Sports retailer group Decathlon presented an e-bike with variable transmission on Thursday. The automatic shifting has been developed by E2 Drives in Wavre, in the Brabant Wallon province.
The heart of the LD920 e-bike is a newly developed all-in-one solution for the bike drive, which was developed for three years with the Belgian start-up E2 Drives from Wavre.
The technology is now ready for volume production. The Owuru motor combines electric assistance with continuously variable, automatic gear shifting. Riders simply set their desired cadence, and the motor and transmission control then do the rest.
So far, we have only seen this type of system in Enviolo’s continuously variable automatic transmission Automatiq, but it also requires the motor as a separate component. In the new Decathlon solution, both parts are combined in one component, which is positioned centrally at the bottom bracket and ensures a central and low center of gravity.
However, the transmission to the rear wheel is not that innovative: here, a standard bicycle chain is used instead of a largely maintenance-free belt drive. Undoubtedly for price reasons, because the e-bike is offered from September at an accessible € 2 999.
In Belgium, there’s also speed pedelec manufacturer Ellio offering an automatic drive of both wheels via a planetary gear system inspired by that of the Toyota Prius, but this speed bike is, of course, a lot more expensive.
Pinion also recently launched a similar motor-gearbox combination. Their system is more powerful but does not offer step-less adjustment of the gear ratio. In addition, the Pinion system is, so far, only available in significantly more expensive bikes.
The system’s performance is supposed to be particularly quiet thanks to two synchronous belts, eight sensors, and a powerful microcontroller. They are supposed to provide direct and frictionless support.
The torque of the motor is 65 Nm, which should be more than sufficient for urban use. The gear range is 265%. Via the display on the handlebars, the desired cadence can be defined between 40 and 90 rpm.
The range of the bike is supposed to be 70 to 130 km, as always depending on the personal performance. The battery itself is quite large, with a 702 Wh capacity.
The full-color display is integrated centrally on the stem and provides information about the time, battery status, and support mode. In addition, cadence, remaining range, distance, and speed can be displayed. Via a USB-C port, external components can be linked and charged, such as your smartphone.
With the smartphone, you can see the location of the LD920 e-bike. The bike has an integrated tracking feature that can communicate the bike’s position thanks to 4G, WLAN, and Bluetooth. If the bike is moved unexpectedly, there is also the option of notification on the smartphone.
With 26,1 kg, the LD920 automatic isn’t really light but isn’t that heavy for an e-bike. In view of the full equipment, including a suspension fork, it’s well within the expected range.
Decathlon is promising a reliable ride for at least 20 000 km without major problems on a bike that needs little maintenance. Test drives will be provided in seven Decathlon outlets in Belgium to begin with.
E2 Drives was founded by Arthur Deleval and Simon Godfrin some 10 years ago.”Everything started with a phone call from Arthur,” Simon Godrfrinsays in the newspaper L’Avenir. “He was doing a Master’s in engineering and had already worked 6 months on a prototype. At that time, I started a microelectronics study at UCLouvain and was directly smitten by the project.”
“A bike with classic gears is not very flexible and can be fragile,” says Arthur Deleval. In 2012, I decided that an electric bike with hand-shifted gears was not a good solution, and I wanted to rethink the system.”
The company is already working on a second generation of their continuously variable transmission, especially for mountain bikes and cargo bikes. At the moment, thanks to the interest of Decathlon in the system, the company employs 22 people, mostly engineers.
The integrated Owuru engine/transmission will be manufactured by Decathlon in Lille (northern France) and will have 95% of its parts made in Europe.