The bicycle parts manufacturer Shimano unveiled its first product for pedelecs and e-bikes recently. It is called Steps (stands for "Shimano Total Electric Power System") and will be sold to bicycle manufacturers (not consumers) from December this year. Among the technical novelties: a long-life battery.
The electric solution Steps marks the entrance of the giant bicycle parts manufacturer Shimano to the market for electric transport. The product has a long history: Yoshizo Shimano first explained his plans for Steps to ExtraEnergy president Hannes Neupert back in 1995. Then neither Shimano nor Neupert expected development to take 15 years.
Steps is a multi-part system which can only be fitted as a unit. It comprises a front wheel hub motor, crank fitting, battery unit, hub gearshift, a pair of brake levers, LCD display and a light system. The front wheel hub motor produces 250 Watt and has a built-in recuperation function and a dynamo function. The inner bearing with Hollowtech crank boasts a power sensor, which measures the motor torque and pedal frequency.
User-friendliness and clear-cut design turn the multi-part product into a complete and simple solution for both pedelecs and normal bicycles.
According to industry sources in Japan, the luggage carrier battery is a Toshiba product. Apparently, the lithium-titanate technology enables the re-charging of the battery in only one hour. With a capacity of 96 Wh, this is not an unrealistic claim. In fact, the charging time could have been reduced to 5 to 10 minutes, had Shimano opted for a slightly stronger battery re-charger. The lifespan of the battery is specified as 3,000 charge cycles, which is four times more than the charge cycles batteries can handle today.
The control buttons integrated in the brake lever is a clean solution, with which to navigate the menu of the centrally positioned display.
Gears are shifted with electric buttons on the righthand brake lever. Buttons in the righthand brake lever also switch the lights on and off and operate the LCD display. The power switch for the motor and two buttons for regulating the support level are integrated in the left brake lever. In addition, sensors for measuring the brake power and controlling the recuperation performance are integrated in both brakes. There is a choice between V-brakes and roller brakes.
Apart from the usual speedometer readings, such as speed and distance traveled, the LCD display also informs about the charge status of the battery and the selected support level.
The two integrated lights are manufactured by German manufacturer Busch und Müller. As long as it is charged, the light system pulls its energy from the battery. When it goes flat, the light system automatically switches to the dynamo function in the front wheel hub motor.
The Shimano motor solution will be shown to the world for the first time at the bicycle fair Eurobike 2010 and will be supplied to manufacturers from December this year.
This means, it will be in the retail trade from Spring 2011. The solution will only be supplied to bicycle manufacturers and will not be sold directly to consumers as an add-on kit.
Copy: Susanne Brüsch, Hannes Neupert
Translated by: Christoffel Volschenk
21 June 2010