The History and Future of Electric Bikes

Technology -

The History and Future of Electric Bikes

electric Brompton

The electric bike may seem like a fairly recent invention, being only popular in the past decade or so, but the idea behind the electric bike is, in fact, relatively old.

As a design that so closely mimics that of a normal bike, it was soon after the modern bicycle was first invented that its electrified counterpart was produced, with the earliest ‘electric bikes’ being patented in the 1890s.

The first electric bike was invented in late 1895, when Ogden Bolton Jr of Ohio invented a battery-powered bicycle that had a DC hub motor mounted in the rear wheels. This was soon followed in 1897 by Massachusetts’ Hosea W. Libbey, whose “double electric motor” bike had its powertrain fitted within the hub of the crank set axle. Numerous other patents, with various configurations, were filed soon after this, including a belt-driven electric bike and one which used a rear-wheel roller friction action. However, the novel nature of these bikes, coupled with the concurrent popularity of combustion engine vehicles, meant they were regarded as whacky inventions rather than reliable forms of transportation.

It was not until the 1930s that anything like a consumer eBike was made available, with several European companies like Philips putting forward electric models, but even these remained eclipsed by the automobile.

It was almost a hundred years after they were first invented that interest in electric bikes was revived; fittingly, this coincided with growing global concern with widespread automobile usage and the associated environmental cost. Likewise was it thanks to the revolution in microprocessor technology in the 1990s, which meant devices like torque sensors and power controls could be incorporated into electric bikes, which have transformed them from a novelty to more useful form of alternative transport.

First taken up in large numbers in Asia in the early ‘90s, the electric bike is particularly big in China and has remained a cornerstone of Chinese popular transport for the past 25 years. However, the European and North American markets have also experienced a sharp uptick over the past decade. In 2019, the global eBike market stood at 40bn dollars - in 2030, it estimated to almost triple to 120bn. And in places like Germany and the Netherlands, for example, electric bikes are beginning to supplant the market share of regular bikes. This is a trend that is being seen globally as cycling in general experiences a revival.

The other contributing factor has been increasing availability of key materials for producing lighter and greater-capacity batteries, particularly lithium. While some of the earlier electric bikes used heavy lead-based batteries, newer models generally use lithium ion batteries, which give a better range and power output. Our retrofit system for example, uses Bosch lithium ion batteries as an energy source, which are also used in power tools.

In terms of eBike design, there is still a great deal of variation across national boundaries. In the UK, for example, the legislated models consist of the ‘pedelec’ design, where the user’s pedalling is assisted with an electric motor (up to 250 watts), with achievable speeds limited to 15.5 mph, but other countries can legislate for electric bikes with throttle control and no speed limiters.

Being British made, ARCC Bikes conforms to the national legislation on powered cycles, and represents the very best in modern electric bike engineering. Using Bosch batteries to give a large range, the ARCC system is fitted with a sophisticated torque sensor and a handlebar mounted Bluetooth controller which gives you unparalleled user experience, allowing riders to change power levels and drive mode on the go.

A technological quantum leap from the first electric bikes, ARCC Bikes has taken the 19th century invention firmly into the 21st century, optimising it for the future of commuter and recreational cycling. Nevertheless, that same spirit of innovation that inspired the electric bikes of the 1890s lives on in ARCC Bikes.

Book your visit to ARCC Bikes today to experience premium quality electric bike technology designed, engineered and manufactured here in the UK.


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