History of E-bikes: Why E-bikes?

The history of e-bikes is full of ingenious and yet fervent inventors with a willful drive to fulfill their potentials. Inventors, who are labelled genius or loony by many, deem it fit to chase their dream and make it a reality. 

The desire to make our commuting easier, the vision of a better life, all these brought about the existence of e-bikes. Unfortunately, these inventors have seen their dream work scramble, again and again, sometimes even tragically, but they never give up.

In fact, the failures of the past have now turned into awesome reality at a very significant rate. E-bikes have been around for decades now. You read that right; they have been around for decades.

To be precise, e-bikes are over 150 years old. They haven’t always been recognized with many branding them a pipe dream. However, e-bike popularity has soared over the past decade significantly with people resorting to using e-bikes more than before.  

Since the initiation of the first velocipedes, engineers and inventors have been working on converting them into steam-powered engine bikes. Notably, the history of motorcycles and e-bikes are entwined as both evolve from common ancestors. However, motorcycles and e-bikes are now different from each other with e-bikes being more flexible and accessible. They also cost less. 

In this blog, we will take a look at the origins of electric bikes and why you should use one in Canada.

 

E-bikes: A brief history

The first set of bicycles with electric motor systems came into existence towards the end of the 19th century. However, the most significant difficulties inventors faced during that time were the e-bike batteries. Even until now, an e-bike battery has always been the most challenging problem engineers, and inventors encounter with e-bikes. 

In the early days, e-bike batteries were often too heavy with less power output. Nonetheless, with technology upgrades in recent decades,  e-bikes batteries are now far better in terms of performance and weight size.

Also, during the early 20th century, there was little to low no interest in bicycles – both conventional and electric bikes. It was only the people who couldn’t afford to purchase even the cheapest car that used bikes. We were less conscious of our ecology factors, and crude oil was very cheap. 

However, the first ecological movement and the oil crisis of 1973 brought about a new interest in electric-powered vehicles. Sadly, it was too late as people were more into the speed offered by cars and motorbikes. Only a few people migrated to bikes – either conventional or electric bikes for easy commuting.

E-bikes are the sole mode of transportation that has managed to stay relevant in the bicycle market for over 20 years. With its sleek design mimicking typical conventional bicycles, portable and effective electric motor systems, e-bikes have successfully gained rapid popularity.

Furthermore, a recent study gave an estimate of over 120 million e-bike users in China, while Canada has also experienced vast popularity. Also, the use of e-bikes in Northern America and Europe is fast-growing, with record annual sales of over 1million units. One of the best features of e-bikes is that it possesses zero-harmful emissions with zero Earth pollution from a combustion engine.

Even though battery prices change regularly, e-bikes are far more ecology friendly than other means of road transportation. It’s 15-20 times more effective than a motorcycle and eight times more than rail transit, with the same exhaust-free feature of conventional bikes. 

Another significant benefit of e-bikes is its great health benefits to patients recovering from one illness or another. It has huge physiological benefits. 

For instance, a patient with cardiac problems can improve their mobility with regular use of some specific e-bikes. Some e-bike models capable of helping them to maintain or reduce cardiac exertion and muscle strain. 

 

How did bicycles change transportation?

Firstly, the evolution of e-bikes came as a surprise to most people who have never seen anything like that before. It was the first personal transport device that changed the world of electric transportation. It offers a speed that is three (3) times more than walking and speeds faster than that of horses.

Decades ago, bicycles were the smartphone, computer, and internet of the 1900s. Typically everyone with an entrepreneurial mind and mechanical skills seemed to check out the bicycle business. Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who built the first airplane, were reputable bicycle mechanics before their invention of the aircraft. 

This was easier for them because they were already front-runner operators in the early 20th-century technology. Pneumatic tires, ball bearings, and other technologies created by those inventors and bicycle industry are still in use to date. All of this went on to provide the foundation for the motorcycles and automobiles now in use in our society.

Early days motorcycles were typical bicycles with an addition of internal combustion engines. However, there are patents from the 1890s which applied electric motors to bicycles. This brought about the evolution of e-bikes. Today, electric automobiles are now competing with your conventional cars.

 

When were E-bikes first made?

The first e-bikes known as a pedal-assist pedelec came into existence around the 1990s. Michael Kutter of Switzerland created an e-bike with no throttle and with the power controlled by pedals. In 1993, Yamaha produced a machine similar to Kutter’s machine. In the US, the AeroVironment Company and GT Bicycles collaborated to develop the GT-Charger, a pedal-controlled e-bike with lead-acid battery powered.

These first sets of e-bikes were very heavy and not easy to ride, but they certainly blazed a trail we are enjoying today. 

In 1993, Sony introduced the 18650 lithium-ion cells, but the prices were too high with the cost calculated per kWh. However, the price has fallen by a factor of 25 after the lithium-ion battery became widespread in many consumer electronics applications. 

Additionally, the energy density has increased to more than triple the former density ever since the first Sony battery. These cells are the critical component of your e-bike.  Also, current e-bikes carry over 1kWh cell options with an average of 10 pounds weight. Whereas, the former lead-acid cells with such capacity will be 80 pounds. Today, that is more than an e-bikes entire weight.

Permanent magnet AC motors came into existence in the mid 19th century. Nevertheless, there was no cheap, feasible way to create the AC waveforms necessary for variable speed drive. Until the emergence of high-power transistors which fell rapidly in cost even with rapid increment in their power capabilities. The AC motors also increased quickly in capability as the mighty rare-earth magnets, became readily accessible and affordable. All of these combined to become the accessible electric bike we all use today.

 

Tech inventions that created the e-bike

The modern pedal-electric bikes or e-bikes exist because of a few technological breakthroughs that brought about the possibilities of pedal-assist. Although e-bikes have been around for a while, yet it was until the 1990s before their modern form took shape. Also, the new era of transportation was ushered in by the evolution of assist-technology and the falling cost of a lithium-ion cell. 

Here are the three (3) key technologies that emerged to make modern e-bikes possible and accessible:

  • Affordable, high-energy lithium-ion batteries.
  • Cheap, lightweight, and permanent high-torque magnet motors.
  • A capable power system that controlled the synchronized motors.

These breakthroughs that made e-bikes more accessible, lightweight and affordable. Why don’t we take a closer look at all three?

A high-energy-density and affordable rechargeable cell which supplies power

This is a result of the lithium-ion tech discovered by Sony in 1992. Today, the advanced version of these batteries now power electric cars, mobile phones, and virtually every other modern device. Typical electric bike batteries weigh about 6 to 7 pounds on average and provide up to 1,000 cycles of charge/discharge.

These batteries are often protected by an electronic failsafe capable of preventing excessive temperatures from being reached. These devices also prevent damage from excessive battery discharge,  battery charging and heat.

Powerful, lightweight, and long-lasting electric motors

These are brushless, permanent-magnet DC motors. Their portability was made possible by powerful neodymium rare-earth magnets that have made recent automotive starters so tiny. 

They have accurate, affordable non-contact torque sensors that measure the torque you apply to the pedal shaft. The shaft is magnetized in a specific direction and the torque applied by your pedalling, measurably alters the magnetization. This effect is referred to as magneto-elasticity.

A capable power system that controlled the synchronized motors.

Sensors continuously monitor the angular position of the motor system’s rotor. The computer-phased IGBT switching of battery current to the motor’s stator windings generates a rotating magnetic field. This magnetic field stays ahead of the rotating permanent magnets of the rotor. 

Thus, it then strongly pulls them around at motor speeds from zero to 4,500 rpm or more. Also, the motor torque is multiplied and its speed limited by to assist you in driving the front sprocket. Basically, it measures how much power you need.

Today’s electric bikes also boast digital connectivity that allows you to communicate with your e-bike motor system from a smartphone or other handheld devices. Although this is not necessarily essential to the basic functionality of an e-bike, however, it screams modern technology. 

The interface allows for excellent control of performance and insight into the work rate and strength of your e-bike. These include the range versus speed, percentage of boost, and more, which reduces range anxiety and increases your ride experience.

 

Why use E-bikes in Canada?

In every aspect of our daily life, it’s obvious we’re living in the future. Technology has in one way or the other improved our lives, whether through medicines, renewable energy, and so on. We are continually evolving into a new phase of technology advancement. 

One of these technological advancements is an e-bike. 

However, why e-bikes? What is the hype about e-bikes all about? Generally, e-bikes offer a lot of benefits and performances which duly deserve recognition. Below are a few of the reasons why you should choose an e-bike today.

E-bikes will help you go further, faster, and longer.

Though electric bikes offer many of the same benefits that conventional bicycles do, you’ve got an added bit of speed on board. With that, you can travel greater distances and ride for a long period of time.

E-bikes will also allow you to go faster than other cyclists and sometimes cars.

You can get up to 15mph almost instantly on an e-bike, while the average speed of cars in central London is 7.4mph!

They can help keep you fit and improve your wellbeing.

The more you ride your e-bike, the more your health status is enhanced. Exercise has proven to be beneficial in a lot of ways – from addiction recovery to severe illness recovery. The more you ride and pedal, the more good news it is for your heart, lungs and your blood pressure. 

Also, e-bikes are great for people with physical disabilities who love to ride but couldn’t due to their physical fitness.

They’re great for commuting

With e-bikes, you’re never getting late to your destination again! E-bikes will easily free you from the misery of being stuck for hours in traffic. Even though you’re using a motorized vehicle, you don’t need a license. With your e-bike, you can commute swiftly to that date or work without being tagged a “late-comer”.

With the motor system, you won’t have to work yourself to sweat and end up arriving at work oozing like a sports sock.

 

Conclusion 

To sum it up, the worldwide production of electric bikes is at a steady rise. Countries around the world have different rules regulating the use of e-bikes on public roads – Canada inclusive. The rules guiding the use of e-bikes on public roads in Canada are similar to that of conventional bikes.

Also, e-bikes are often categorized in the same class as bicycles. However, they are regarded as one subtype of motorcycles and motorized bicycles in some places as well. A better version of motorcycles. Get one today!

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