The history of electric bicycles dates back to the past and encompasses numerous key moments and innovations. Here's a brief overview of this fascinating history:
Early Experiments (19th Century)
1895 - Ogden Bolton Jr
The concept of electric bicycles emerged in the 19th century when the first experiments with electric motors began. However, during that time, batteries were heavy and inefficient, which hindered the development of electric bicycles.
The first known design of an electric bike dates all the way back to the 1890s. Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted a patent in December 1895 for an electric bike with a direct current motor hub on the rear wheel, known as the "Modular Motorized Electric Wheel with Concentric Hub for Bicycles." Naturally, this was a relatively low-powered design and did not feature any gears. Nevertheless, it's remarkable that e-bikes have existed for over 120 years. They were bulky and expensive.
1897 - Hosea W. Libbey
Two years later, in 1897, Hosea W. Libbey from Boston invented an electric bicycle with two batteries, which was powered by a "double electric motor." The motor was installed in the crankset axle. It consisted of a series of central magnets surrounded by two drums, which were made up of a set of horseshoe-shaped magnets. Motion was generated by the alternating poles of the magnets. This model was later further refined, and it was replicated until the 1990s.
The inventor had a brilliant idea. On flat road sections, only one battery was used, but when tackling uphill terrain, the second battery was engaged. This way, energy was conserved, and pedal rotation was made easier. This is likely the earliest form of an electric bicycle controller.
1898 - Matthew G. Stevens
In November 1898, Matthew G. Stevens patented an electric bicycle that utilized a drive belt installed along the outer edge of the rear wheel. In the illustration, it can be seen that the belt was in contact with the ground through the wheel. The motor roller had a shape designed to prevent the belt from slipping. It's challenging to imagine tackling muddy and puddle-filled paths with such a contraption. The inventor displayed a creative approach to this invention, but it did not add practicality to it.
1899 - John Schnepf
In 1899, John Schnepf invented a roller electric motor that rotated the rear wheel. A small motor was attached to the rear frame of the bicycle and received power from a battery mounted on the frame. The rotation of the roller propelled the rear wheel. However, since the diameter of the wheel was significantly larger than that of the roller, it had to rotate at an impressive speed, which the small motor with a worm gear reducer could not achieve. The efficiency of this method raises doubts.
Some models can be considered curious even today – their inventors clearly took a creative approach to creating their brainchild, but practicality was lacking. Such bicycle hybrids could not be used in the rain or immediately after because the roller would simply spin without producing the desired effect. To use them trouble-free, very clean and smooth roads were needed.
Development in the 20th century
In the first half of the 20th century, electric bicycles were a rarity, but in the second half of the century, there was a rapid growth of interest in them. Important milestones included the creation of lightweight and compact batteries, as well as the development of efficient motors.
1946 - Jesse D. Tucker
Once again, the bicycle hybrid underwent a change in 1946 when Jesse D. Tucker patented the freewheel mechanism. This provided autonomy for the pedals from the motor, marking a new stage in the development of the bicycle hybrid.
Inventors had to address several challenges simultaneously – bicycle hybrids needed to be not only powerful enough to provide easy riding but also well-balanced for comfort. Solving this complex task seemed like a quest for the Holy Grail to many – each was searching for their own path.
1948 - S. Argyris
On December 28, 1948, S. Argyris obtained a patent for an electric bicycle using a chain-driven electric motor. The author positioned two batteries on both sides of the rear wheel, which improved lateral balance. However, this arrangement affected the longitudinal balance of the bicycle since most of the weight was on the rear wheel. Subsequent inventions addressed this drawback by placing batteries closer to the rear frame or on the rear rack of the electric bicycle. Unfortunately, the patent does not specify the characteristics of the motor or batteries, but it is known that this design subsequently contributed to the increased popularity of installing external chain-driven electric motors on bicycles.
Following this, a wide variety of electric bicycle designs and types were created. However, only four main types of bicycle drives gained recognition and widespread use, utilizing:
- Wheel hub motors,
- Motors integrated into the pedal crankset,
- External motors with chain drive,
- External motors with roller drive.
1969 - G.A. Wood Jr.
John Schnepf's invention (1899) was revisited and expanded by G.A. Wood Jr. in 1969. Wood's device utilized four motors, each with less than half a horsepower, and was connected to the driving wheel through a series of gears. While it was an improved version of Schnepf's invention, it did not gain much popularity among consumers because the motor's efficiency was significantly dependent on road cleanliness.
1980s and 1990s:
During this period, significant progress was made in the field of electric bicycles. They became more affordable and popular, especially in Europe and Japan. China also became one of the largest manufacturers of electric bicycles.
1992 - Vector Services Limited
Mass production of electric hybrid bicycles only began in 1992 when Vector Services Limited became the first company to invest in them. They began selling a mass-produced electric bicycle called the "Zike." The bicycle was equipped with nickel-cadmium batteries integrated into the frame and a 850-gram motor with permanent magnets. Besides the Zike, in 1992, it was challenging to find mass-produced electric bicycles.
In the late 1990s, torque and power control sensors were developed. They are devices for measuring and recording torque on a rotating system, such as a motor, crankshaft, etc. These sensors allowed for energy consumption monitoring and motor power control. The invention of torque and power sensors, along with new batteries and improved electric motors, allowed the production of electric bicycles to reach a new level.
1997-1998 - Raleigh, Swiss Flyer, Monarch, Kettler, Kalkhoff
In 1997, the "Select" was released, another successful model of mass-produced electric bicycle.
The illustration shows a representative of the electric bicycle class with motors integrated into the crankshaft, which is used today by manufacturers such as Raleigh, Swiss Flyer, Monarch, Kettler, and Kalkhoff.
By 1998, there were at least 49 different series of electric bicycle models in the global market. Production from 1993 to 2004 increased by approximately 35%. In 1995, global electric bicycle production already reached around 107 million units.
Most inexpensive models still use cheap lead-acid batteries to this day. However, more expensive models from "Movin Mobility" and other manufacturers are equipped with nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries. Over time, the technical characteristics of electric bicycles are improving, increasing their range and speed.
The 21st century
The 21st century has witnessed a true boom in electric bicycles. They have become more sophisticated, with advanced technology, longer battery life, and various styles. Electric bicycles have gained popularity among commuters and environmentally conscious individuals.
By 2001, terms like "E-Bike," "power bike," "pedelec," "assisted bicycle," and "power-assisted bicycle" had become commonplace to describe electric bicycles.
The term "E-Bike" is usually used for electric bicycles equipped with a throttle handle.
The terms "Electric Motorbike" or "E-Motorbike" were used to describe more powerful models capable of reaching speeds of up to 80 km/h.
The term "pedelec" typically refers to electric bicycles equipped with torque and/or speed sensors and a power regulator, which provides assistance only when the cyclist is pedaling.
The term "Assisted bicycle" is used to describe electric bicycles in Canadian legislation.
Electric bicycles make it easy to cover long distances, even on challenging terrain, without requiring significant physical effort or financial expenses. Their environmental friendliness has made them popular in Europe, although they have gained the most widespread use in China. In 2010, the production and consumption of electric bicycles in China reached 30 million units, and as transportation industry analysts say, this is not the limit.
Today, China is the leading manufacturer of electric bicycles worldwide. According to the Chinese Bicycle Association, in 2004, Chinese manufacturers sold 7.5 million electric bicycles across the country, which is twice as many as in 2003. Domestic sales reached 10 million units in 2005 and 16 to 18 million units in 2006. By 2007, electric bicycles accounted for 10 to 20 percent of all two-wheeled vehicles on the streets of many major Chinese cities. The largest quantity of electric bicycles was exported from China in 2006, with 3 million units sold, totaling 40 billion yuan ($5.8 billion).
"Movin Mobility" company assembles Canadian electric bicycles using premium components from China. The quality of their bicycles is sometimes even better than European counterparts. A significant portion of our customers are food delivery personnel who cover 1500-2000 km per month. Thanks to this, we continuously test the durability of our components. Every year, we spend three months on business trips to China, analyzing the bicycle components market from the inside, selecting the best options available, and releasing updated models every six months. We also offer some of the lowest prices on the market, thanks to our component selection based on the principles of price, quality, and durability.
Canada has enacted a law that imposes restrictions on electric motor power to 500W and a maximum speed of 32 km/h. Therefore, we adhere to these standards in our electric bicycle production.
Innovations, Future, and Ecology: With the advancement of technology, electric bicycles are expected to become even more widespread and efficient. Innovations in battery technology, wireless charging systems, and "smart" features such as GPS navigation will contribute to the further development of this field.
The history of electric bicycles testifies to people's constant pursuit of improving means of transportation and using clean energy sources. In the near future, we can expect even greater diversity in electric bicycles and their integration into urban infrastructure.
Since 2009, when global warming and the catastrophic environmental situation were taken seriously, governments and corporations in many countries have started large-scale investments in the development and production of electric transportation. These years have been particularly rich in innovations that have defined the industry's course for the next decade.
2009 - Copenhagen Climate Change Conference
For example, on December 15, 2009, at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presented an interesting invention to the public – the Copenhagen Wheel. The "Copenhagen Wheel" was a motorized wheel, battery, controller, and a set of various sensors all "in one bottle."
Motor control was achieved through Bluetooth wireless technology, using an iPhone app. In the app, users could check the weather, pollution levels in the area, track traffic jams, find friends, and use their iPhone as the on-board computer for the electric bicycle. A unique feature of the Copenhagen Wheel was the ability to easily and quickly transform the bicycle into a "pedelec" (electric bicycle with pedal-assist function). All the consumer needed to do was purchase the wheel and download the iPhone app.
Additionally, the wheel's design allowed for the use of Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which is also utilized in Formula-1 cars. In the Russian-speaking internet, this technology, applied in electric bicycles as well, is referred to as "recuperation." During high-speed descents or when braking, the kinetic energy is converted by the motor into electrical energy and returned to the battery. On ascents, the system operates in the opposite way: thanks to pressure sensors on the fork, the motor adds power, making uphill climbs easier.
Ogden Bolton Jr.'s invention has not lost its relevance today and will obviously be used by generations to come. He laid the foundation for bringing the fantasies of inventors and scientists to life. Tens of thousands of electric bicycles are created based on the "wheel motor" principle. For example, Canadian manufacturers in 2010 developed an electric bicycle with wireless control, similar to the Copenhagen Wheel. All the electronics are inside the "wheel motor" and are controlled remotely, thanks to manipulators on the handlebars.
Despite the impressive size of the "wheel motor," the electric bicycle does not possess supernatural characteristics. It still has a range of 40 km with a modest maximum speed of up to 25 km/h.
Of course, not all inventors restricted their imagination by legislative limitations on engine power and achievable speed, and they created extraordinary, powerful electric bicycles. For example, the Pibike (2011) can travel 72 km on a single battery charge at speeds of up to 64 km/h, but its price is prohibitively high not only for the average Ukrainian but also for the majority of the world's population.
With each passing year, more and more bright, powerful, and high-tech electric bicycles emerge. However, they all share one problem – their price. Western companies create electric bicycles that cost around $2500, contributing to the growing popularity of electronic kits and DIY models.
2023 - Movin Mobility
TM "Movin Mobility" offers you quality and affordable electric bicycles, as evidenced by the numerous reviews and video overviews on YouTube. You can expect robust after-sales support and the opportunity to participate in the upgrading of our new models, which we release to the market every six months. Additionally, we can assemble any e-bike according to your personal preferences. Come to our store at 654 College Street, Toronto, order a test drive, and see for yourself that our bike is one of the best on the market.