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Continental shows 48V mid-drive motor and gearbox unit at Eurobike

Published August 31, 2017

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — Continental hopes to jump ahead of its mid-drive competitors Bosch and Brose with the launch of its 48V system that combines a gearbox and electric motor into a package not much larger than current motor-only mid-drive systems. 

Continental is best known in North America for its car and bicycle tires. Its rubber business is a small part of the company’s mostly electrical automotive systems business and other technologies it develops for various industries.

The 48V system uses licensed technology from gear hub maker NuVinci, but the motor and gearbox are built entirely by Continental. 

“Integrating the motor and gearbox together not only looks better, but it works better as well as it centralizes mass, making the bike handle better,” said Christian Wurmbäch, Continental 48V product manager. “The unit also weighs 500 to 600 grams less than a separate motor and rear gear hub.”

As the 48V system's name suggests, it runs on 48-volt power, which is the common automotive systems voltage. This makes it relatively easy for Continental to move its auto technology, like its anti-lock braking, onto this bike platform. Continental's current 36-volt mid-drive motors remain in its e-bike product line.

Continental is offering a variety of 48V system packages to e-bike makers. And it continues to co-develop an e-bike-specific grip with Ergon that includes a variety of buttons and links wirelessly, via Bluetooth, to the 48V motor. A rider has access to lights and motor functions without taking their hand off the grip. 

Automobile transmission maker ZF announced before Eurobike that it was partnering with Magura and BFO Mobility on its own gearbox motor system with anti-lock braking potential. However, the companies are waiting until the legal documents are finalized before offering details about their project.

Why is there increasing interest by large automotive parts suppliers in the bike business? Last year Germany's legislative body, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution to ban internal combustion engines by 2030. While the resolution is without legislative weight, any change of this scale would have to also be ratified by the European Union, it nevertheless signals where European lawmakers are headed.

Bosch, Brose and, to a lesser extent, Yamaha all do substantial automotive business. Shimano is notable as a mid-drive supplier because it does so little automotive business.

As Continental's Wurmbäch noted, “The future of an auto-parts supplier is probably not going to be cars, but in supplying systems to a variety of zero-emission vehicles.”

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