For a long time now, the concept of the electric bike has gone far beyond simple electric pedal assistance. Increased connectivity of core components with digital functionality offers “VAEists” (sorry for the barbarism) the opportunity to tailor the electric bike experience to their personal needs.
Now that the market is mature – to the point of slowing slightly in recent months – manufacturers and equipment suppliers are seeking to stand out from the crowd in an extremely competitive environment. This is often achieved through technological innovation, and it’s fair to say that we’ve had our fill of announcements in recent months.
Announcements that should materialize in the coming months with the arrival on the market of several innovations designed to make the life of the electric cyclist even easier. Here’s an overview of what’s in store.
V2X, eyes and ears to anticipate everything
To reduce the risk of accidents, V2X (Vehicle-to-everything), currently under development, could play a key role. This technology enables vehicles to communicate with each other and with the road infrastructure. In the case of electric bikes, it could be used to send alerts to approaching vehicles, to prevent collisions. For example, an electric bike could send a signal to cars indicating that it is turning. This would enable drivers to adapt to the situation and avoid an accident. The device could also be used to provide cyclists with information on traffic conditions.
For example, an electric bike could receive a signal indicating that there is a danger approaching, such as a hole in the road or a pedestrian. V2X is still in development, but it has the potential to revolutionize cyclist safety, ultimately helping to promote sustainable mobility. Start-ups and established equipment manufacturers such as Garmin are already working on “radar” modules that alert cyclists to their surroundings in real time.
Hybrid electric bikes to modulate effort
Manufacturers are also looking at other ways of storing and supplying energy to assist cyclists. This is the case, for example, of Anod, a French company that has developed a revolutionary electric bike combining supercapacitors and batteries. The Anod Hybrid is equipped with a 250-watt electric motor and a 650 Wh lithium-ion battery. It also features a supercapacitor system that enables it to provide electric assistance for short periods, even when the battery is empty. These supercapacitors are charged by the electric motor during braking and downhill. They enable the bike to start without a battery and provide extra electrical assistance for a few minutes, enough to get out of a tight spot.
For their part, the designers of the Lemmo One are exploring a different avenue, offering a bike that can either provide assistance like a conventional electric bike, or transform itself on demand into a muscle bike, simply by disconnecting and removing the battery. Despite its hybrid nature, offering both manual and electric modes, it stands out from conventional electric bikes. Unlike a standard electric bike, which can present resistance to pedaling once the battery is exhausted, the Lemmo One features a motorization that can be completely deactivated, offering the possibility of entirely manual riding without any resistance.
Power steering to keep you on course
Power steering? On a bike? Tell us it’s a joke. Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s quite serious, and its purpose is not to make manoeuvring easier and reduce effort, but to give the bike greater directional stability. At the recent Tokyo Mobility Show, Yamaha presented two new electric bike concepts equipped with this device.
For the moment, we don’t have many technical details, but we do know that it’s a magnetostriction sensor-based electronic system that plays on the variations in force experienced by the bike’s front axle (wheel, fork, steering hub), helping to stabilize it, particularly when descending on bumpy terrain, and to make it easier to negotiate curves by avoiding jerking. Canyon is also working on a steering assistance system, this time based on mechanical springs that compensate for variations in wheel axle height when cornering.
Towards widespread use of ABS?
ABS, the anti-lock braking system that has been fitted to all cars for years, ensures safer, more effective braking. However, while ABS has long been available for bicycles, very few of them have yet been fitted. Yet this could be an important safety feature. Thanks to sensors measuring wheel speed, braking pressure is adjusted to avoid any risk of loss of control in the event of sudden braking.
ABS is adaptable to different types of electric bikes, whether for city or trail use, with specific modes for mountain bikes, cargo bikes and urban bikes. Although brands such as Bluebrake, Shimano and Bosch already offer ABS systems, its cost and the relatively large casing still limit its adoption. For example, the Bosch system requires specific brake discs and can only be installed with certain brake systems.
Despite these considerations, testing of Bosch ABS on an electric mountain bike has demonstrated its effectiveness, offering added safety on steep descents and wet city roads. A quick reminder about ABS: it’s not a miracle solution, and it doesn’t necessarily shorten braking distances. On the contrary, it may even lengthen them, depending on road conditions. But if it doesn’t prevent you from hitting your brakes, it can help you choose where to hit them…
The 2×2 bike for climbing walls
Admittedly, there’s little chance of this being developed in the very near future on everyone’s EAB, but some manufacturers are looking into the all-wheel drive electric bike, the 4×4 of bicycles, i.e. the two-wheel drive bike. A guarantee of stability and traction, this feature would be of particular interest to VTTAEs (electrically-assisted mountain bikes), giving them greater grip in difficult terrain. Yamaha recently unveiled a new concept featuring a central motor and another motor in the front hub, all powered by two batteries and associated intelligent traction electronics. A system that will inevitably make the machine heavier, but which could also find a place in VTCs for safer all-terrain rides. And why not some cargo bikes?
These are just some of the innovations that manufacturers have in store for us in the near future. But they’re not the only ones. We could also mention bikes with belts, cardan shafts or drive shafts replacing the chain, automatic transmission bikes, which will certainly become widespread in the next few years, reversing cameras, or the research being carried out by certain manufacturers to revolutionize the kinematics of folding bikes.
So, of course, if you’re somewhat resistant to technological progress applied to cycling and prefer a certain sobriety, you won’t be convinced by this inventory. For our part, we believe that useful innovation, well integrated as a natural function, is the best way to convert more and more people to electric cycling.