48 volt technology is making a big slash in the world of automobiles, where it is powering electric turbochargers that give 80% of the benefits of a hybrid powertrain at just 30% of the cost. Now Continental, one of the largest suppliers to the automotive industry, is leveraging its 48 volt experience to provide two new drive options for electric bicycle manufacturers.
At the annual EuroBike show in Germany, it unveiled its 48 Volt Revolution and 48 Volt Prime models. Both are designed to be mounted low in the chassis where the pedals are normally found. That’s the ideal location, as it keeps the weight of the motor close to the ground and avoids the potential flywheel effect sometimes associated with wheel hub motors.
The Revolution packages the motor together with a fully integrated stepless automatic transmission. Its continuously variable planetary gearing offers a 380% ratio range for a fully automatic ride that operates seamlessly under all riding conditions.
“Integrating the motor and gearbox together not only looks better, but it works better as well as it centralizes mass, making the bike handle better,” said Christian Wurmbäch, Continental 48V product manager. “The unit also weighs 500 to 600 grams less than a separate motor and rear gear hub.”
The Prime system offers the 48 volt motor without the integrated transmission. Both units can connect to the rear sprocket either by a conventional chain or by Continental’s patented drive belt system.
Continental is also developing an interactive electric bicycle grip with Ergon that links wirelessly to the 48V motor via Bluetooth. A rider has access to lights and motor functions without taking a hand off the grip.
Why is an automotive supplier focusing on electric bicycle components? As the world transitions from internal combustion engines to more environmentally friendly vehicles, the market for electric bicycles is booming. “The future of an auto parts supplier is probably not going to be cars, but in supplying systems to a variety of zero emission vehicles,” says Christian Wurmbäch.
The good news for electric bicycle enthusiasts is that there will be more and better options available in the market soon. Continental says its Revolution and Prime systems will be available beginning in 2018.