STUTTGART/REUTLINGEN (D) – As a leading supplier of electric bicycle components, Bosch can be seen as the benchmark for the market. With that in mind, British trade magazine CyclingIndustry News sat down with Claus Fleischer, CEO of Bosch eBike Systems, for an update on all things e-bikes.
(By Mark Sutton, CyclingIndustry.News)
With the bike market moving towards transportation, Bosch rounded out a nearly complete portfolio of engine options for manufacturers with a limited-edition, magnesium-bodied motor aimed squarely at the competitive electric mountain bike segment. According to Claus Fleischer, CEO of Bosch e-bike Systems, covering all the bases on the dominant consumer-facing side of his business was one of the final pieces of the puzzle. “This is our super responsive, super sporty option that delivers pure performance out of the corners and over the obstacles. We have so many people who just want to improve their training, improve their techniques and compete. The Performance CX range has been so successful, but the Performance Line CX Race Limited Edition delivers the best responsiveness our designers could manage, helping the rider with up to 400% of pedal input and improving riding dynamics.”
Weighing in at 2.75kg, the new drive unit is the lightest drive in the entire Bosch portfolio and comes with 85Nm of torque that apparently provides ‘explosive assist’ even above 120rpm; all of course within the legal framework that applies to motorcycles in Europe.
It is of course a peripheral product, but indicative of the broad church that e-cycling has become over time. With professional e-bike racing, the market has the same depth, maybe even more than the non-motorcycle market, and a mass appeal to customers that has yet to be reached. For bike shops, this is good news.
Bosch wants production closer to a better grip on supply
Demand is of course one thing, but supply is another, and it is known that there are persistent gaps in the electric bike market that continue to exist. With its unique position in size and thus in industry demand, Bosch has been at the forefront of the battle against other electronics giants to secure the supply of key components, not to mention acutely aware of other raw material issues, new and potential conflicts and a host of other complications wreaking havoc on everything from pricing to delivery schedules.
“Unpredictable events have become so common. We’ve had even more Covid lockdowns in China and logistical issues where ports have been affected,” Fleischer said of the current geopolitical climate. “In an attempt to cover electronics shortages, we have tried to redesign our electronics so that we can use alternative components. This will continue into next year, so our vulnerability is reduced. Most people predict a cooling of the economy for next year. As a result of this, the demand should decrease and therefore we can improve the supply. When it comes to Taiwan, it is not so much about the bicycle industry as it is about the escalation of a political conflict. Of course, any problem related to the semiconductor industry will affect the bicycle industry. Taking taking all this into account, we are now seeing investment in the US and Europe in such components, and as is generally the trend, the bicycle industry will move closer to production to better control supply.”
In Europe, there is a great willingness to pay for more torque and watt-hours of energy
Clearly impressed by progress in Portugal, where foreign and local investment has increased to produce a cluster of manufacturing companies in one location, Claus suspects that further joint ventures will be established in Europe, ready for what he sees as a promising prospect for the future e-bike market. Bosch itself has recently invested massively in Europe.
The market will try to control prices, knowing that bicycles, thanks to their low cost, always do well after a recession. It is, of course, a daunting task when global markets are largely focused on an inflationary, possibly protracted, recession. So, given that e-bikes are inherently more expensive than regular bikes, how does Claus feel about how his customers are tackling this challenge? “I think we’re seeing two effects at play right now. First, in Europe over the last six to eight years, there’s been a great willingness to pay for more torque and watt-hours of energy. So the willingness to paying for more range has been driven by consumer demand for the development of more powerful motors and larger batteries. It is increasing every year. However, it seems that dealers and consumers have reached a natural limit where the readings within the framework of a 25 km /t e-bike and the available installation space cannot go any further. So with that we have a natural limit and now starts a turn to less weight and less cost, which also means less Nm and Wh. We now see that the demand for lower price points is developing rapidly among customers,” explains Fleischer.
Safety is at the heart of what we do because it allows e-bikers to ride more.
If price is the new consumer priority, what is Bosch’s take on another major advance being made to deliver on the long-term vision of e-bikes taking over the streets? In other words: safety.
In terms of technology, it’s versatility, and it started with the latest second-generation ABS system, which has been partnered with Magura. “Safety is central to what we do, because it gives e-cyclists the opportunity to cycle more. Research seems to show that they will cycle up to three times more and for longer, and technology is making these journeys both easier and safer.”
It is the hardware side, but for Bosch the thinking does not stop there. Fleischer is optimistic about technologies that will make all transportation intelligent and able to communicate, especially innovations that will allow cars to finally recognize and adapt to pedestrians and cyclists. “Our solutions will be the change, we have attended conferences to ensure that we are part of this technological advancement,” continues Fleischer. “Of course, it’s important that we also continue to care about infrastructure that promotes safety.”
It is very important that e-bikes that support up to 25 km/h remain categorized as a bicycle
Still in a state of constant evolution, the product and the limits of design are often and increasingly challenged outside of the cycling world. It’s not always nice when the limits of the law are tested, so we ask the CEO of Bosch e-bike Systems about the latest measures taken against those who market products that fall outside standard e-bike regulations. His position is robust and he will protect an e-bike’s status as a bicycle at all costs. “It is very important that the EU Commission and the UK all share the same view that e-bikes that support up to 25 km/h remain categorized as a bicycle. This is super important because the bicycle as a means of transport provides so much freedom of movement and expands one’s horizons of where they can ride. This freedom is so important and ensures high acceptance of cycling. There is no way we should diminish consumer fascination and perception of an e-bike, so we definitely draw that line the sand to preserve the market. Anything beyond that applies to type approval, but that’s a separate discussion.”
Where there may be some willingness to talk is around weight limits on cargo bikes, where 250kg is currently the ceiling. For loads up to this limit, Fleischer says using bike components works fine, but where these limits are tested (and they often are), heavier components are needed along with a more built-up chassis. “This is where new type approval discussions can be useful,” says the Bosch CEO.
If you use an electric bike for 450 km, instead of the car, you have offset the CO2 emissions from the car’s production
The other big conversation that the bike industry is increasingly engaging in is sustainability and the role of the electric bike in challenging some of the reduced car journeys, whether it’s an internal combustion engine or the supposedly clean electric car. Claus would like to put the environmental differences in context. “If we compare the CO2 footprint of a bicycle, e-bike and car of any engine type, the CO2 life cycle of the bicycle and e-bike are in any case close to each other. The internal combustion engine and battery car are a factor of 100 to 200 worse for the planet. The difference between a bicycle and an electric bicycle is relatively small. In general, if you use an electric bike for 450 km, instead of the car, you have offset the CO2 emissions from the production of the car,” says Fleischer.
In recent years, batteries used in electric bicycle products have steadily reduced the content of precious materials. In addition, cobalt consumption has decreased by 65% over the years, if you compare previous batteries with the products Bosch now offers. “We try to reduce the weight of bicycles, but also the material consumption. As a company, we now look very much at the entire component life cycle, from raw material, through shipping, use and then end-of-life,” said Fleischer. “In addition, we have a specific program for efficient and low-waste logistics, where we continuously reduce plastic and create more environmentally friendly packaging. We have set up a project team that works directly with our engineers, who design sustainability into the product before and not after launch. It is a continuous process and changes the way the entire industry produces products.”
(SOURCE: CyclingIndustry News)
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