The term electric bicycle has been widely used since the early 2000s, but can you guess the actual age of electric bicycles?
The idea of electric bicycles has been around for nearly 130 years! In the ten years before the advent of electric bicycles, both France and the United States had forward-looking thinkers experimenting with electric tricycles. We will mention these experiments below, but the beginning of the electric bicycle must start with the invention of its predecessor: the bicycle.
The origin of bicycle bike
Bicycles first appeared in the second half of the 19th century, and the most popular version of bicycles is “High Wheeler” or “Ordinary”, also known as Penny. Prior to this, lever-type and gear-type tricycles were the most popular wheeled vehicles; except for horse-drawn carriages. The High Wheeler is very popular because the large wheels at the front allow the rider to travel a considerable distance with just one rotation of the leg, because the pedals are fixed to the wheels, that is, there are no gears. These bicycles are quite dangerous. The distance from the seat to the floor is very long, usually 5 feet or more! Therefore, the name of the bicycle that replaced them is: safety bicycle.
Safety bicycles are highly recognizable because they are very similar in appearance to the bicycles we ride today. They were first invented in the 1870s, but did not become popular until certain technological advances (especially direct steering and gears) were added. Since becoming a star in the 1880s and 1890s, safety bicycles have undergone many evolutions and improvements, including many electrification attempts!
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The Evolution of Electric Bikes-Part 1
The first part of the evolution of electric bicycles follows the “bicycle craze” of the late 19th century, which originated from the birth of safe bicycles. The evolution of this part of the electric bicycle can be traced through the patents registered in the US Patent Office, and we will refer to these patents here. But it all started with two people testing electric propulsion on a tricycle across the Atlantic, 10 years apart.
Gustav Truvi and Truvi tricycle
In 1881, Gustave Trouvé wanted to experiment with electric power and tricycles. He took a tricycle made in England and added an electric motor to it. He tested it in the center of Paris. Although the test was considered successful, he failed to obtain a patent.
He was not deterred, he accepted his idea and modified it to power his boat on the Seine. He managed to apply for a patent for the invention and is considered the inventor of the outboard engine. Persistence pays off!
Mr. Grafini and Grafini Tricycle
Mr. Grafini added a battery and gear transmission to the tricycle. Together with its rider, this is a heavy device, weighing about 300 pounds! However, on the test track, it did reach a speed of 12 mph, for a total of 50 miles. Quite remarkable, but due to the high center of gravity, there is a great risk of falling.
Ogden Bolton, Jr and direct drive rear hub motor
Mr. Bolton has filed a patent for the direct drive rear hub motor that has become the most widespread and commonly used motor in electric bicycles. The main difference between Ogden’s motor and the modern version we are using now is that his motor is brushed instead of brushless. In addition, although there is almost no difference other than modernization; Ogden’s is also made waterproof and dustproof, the speed is controlled by the handlebar, and the battery is suspended from the frame between the cyclist’s legs.
Charles Theryc and planetary gear hub motor
This may be a bit ugly, but Charles Theryc’s patented invention introduces a motor that can run faster than the wheels it drives. Just a year after the direct drive rear hub motor was introduced, someone has applied for a patent to improve its function. This style of motor is still very popular today.
It is worth noting that Charles Theryc has designed this motor for any vehicle, but especially bicycles. Planetary motors are still used for a variety of purposes today, not just in vehicles.
Hosea W. Libbey and mid-drive motor
Another year, another patent for a bicycle motor, but this is the first patent at the pedal position; it is called a mid-drive motor. Positioning the motor outside the wheel means that the motor can move faster than the wheel. It uses chain gears to connect to the wheels, as we use today, allowing riders to multiply the power of the system and get extremely fast speeds. This means that the motor can be smaller than a hub motor, but still provide more power to the wheels.
This design also transfers the weight to the middle of the bike, providing more stability for the rider. If you look closely at the patent, you may find that it is not connected to a pedal, leading some people to claim that this is not an electric bicycle, but more like an electric motorcycle. We will let you decide that, but we will say that mid-drive motors have been and are still very popular with electric bicycles throughout its history.
John Schnepf and friction drive motor
This motor is completely different from the above-mentioned motors because it does not drive the hub like all popular bicycles and electric bicycles today, but provides power to the rollers pressed on the rear tires, and uses friction to drive the power to the wheels. wheel. You can view the original patent here.
Compared with other models, these motors have some setbacks, including louder, more pronounced, and not working properly when the tires get wet. However, they are very popular among enthusiasts who build by themselves because they are easier and cheaper to find and build.
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The Evolution of Electric Bikes-Part 2
All of the aforementioned advancements in the electric bicycle world seem to lead to this popularization as a means of transportation. Unfortunately, with the advent of motor vehicles and mass production, electric bicycles have been left behind. From here we can fast-forward about 100 years, at the turn of the 21st century, in order to see the technological advancement that will start electric bicycles to enter the popularity it is experiencing tremendous growth. What are these technological advances?
Battery Technology-Lead-acid batteries, the type of fossil fuel-powered car that starts your car, are heavy and bulky, and putting them on an electric bicycle is not very practical. Lead-acid batteries provide less power than modern lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries were commercialized in the early 1990s, providing greater capacity and more power, and importantly, they achieved this while being much lighter than lead-acid grandfather products. This reduces the weight of electric bicycles, gives them more power and greater cruising range, making them more attractive to more people.
Sensors and microelectronics-these items are essential for modern electric bicycles, without them, many of the functions we use and love, such as: different levels of pedal assist, battery level monitoring and electronic speed monitoring; will not exist. These features stem from the technological boom we have seen in the past few decades, which was unheard of in the first era of electric bicycle development 100 years ago.
These technological advances not only help to provide more functions and more choices for electric bicycle riders, but also greatly help improve the safety of riding electric bicycles. Such topics are more prevalent in today’s bustling society.
Pedal assist-In 1989, Michael Kutter invented one of the most important advancements in the modern electric bicycle world, namely “Pedelec”, which stands for pedal electric bicycle. This is what we now know as the pedal assist function. His idea is to start the motor when the rider starts to step on the pedal, eliminating the need for accelerator. Before his invention, everyone used the accelerator function instead of the pedal (some people would argue that many previous designs were designed for electric motorcycles, but we will let you judge that).
Before Michael helped a company create a commercial version in 1992, he first installed it on his personal bicycle. Since then, pedal assist functions have become ubiquitous in the electric bicycle industry, whether as an assist or safety function.
From then to now
The early 1990s witnessed the reinvention of electric bicycles, and in the early 2000s, electric bicycles became the term used. Now we see the electric bicycle revolution, because their popularity has steadily increased in the past 20 years, and there is no sign of abating at present! 130 years later, safety bicycles started the first bicycle boom. You can say that we have now entered the world’s first electric bicycle boom, because people in the 21st century clammer let themselves be one of these new trends, the environmental protection mode of transportation .
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