialized’ lead with a mid travel full suspension plus frame and an integrated battery. Estimated for potentially 2018, we’re told that this bike will be available in Europe only at first.
More than just a prototype model, BMC had a fully functional e-bike prototype in their booth to serve as the test mule for the new bike.
Scott will be another brand to take advantage of the E8000 system with a new version of the E-Spark. Built with 120/130mm of travel with an inverted trunion mounted rear shock, the bike rolls on 27 x 2.8″ plus tires which seems to be a recurring trend for e-MTBs. Shown above is the top end 700 Plus Tuned E-Spark, but 710 and 720 Plus versions will be available as well.
At this point, Scott actually has quite a few e-bike models including this new E-Silence EVO which makes use of the Brose motor and integrated battery along with a Nuvinci Harmony N330 hub.
Not only has Bulls been knocking on consumers’ doors stateside with direct sales, but they’ve also been introducing a ton of new e-bikes. Not all of them are available through Bulls USA, but it’s probably only a matter of time before bikes like these new E Core Di2 FS and hardtail e-bikes with the new Shimano STEPS E8000 motors start popping up. Score another one for plus tires and Shimano e-drivetrains.
Bulls also had an interesting take on the Bosch Performance Line CX system with the SIX50 + E FS3 and Aminga E FS 3+. Compared to other Bosch bikes we’ve seen it looks like the motor has been rotated counter clockwise to create lines that flow better into the frame in a way that makes the external battery look more integrated.
Yet another Shimano STEPS E8000 plus mountain bike, this time from KTM. One nice thing about the Shimano equipped bikes like the Ventura Vamos (and other integrated battery systems) is that some brands have been able to keep the water bottle cage inside the front triangle.
When e-bikes first started popping up, they were mostly retrofits with companies like Bionx offering kits to bolt on to your current bike with hub driven motors. It looks like Bionx is either working on their own frame or with partners to create an integrated battery system that would still use a motor like their D 500 DV model.
If you need further proof of just how much the world of e-bikes is growing, just take a look at how many manufacturers had their own motors and battery systems on display. TranzX was showing off multiple new products in their e-bike systems line including the Integra fully integrated frame and drive unit concept with the M16-GTi motor.
To go along with their tires and Conti belt Drive System, Continental also has their own eBike system now with an integrated battery, mid drive motor, and control unit.
Panasonic lookg like they’re working on a more integrated system as well, with a much more streamlined battery than their current system.
While retrofitting normal bikes with hub motors seems to have gotten less popular recently, a number of companies at Eurobike were showing mid-drive retrofits like the Sunstar Virtus and Pendix drive systems which mount a battery on the down tube and drive the crank. The most clever one of the bunch appeared to be the Relo system which uses a hinged motor system that allows it to fit any bike. The system weighs a claimed 3.7 kg with the battery, it provides 250w, and allows you to use your own cranks (square taper, Hollowtech II, or Octalink). In terms of form, this was one of the cleanest designs we saw at the show for a retrofit. Depending on your bike and desire, the battery can also be positioned in line with the seat tube.
And then there was this thing. Brose is a brand of drive system that we’ve started hearing more from here in the U.S., but they’re already pretty big in Europe. This concept bike was one of the more wild takes on e-bikes at the show. If anything, this highlights a future where the line between e-bike and e-motorcycle/moped is extremely blurred. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t want to ride this though…
Highlighting the future of clean energy and transportation, Stromer had a limited edition Solar Impulse version of their e-bike named after the Solar Impulse 2 plane that recently completed its trip around the world using only solar power. The bike might actually go as fast as the plane as it had an average speed of just 45 mph!
E-bikes with integrated batteries and drive units are starting to become more prevalent, as are full on e-road bikes. It won’t be long until more e-bikes are like the city bike at the bottom right which to the untrained eye would pass as a standard bicycle.
E-cargo bikes also proved to be quite popular and for good reason. Of all the different types of bikes, this is the category we see as the most deserving of an electric motor. No one wants to try to muscle a few hundred pounds of cargo and bike up a hill at 2 mph. Slap a motor on there and get your errands done, pick up the kids from school, or sell ice cream out of your bike all while leaving the car at home.
From there thing start to get a bit more weird…
Or inspired by classic motorcycles.
Or just full-on electric motorcycles. Yes, these things were at Interbike.
Electric scooters were also big at Interbike this year. With them you can do many things, like carry show materials in boxes to your booth! The massive tire scooter hybrids were interesting – it’s like a scooter, a Jazzy power chair, and a golf cart got drunk at the 19th hole, and this is the result.
Overall, it was pretty interesting to see the difference in how e-bikes were presented in Europe vs. America. At Eurobike, it’s clear that the e-bike has reached a wider acceptance and the bikes presented were (mostly) more utilitarian and sophisticated. Interbike’s e-bike zone was more of a side show lacking a lot of the more advanced technologies we saw in Europe.
The takeaway seems to have been that e-bikes are not going anywhere – as much as you might want them to. After all, they’re fun to ride and there is the potential for bicycle manufacturers to appeal to a larger market (read: more $$$). Whether or not the U.S. market will get to the point of Europe’s in a few years remains to be seen, but the wave is out there. And it’s coming.