Review of Electric Bike Kits - August 2020
This article reviews various electric bike kits based on the criteria of personal preference. More emphasis is given to the electric bike kits (also called eBike Systems), which promote natural cycling and prohibit excessive power and speeds.
History of Electric Bike Kits:
Electric Bike Kits were popularized by BionX (now defunct) in the late 1990s when electric bikes were not so readily available. It made a lot of sense to have an electric wheel that could replace the bicycle's rear wheel. Accell group based in the Netherlands had developed an electric bike that had attracted immense popularity during that time. After that, several Chinese companies jumped in the fray. We can categorize the electric bike kits into two categories:
- Those, which preserves the purity of cycling,
- Those who attach to a cycle and provide raw power only (Bafang, eBikeKit.com, HillTopperBikes.com, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.).
The second category of kits is mostly for folks who are new to cycling and want to exert zero effort during cycling.
Some of the advanced electric bike kits came from Germany, Canada, and the US. Most low-end electric bike kits come from China (Bafang, eBikeKit.com, HillTopperBikes.com, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.). GoSwiss Drive, BionX, Neo Drive, Falco, Copenhagen Wheel have been known to be the most advanced electric bike conversion kits. This article will review various products to highlight the differences among different e-bike kits.
Expectations: Amazing Pedal Assist Experience with Extraordinary Range
What are the expectations when we spend some money to buy e-bike kits: Only the raw power or advanced technology that preserves the purity of cycling and gives great pedal assist experience and efficiency. Some brands focus only on providing raw power with no efficiency, quality, reliability, and warranty. Equipping bikes, trikes, and tandems only with motors is not essential. The technology used to build the motor plays a considerable role in defining the bicycling experience. Just converting your bike to an e-bike should not be your goal. The goal is to have precise power when required so that you can enjoy the fun of riding the bike or trike and, at the same time, perform your exercise. Rapping the motors only with power is not enough; there is a need for advanced technology to preserve the purity of cycling, give great pedal assist experience, and provide a better performance, better efficiency, and control accuracy.
The Exclusiveness of Falco e-bike kits:
Falco eMotors manufactures the hub motors with patented five-phase technology. The only company in the world to provide the five-phase technology. This promising technology has numerous advantages that make the e-bike kits stand out of the crowd. The use of sensors, namely speed sensors, torque sensors, and hall sensors, provides accurate power control. The motors' extraordinary pedal-assist capabilities give the riders real joy of riding and feel the pedaling experience with precise power control.
Cost is not only the factor to compare with different products and technologies. When we consider e-bike kits, several things need to be researched before buying the e-bike kit for bikes or trikes. Falco e-bike kits are not just to power your vehicle. It is to give you a real-life experience of cycling and triking irrespective of your age. When it comes to power on demand (throttle operation), Falco gives the best power control experience and allows the power only when required.
There are many reasons that Falco's Hub Motors, with direct drive and no gears and brushes, are far superior to the mid-drives. We should stop fooling and convincing ourselves that mid drives are better. We need to recognize the real quality of technology and learn the difference between the technologies.
There are so many factors to consider while buying an e-bike kit for your bike, trike, or tandem: cost, power, performance, stability, maintenance, efficiency, weight, etc. Usually, the mid drives are expensive when compared with direct-drives. The complicated construction and increased number of parts make it more costly. The mid-drives increase maintenance costs dramatically. The mid drives deliver power through the chain or belt drive, which tends to lose output power in friction and other losses. Let us give you a short comparison of the Bosch Mid Drive and Falco Direct Drive.
Here is the comparison made with the help of the bar graph. The comparison was rated based on a 0 to 10 scale. And on what basis the rating is done is explained below.
In the above image, we compare Falco direct-drive against Bosch, Brose, and Shimano mid-drive technologies. Four parameters are considered: Throttle, Torque Sensor Operation, Speed Sensor Operation, and Customization. All four kits have a built-in torque sensor operation. However, only Falco offers Speed sensor operation, throttle, and customization. Some riders with weak legs can not use Bosch, Brose, or Shimano. They require speed sensor operation to activate the drive with a simple rotation of the pedals.
Bosch, Brose, or Shimano are not an option for such riders. Also, riders who like to have power on demand can't use them as they have no throttle operation available. For customization, Falco is the only eBike kit that offers a set of apps on your iPhone, Mac, or Android, or PC with an ability to customize your ride.
There are a host of maintenance issues with mid-drives, which are often ignored. From the data scanned from public forums, the mean failure point for mid-drives is 4000 miles only. The price paid for these products does not justify them. In no other industry, such unreliability and low quality are tolerated. The bike industry is used to annual maintenance issues and charges the consumers big money to stay afloat. Mid-drives technology plays well into that eco-system.
Range of Mid Drives vs. Direct Drives:
The direct drives give more range than mid drives, as there are no mechanical losses. In mid-drives, when the power is transferred through the gears and a chain drive or a belt-drive, the mechanical losses dramatically reduce efficiency. There is a vast power loss during the transmission of power from pedal to chain and from chain to rear sprocket. Falco uses the five-phase patented PMSM motors that are more efficient and powerful than the mid-drives and three-phase direct drive DC motors. So when we talk about the range, Falco direct drives give a hugely superior range than any other technology in the market.
Power loss in Mid Drives:
Power loss shows the inefficiency of the eDrives. The belt or chain drives always tend to have a power loss of 2-10%, worsening over time. The power is transferred through the chain, decreasing the net output due to the friction between the parts.
Maintenance and Usage:
Direct Drives have no maintenance. In contrast, Mid Drives need a lot of care. The power transmission in Mid Drive is done through the chain or belt drives; to reduce the drag and friction, it requires regular lubrication. The chain drives are noisy. The chain drives are non-ideal for precise power control. Real and pure pedal-assist cycling experience is possible only with accurate control of motor power.
Performance, Quick Response, and Technology:
The combination of torques with speed sensors along with throttle gives you a seamless experience of cycling. This technology ensures proper assistance when demanded. Unfortunately, Bafang kitshave only throttle and speed sensor. Cyclists need an appropriate level of assistance while riding to ensure that they are not over-powered by motor power. Some people want to ride bicycles and trikes with zero pedal energy on hills or flats. Chinese kits (Bafang, eBikeKit.com, HillTopperBikes.com, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) are perfect for them.
Athletes and some riders love to ride with speed. They love when the bike or trike accelerates quickly and energetically. Mid-drives always have a disadvantage of a chain drive that reduces the bike or trike's speed. Direct-drives can deliver more torque and more speed seamlessly in sync with the rider, neither overpowering nor underpowering her.
The mid-drives are better than direct-drives when we talk about hill-climbing, but not always. However, this advantage is quickly lost when direct-drives are used smartly with bicycle gears. The mid-drives destroy the gears. Falco direct-drive enhances gear performance.
Customization and Compatibility:
The Falco e-bike systems are compatible with almost all bikes, trikes, and tandems. We provide full customization of the system according to the user requirements and bike/trike/tandem designs. In contrast, the mid drives are not compatible with most bikes, trikes and tandems. Mid drives have complicated construction that restricts particular models to conversion.
The cost comparison is unfair when the Falco direct drives are with the latest technology and gives you more range, stability, and customization. In contrast, other drives and mid drives are driven by old technology. Quality, performance, efficiency, and reliability is where Falco beats all other drives and mid drives.
Some of the example of conversion with Falco e-bike systems:
A special kind of tandem with hand-cycling at the front and foot-cycling in the rear
Dave Cardarella's Tandem equipped with Falco e-bike kit