I've recently seen and ridden e-bikes equipped with a new mid-drive system by Bosch. I guess that bikes equipped with this system are for sale right now in Europe, but they'll be introduced in the USA next year sometime.
The new Bosch mid-drive system mounts on the pedal crank and drives the rear wheel through a regular derailleur. The drive system has a geared mechanism, so it is noisier than a hub motor. The system is said to provide more torque going uphill than a hub motor and it doesn't get hot and force the computer to "de-rate" the motor like a hub motor can on very long uphill rides. The whole system is much lighter than high powered hub motors like my Stromer's, so the bikes can be lighter. Most of the bikes I rode with this system are about 40 pounds, whereas my Stromer is over 60 pounds.
Besides the lighter weight, I like that both the front and rear wheels are normal bike parts and so working on the wheels and tires is the same as working on a regular bike. Also, with the battery pack on the downtube and the mid-drive design, the bike is well balanced. Riding the bikes reminded me how heavy my Stromer is, since these Bosch-equipped bikes were lighter and more responsive. A different riding experience. I still love my Stromer, but it would be fun to have a couple different options of e-bikes for different riding conditions. At these prices, though, that's a pipe dream.
All of the bikes I saw were going to be priced in the mid $3,500 and above price point, so again, a luxury item. E-bikes are evolving rapidly and it's fun to watch.
Here's a picture of a HaiBike (a Curry product) that I took at Alt Car in September. I also rode bikes from Cannondale, BH and Felt at the Solar Decathlon in Irvine today.
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