Lloyd Alter is visiting the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a guest of Bosch, and is looking at how technology will change the way we live.
One of the most interesting technologies that Bosch is bringing to North America is its e-bike system. Bosch doesn't build bikes, but sells the drive unit, the power pack, charger and Intuvia control and monitoring hardware. It is used by over 50 manufacturers in Europe, and will launch in America this spring on bikes made by BH Bike, Cannondale, Currie Technologies with Haibike and Felt.
Unlike most of the electrically powered bikes in North America, and like the Copenhagen wheel or the Faraday bike, the Bosch system is a bike assist and doesn't have a throttle. You have to pedal all the time, but it detects resistance when you are going up a hill or push to go faster. It is a cycling experience, not a scooter that does all the work. This is not an alternative to a bicycle, but really it is an enhancement. I thought this was a surprising choice for the North American market, but Claudia Wasko, who will be running the e-bike sales in North America, explains in this terrible noisy and shaky video that in Europe there are legal limits on where electric scooters can go, so they want to ensure that it is always considered equivalent to a bicycle.
Claudia and Markus Schmidt say the market for these bikes is the Millennial gang that are not buying cars, but need dependable transportation for longer distances than one might do on a conventional bike. If that is to be the case, it will have to be part of a larger infrastructure investment of secure bike storage at either end; these things are going to cost upwards of US $3500. I suspect a big market will also be the boomer cyclist; they have the money to afford it and many will find the electric boost a big help on hills or long slogs.
The power packs come in 300 and 400 watt/hour capacities and will push the motor up to 15 miles per hour. There are different driving modes on the Intuvia controls: Turbo, Sport, Tour, Eco and Off.
I don't know which one the demonstration unit was using but it took some serious pedalling before the unit kicked in. I do know that it was a lot of fun and I want one.
More at Bosch