Most bicycles and electric bikes require some type of mechanical power supply to the wheels, such as chains, drive shafts, or even belts. However, the German company Schaeffler has freshly awake a brand new bike powertrain that is completely electric and you don’t need any of that to get your bike going.
The new system is known as Schaeffler Free Drive and uses a “bike-by-cable” system instead of a traditional belt or chain. The Free Drive uses a generator installed on the bottom bracket of the bike. When you pedal, it converts the energy from mechanical to electrical and then sends it by wire to the motor.
This design completely eliminates the need for a chain or belt of any kind, not to mention additional components like a derailleur. Instead, the generator adjusts the resistance on the pedals based on how much power you need based on the rider’s preference or power selection. If you pedal enough to generate extra power, it is sent to the battery and stored for later.
Basically, this new system offers regenerative power both when pedaling and when braking. Please note that this new powertrain was designed for assisted pedaling only and not throttle-based systems like most electric bikes in the United States. As a result, it is only a 250 watt motor rather than the 750+ we often see in the United States.
On the bright side, cyclists can now answer “yes” when someone asks if the bike is charged while pedaling. However, according to Electrek, a Schaeffler representative said its cable bike design is about 5% less efficient than a more traditional chain or belt drive system due to the transfer and conversion of energy from the cable to the motor. That said, it’s still an amazing new system that should allow bike designers to get creative with styling and component design.
Schaeffer will have his Free Drive on display at the 2021 Eurobike convention in Friedrichshafen, Germany, if you’d like to see it for yourself. For now, there is no information on the price or the release date.