Friday, June 18, 2010

Shimano to Unveil eBike Component Group


More details about the long-awaited Shimano ebike component group are emerging, and they're saying they'll officially launch at the Eurobike in September. Bikeradar.com has the most complete coverage I've seen thus far; as Shimano claims to have test units in the hands of manufacturers, perhaps we'll hear more details soon. Named STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System), it's pretty much everything you need, except a frame, to build an ebike.

Not surprisingly, coming from Shimano, the group is a tightly integrated and well engineered set of components. They've built a torque-sensored front hub motor, rear rack battery system. The system includes regen braking, integrated lights, and on the upper end, electronic shifting. As it's a front hub system, there remain a wide selection of rear drive and brake options, from internal hubs to derailers, even the plush NuVinci continuously variable transmission. Designed as a system, Shimano has integrated a lot of functions into other units, like shift buttons on brake levers, which could lead to a very clean look.

The Shimano system was clearly designed to be globally legal, and thus stops providing power at about 15mph; this could be a challenge in the US market, where assist limits are 20mph.

A 4ah battery is an interesting choice. At 24v/250w, that pencils out to a sub-10 mile range, which is pretty low. It's a good looking battery, though, incorporating a rear light, much like the battery in the new Gary Fisher cargo ebike.

Implementation details aside, it's exciting to see another manufacturer, especially one as steeped in cycling as Shimano, enter the ebike market. Panasonic, eZee, and other ebike hardware manufacturers should welcome a new rider to the peloton.

Update, 6/19:
The small battery size may well be an artifact of TSA regulations regarding flying with lithium batteries. TSA limits are 100 watt-hours, see additional regulations here.

4 comments:

  1. Hurm, I'm not sure how you figure 10 miles. I'd be surprised if it got much more than 5 with that small of a pack. But we won't know for sure until it gets in our hands, eh?

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  2. Admittedly, I'm rounding up, giving the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they've got a huge advance in regen; maybe when they say "bike-like experience" they mean very little assist. It will be interesting to see.

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  3. E-bikes are limited in the US to 20mph only when powered solely by the motor (throttle system) a pedal-assist (pedelec) e-bike can legally travel much faster. So Kalkhoff bikes that assist up to 25mph aren't breaking the law. Here's the legal stuff: http://bit.ly/aQYLzF

    Great to see Shimano getting into this end of the market.

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  4. That's true, Peter, I hope you haven't seen an insinuation to the contrary from me. State laws can vary from the CPSC definition of an ebike, too. It's good to be familiar with the laws in your state - wikipedia has a pretty good, but not necessarily complete, summary here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws

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