Future of e-mobility

Eurobike 2018

Eurobike is now behind us, and slowly all the aftermath is done. It’s great to notice the ever-increasing interest on e-bikes and the effort manufacturers put into them. The whole industry seems to be moving forward and is slowly transforming from traditional bike manufacturing towards e-bikes with all the new possibilities.

Innovations keep gaining traction, and it’s great to see e-bike manufacturers embrace and test new models with new motor manufacturers – of which there seems to be more than ever. Competition is always good news for consumers and manufacturers alike since from hard competition innovations arise faster. E-bike market appears to be dividing into two segments of more heavy duty high-performance e-bikes and lighter e-bikes that are more focused on the riding experience.

Where is the future of e-bikes and e-mobility going?

It doesn’t take a genius to see that sharing economy is coming fast. Especially in the bicycle industry with companies growing at an enormous rate – unreachable for many traditional manufacturers. For example, Chinese bike sharing company MoBike (founded in January 2015) was sold for $2.7B to Meituan Dianping making it likely the most significant purchase ever in the bicycle industry.

It is no wonder that these bike sharing start-ups are gaining value so fast. Cities all over the world are growing, making the traffic ever increasingly more congested. For cities, these type of operators who provide their bikes to the town, free of charge, can feel like a blessing – which allows the technology providers to grow at tremendous speed.

However, to make the sharing solutions popular, it requires complex yet seamless integration between hardware and software. When e-bikes with recharging stations are added to this equation, the whole solution becomes even more complicated. At the moment electronic solutions in the market don’t allow manufacturers to provide shareable e-bikes easily.

While public bike sharing solutions keep growing and getting more and more popular, new solutions for transportation are on their way in the start-up garages and product development labs all over the world. New concepts of light electric vehicles keep popping up almost daily, some more sophisticated than others.

One of the more interesting ones is the German company Schaefflers Bio-Hybrid. What is so exciting about this type of vehicles is that in future they can solve the bottleneck of bike sharing – logistics. No matter if the bike sharing systems are stationless or fitted with stations the bikes need to be moved around via truck.

Four-wheeler vehicles like Bio-Hybrid can work around this problem with autonomous driving during peak hours to even the distribution. Sure autonomous capabilities still need a lot of work but as the AI evolves and car industry keeps working hard with self-driving cars, who knows how quickly this tech will be available for lighter use. In fact, hacker George Hotz’s company Comma AI has already made pretty good progress with their self-driving hardware that costs less than 1000 $. In case of Comma AI it hooks up with the car regular drivetrain, but light electric vehicles need a drivetrain that is flexible enough for innovations like this to evolve.

What could we learn from innovators in other industries?

Especially in the software industry, there has long been a mentality to fail fast – fail often. It is something that is slowly making its way to new fields. New innovations don’t evolve without failures and in the bicycle industry, especially with e-bikes, we should embrace ideology to test fast – fail fast in order to bring new features to the market quicker.

Most of the new technologies rely less and less on the actual hardware – meaning new features and enhancements can still be made even after the product is sold. One of the key examples here is Tesla with their Autopilot software, which is still work in progress. However, every Tesla that leaves the factory is equipped with the required hardware, so when the software is improved, it can be uploaded to the cars remotely. Another interesting example is Audis new project E-Tron that goes even further with over-the-air upgrades with features like new light patterns for headlights that can be bought later on.

In the e-bike industry, this is something that is not entirely taken advantage as of yet. Current systems can be upgraded via a Bluetooth or USB connection, but the full potential of software is yet to be harnessed. Especially as everyone is still so territorial about their products and ideas that it can take years for new features to hit the market.

Nonetheless, these are exciting times, and for sure the e-bike market will go through significant changes. We here at Revonte believe that new technology should be harnessed to its full power. It doesn’t just make our lives more convenient, but it also improves the user experience and whole progress of electric bikes.

 

Iiro Peltola,

Head of R&D