Several car manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes, Toyota, VW to name some of them) have brought out bikes, now it is the turn of a major supplier to the automotive sector to look at bikes, this time with a “Visionsbike” (their name) which is being exhibited at the 66th International Motor Show in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Every other vehicle produced worldwide has at least one component from Brose, who say they are the world’s fifth largest family-owned automotive supplier. This seems quite a credible claim, given their turnover of nearly €6 billion, with some 24,000 employees at 60 locations in 23 countries.
Their products include “mechatronic” systems for vehicle doors and seats as well as electric motors and drives. It is this expertise which has been put to use in designing a flexibly adjustable e-bike drive which is completely integrated in the chain stay, which was produced as a module using 3D printing, which not only helped in the design process but helped to keep weight down.
Just like some cars have electric seat positioning (and memory), the Visionsbike has individual settings for the handlebar and saddle positions. This could either be for different riders in the family, or for different styles of riding, such as different positions for commuting and touring compared with off road.
The handle bars have a park position, where a spindle drive lowers two independent handlebar elements on the left and the right into the tube of the bike’s fork. This means that the “parked” bike takes up less space, which can be helpful for storage indoors, or in a shed or garage, as well as a benefit for rental companies, and makes transport easier.
The saddle is also “electrified”. (That thought brings tears to the eyes!) It means that the saddle is height and horizontally adjustable; you could say that this is manually possible on a bike with a quick use of the appropriate tool, but there are many who enjoy this functionality on a luxury car seat. There is also a parked position, where the saddle slides back into the rear part of the frame. An integrated rubber clamp then jams the back wheel, providing additional protection against theft.( I wonder if I’d be able to use my gorgeously comfortable Brooks saddle? But anything that helps cut down bike theft has to be good news!)
All in all there are some interesting features and it is interesting to see where an automotive component supplier who is strong in mechatronics sees a possible future bike when they team up with a prestigious design team led by Murat Guenek. Brose have already exploited their vehicle technology for the e-bike drive for the bike sector (with clients such as Bulls, Fantic and Specialized) and believe that there is a future in increasing electrification. Here’s what Christoph Bantle, General Manager of Brose Antriebstechnik (drive technology) feels: “The Visionsbike isn’t a vision of something that will happen in the distant future, but rather an application-oriented study. We wish to show what kind of possibilities the further use of electric motors in the bicycle can offer.”
Is he right? Your answer probably depends on your style of cycling, your economic situation, and your age, amongst other factors. I personally believe that he is right, as research – from companies such as Mintel – has shown that the up-market bike has taken over from the sports car as the mid-life status symbol and features will provide comfort and the basis for bragging rights. Are you going to find the “electrification” on bikes at the UK’s average sales price of some £220 any time soon? I doubt it, even though costs can be brought downby automotive scale manufacturing. But I can see such things selling at the top end of the market – and over the years working their way down the range.
Brose have a (German language) website at brose-ebike.com.
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