German precision manufacturing company Schaeffler has unveiled a new chainless motor designed for electric bikes.
The company’s new “bike-by-wire” technology is based around a generator that sets constant resistance on the pedal whilst also absorbing the rider’s pedalling power.
This new tech dispenses with the mechanical connection between the motor and the generator, enabling completely new bicycle architectures and pedal configurations combined with an even lower requirement for wear parts.
“The development is proof of our transformation into a leading supplier of electrified drives,” says Matthias Zink, Schaeffler’s CEO of Automotive Technologies.”
“Our decades of expertise in the field of vehicle mechatronics, which we are now also transferring to the two-wheel segment, have assisted us in this development. The e-bike market is growing steadily and offers Schaeffler, as an e-mobility partner, further business potential.”
The Free Drive central generator that powers the “drive-by-wire” tech is a serial hybrid drive that converts the mechanical energy generated during pedalling into electric energy, which in turn is converted back into mechanical energy in the wheel hub motor. Any excess energy is stored in a battery.
The generators promise a continuous output of 250 watts, if set up correctly with all the right parts.
A complete kit is available to buy from Heinzmann GmbH & Co, and includes a pedal generator, drive motor, battery power pack, and human-machine interface. Though you can also buy the individual components and build the system yourself.
“Regardless of whether the system is used in 2-, 3-, or 4-wheel applications, the absence of a mechanical connection between the generator and motor means that Free Drive can provide maximum flexibility in the bicycle architecture and a freely configurable pedalling sensation, which is tailored to the requirements of the bicycle and the needs of the rider while ensuring minimal wear,” says Dr Jochen Schröder, President of the E-Mobility Division.
For fleet operators, Free Drive offers an ergonomic, low-maintenance, and robust system with low operating and maintenance costs, as wear parts and peripheral chain equipment are not required.
You can take a look, and try out the free drive motors for yourself, at the Eurobike exhibition in Frankfurt.