They are clean, quiet and the epitome of eco-friendly. Electric bicycles – or e-bikes – are gaining popularity worldwide as commuters, business users and leisure cyclists discover the benefits of assisted pedal power.
But for all their advantages, standard e-bikes suffer from one main drawback. They tend to lose power – or torque – on steep climbs or long uphill stretches.
Now, thanks to a new partnership between Lindéngruppen company Höganäs and German battery manufacturer Varta Microbattery, that problem could be a thing of the past.
The venture combines Höganäs's Eclino electric drive systems with microbattery technology from Varta to allow e-bikes to complete ascents or negotiate headwinds with no loss in torque.
The first bikes equipped with Höganäs Eclino drive systems were on display at the Eurobike 2014 fair in Germany in August, ahead of a scheduled commercial launch in 2015.
"E-bikes are ideal for commuters and leisure users alike, especially in areas where distances are a bit too far to pedal and where you need some assistance," says Hans Söderberg, sales and marketing manager at Höganäs Electric Drive Systems.
"Everybody wants to see a shift to eco-friendly transport, especially in urban areas. Reducing the number of cars has space and pollution benefits and e-bikes are a great solution."
Electric, or pedal-assisted, bicycles usually resemble traditional bikes but have an electric motor hidden in the wheel hub, crankshaft or frame.
As well as being ideal for commuter bicycles, they are also popular with mountain bike enthusiasts and cargo bike users.
Already highly popular in cycle-friendly nations like the Netherlands and Germany, where they account for some 20 percent and 10 percent respectively of bicycles sold, e-bikes are also gaining ground in other European countries and the United States.
China is home to tens of millions of e-bikes and the European market is experiencing triple-digit annual growth.
"E-bikes are increasingly becoming a chosen means of transportation for people in cities," Söderberg says.
"They are environmentally friendly and still give you exercise, but you're not completely exhausted and sweaty when you get to work in the morning."
Höganäs is currently in discussions with leading bicycle manufacturers in Europe and North America and aims to make the first Höganäs-powered e-bikes available to consumers next year.
"E-bikes are only a small percentage of the market in many countries but everyone believes they are going to grow fast. There were around 35 million sold worldwide last year, the vast majority in China."
Höganäs's Eclino motors are based on transversal flux motor technology containing a metal alloy that the Swedish-based company has developed.
Eclino-Varta systems are based on a plug-and-play configuration and use sophisticated algorithms to provide a powerful and smooth ride.
Höganäs's electric drive systems are also suitable for other light electric vehicles with two and three wheels, such as municipal utility vehicles.