Electric bicycles are very trendy these days. Reasons are simple – you do not have to put so much effort into travelling as some of propulsion is provided by a simple electric motor. Since once in a while you still have to peddle and you are spending time outdoors, it is still a healthy way of spending your free time. Electric bikes are expensive, but now there are interesting solutions on the market.
Engineers at TUMCREATE (a joint research project between TU Munich and Nanyang Technological University) have developed a device, which can turn a normal bicycle into a pedelec (pedal electric cycle). It is a simple motor, which can be attached to virtually any bicycle, providing additional comfort, speed and usability of a more expensive pedelec. In fact, this device will cost a fraction of what most popular electric bicycles cost. The genius of this design is that all of the crucial components fit nicely into a compact housing: the motor, storage battery and sensors are all there.
It may seem like a very simple idea – just an electric motor on a bike. But there is a certain degree of technological expertise needed to come up with this design. There are sensors, monitoring whether pedals are being used. The battery alone can propel bicycle for about 50 kilometres, if the user is not demanding too much speed from it. However, most commutes are shorter and cyclists should still pedal the thing and only use the motor for extra power when going uphill. By the way, because of laws and regulations, the motor is turned off when the bicycle’s speed reaches 25 kilometres per hour.
The latest prototype is small, can fit in a normal backpack and weighs only 3.5 kg. It takes only 10 seconds to attach the unit to the bicycle and no modifications are needed. It can be mounted to either side of the bicycle – the device will figure out by itself how it was attached. Initial tests helped engineers to optimize he design and now it is sleeker – people used to bump into it with their shoes. Felix Römer, one of the engineers behind this project, explained who it is meant to help: “Our product is suitable for those whose daily commute to work is too long for a bicycle, but for whom buying an expensive Pedelec capable of longer ranges isn’t practical”.
And that does summarize it very well. It encourages taking a bike for commute and getting some exercise done on the way.