Most bikes and e-bikes require some form of mechanical power delivery to the wheels, such as chains, driveshafts, or even belts. However, German company Schaeffler has just unveiled an all-new bike drive system that’s entirely electrical and doesn’t need any of that to get your bike going.
The new system is known as the Schaeffler Free Drive and utilized a “bike-by-wire” system instead of a traditional belt or chain. The Free Drive uses a generator installed in the bottom bracket of the bike. When you pedal, it converts the energy from mechanical to electrical energy, then sends it by wire to the motor.
This design completely removes the need for a chain or belt of any kind, not to mention additional components like a derailleur. Instead, the generator adjusts the resistance in the pedals based on how much power it needs based on the rider’s preference or power selection. If you pedal enough to create extra energy, it gets sent into the battery and stored for later.
Essentially, this new system delivers regenerative power through both pedaling and braking. Keep in mind that this new drive system was designed for pedal-assist riding only and not throttle-based systems like most e-bikes in the United States. As a result, it’s only a 250w motor instead of the 750+ we often see stateside.
On the plus side, riders can now answer “yes” when someone asks if the bike charges while pedaling. However, according to Electrek, a Schaeffler representative did say that its bike-by-wire design is about 5% less efficient than a more traditional chain or belt-driven system due to the transfer and conversion of power from the wire into the motor. That said, it’s still an awesome new system that should allow bike designers to get creative in styling and the layout of components.
Schaeffer will have its Free Drive on display at the Eurobike 2021 convention in Friedrichshafen, Germany, if you’d like to see it yourself. For now, there’s no word on pricing or a release date.