So we have a bicycle, and it has two wheels, a seat and pedals, and it gets you from A to B. Bicycles, they’ve been around a long time and perhaps it seems little is new in the world of cycling. But in the Ebike sector, innovation is bursting out everywhere – perhaps this is understandable, it’s a relatively new field and a growing market for manufacturers to sell to? (In Holland now the latest data shows that 1 in 5, or 20%, of a ll new bicycles sold are electrically assisted – and the Dutch do know a thing or two about cycling after all. See here for full story:

Of course the innovations that we are seeing maybe in part due to the legislative restrictions that Ebikes have to conform to? After all legislation can create a market – thus in the majority of the EU (inc the UK) a standard electrically assisted bicycle must be limited to 250watts (nominal power) and the motor is only permitted to power the bicycle up to 15mph (25kph). This presents challenges – how to make the motor perform well on the hills (give it lots of torque), how to get the motor to run without too quickly draining the battery, and so on. Various manufacturers meet these challenges in different ways – and although a motor may be limited to 250watts nominal power, many at peak power are producing nearer a 1,000watts (and all quite legally). Another factor in some parts of Europe is that there are now different permitted classes of Electric Bicycle – for instance in Germany beyond the standard 250w/25kph class, there are others including a 45kph/28mph class which are still permitted on bicycle paths (within local speed limits), but the rider is required to wear a helmet and to have motorcycle insurance. So far in the UK we only have the one type of electric bicycle standard (250w/15mph) but many are lobbying to include more flexibility, such as they have in Germany. The faster bikes making things such as longer distance Ebike commuting a more practicable possibility maybe?

Here’s an example of such an Ebike in action – the Grace One:

Of course innovation is not only driven by legislation, sometimes new solutions to existing problems are sought, or simply new ways of doing things that might work better, or need less maintenance, or maybe just look better?

From Germany a couple of new innovative bike systems are coming along – new ways of propelling the bike along.

Firstly, and already in production and shortly to be available from Wisper Bikes in the UK, are Grace Ebike’s with Belt Drives. A Belt Drive being oil free is one way of reducing the chances of getting mucky on your bike, and they do tend to require less maintenance than a chain as well – and on these bikes they also look pretty cool.

Here’s a video of one in action:

Secondly, and shortly to be in production, how about shaft drive? Something you see on some (top end) motorcycles, and of course the standard system on cars, but on bicycles not a common thing – there have been one or two shaft drive bicycles, but the new system from a company called Protanium is the first in which the shaft is driven by an electric motor (as well as by the pedals). A shaft drive electric bicycle, will mean little maintenance, no dirty chain, potentially “cleaner lines”.

Now there is innovation, have a look here:

Bikes using such innovative technology perhaps won’t be the cheapest, but they will be made to a high standard and last well (with a good guarantee). Perhaps the saddest thing is the paucity of British manufacturers in this sector – maybe, and returning to the legislative aspect, if we had other and faster classes of electric Bicycles then they would become more of interest and more widely purchased and encourage British manufacturing companies to get involved?

Heck Bosch now make on of the best Ebike Motors – a crank drive (as pictured above) – (as used in the belt drive bike mentioned above, as well as in many others), so perhaps Dyson or someone similar might one day get involved? (Interestingly some German manufacturers who initially shipped the production side of making electric bike systems, to the far east, are now bringing production back home – it seems the Made in Germany badge increases sales, as does the Made in Britain – if you can ever find it!).