German company Schaeffler today Presented at the trade fair Eurobike 2021 An innovative e-bike drive system. It completely leaves the classic chain, belt, hub or other mechanical connection between the motorcyclist and the rear wheel drive.
The system is called Free Schaeffler EngineThe base is a generator that converts mechanical energy from the pedal into electrical energy. The cable leads to the motor at the rear wheel (with a power of 250 watts), where it is converted back into motion. The manufacturer uses the bike label with a wire.
The drawback is the energy loss that must inevitably come with such a double conversion. However, the manufacturer claims that the new system is only 5% less efficient than the traditional metal series. So it’s a loss, but surprisingly small.
On the contrary, the benefits are great. The wheel wears off the chain (gets dirty and worn), and the gears, cables, gearbox and tuning-sensitive derailleur are gone.
The novelty could open a whole new chapter in bike-building and so-called cargo bikes, which until now were built around pedals, chains and gears.
It’s important to stress that Free Drive isn’t just about pedaling and turning the rear wheel. It is a complex system that includes a battery, a control unit, and a computing unit. You charge the battery at home, so it also sends power to the motor. When driving downhill, the engine recovers and sends power to the battery.
Reinventing the Wheel
Thus, energy flows are more complex than those of a traditional e-bike. It is not entirely clear to me how the relationship between pedal frequency, alternator resistance and drive speed is determined. According to the logic of things, your feet can provide tremendous power, however the bike will run slowly (most of the energy is stored). And vice versa – you can just rotate your legs easily, but you will still work quickly (because the power is flowing from the battery). These relationships will likely be determined by the driver using a steering wheel controller, and the power distribution will be taken over by the computer.
And something else happened to me. We learn to ride our bikes as kids and know what happens when we step on the pedal. Our body naturally tends to maintain our balance, the wheel begins an immediate reaction. Free Drive tears these ties apart, and there is no direct mechanical link. Will we learn to ride a bicycle again after the Germans reinvented it?
Free Drive is something completely new, so it raises a number of questions, perhaps even distrust. On the other hand, there are no greengrocers behind it, Schaeffler and Heinsmann have extensive experience developing electric motors, generators and drive systems (they even work in Formula E). The Free Drive system is ready and the company is providing it to bike manufacturers in Eurobik. We can ride the first prototype during 2022.
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