Shimano is currently developing a smaller and lighter electric bicycle system

Recently, Shimano submitted multiple patents to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), one of which is a more compact mid-drive motor than current market products. The patent is titled “Human-Powered Vehicle Drive Device and Human-Powered Vehicle Battery Holding Device.”

The motor described in the patent appears to be smaller than the EP8, EP801, and EP600 that power many eMTBs, and it might even be smaller than the STEPS E7000 motor that powers some gravel electric bikes. The patent information indicates that this drive device could be utilized for mountain bikes, road bikes, urban bikes, cargo bikes, or recumbent bikes.

The first illustration in the patent provides a preliminary depiction showing a bicycle with curved handlebars, equipped with a suspension fork and rim brakes, suggesting the system might be suitable for road or gravel electric bikes.

Speculation about Shimano developing a new electric bicycle system arises from the fact that its products have a smaller market share in the electric mountain bike sector. For example, while the EP8, EP801, and EP600 full-power units have been well-received, subsequent units like the E6100 and E5000 target the urban electric bike and leisure bike markets. However, there’s a lack of highly competitive products in the electric mountain bike or road electric bike segments.

Meanwhile, other brands in the high-end road and gravel e-bike market have introduced corresponding electric assist systems. Bosch’s Performance Line SX, Giant’s SyncDrive Pro 2, TQ’s HPR50, Fazua’s Ride 60, Maxon’s Bikedrive Air, among others, have to some extent reduced motor power output to support smaller devices and coupled them with equally compact battery solutions.

Sales in the electric road and gravel bike segments have seen significant growth in the last two to three years, but Shimano’s products aren’t sufficiently competitive against rivals. EP8, designed for gravel bikes, provides adequate power, but the motor and battery were primarily designed for other applications. As a result, Giant’s offerings appear bulky compared to models like Scott Solace eRide, KTM Macina Gravelator SX, or Megamo Kansas. Shimano’s new drive unit might change this scenario.

The patent information, apart from the smaller size, lacks complete details and doesn’t mention any performance data. However, Shimano’s intriguing design for motor and battery layout portrays a much slimmer profile than any of the current EP8, EP6, or E7000 products. It showcases multiple ways to connect the battery to the motor. Importantly, the battery can slot into a compartment under the motor, seemingly inserting at an angle from below, significantly lowering the e-bike’s center of gravity, particularly valuable for electric mountain bikes.

In terms of the new power drive’s performance, Velo anticipates torque between 40 Nm to 50 Nm, and the motor must weigh less than two kilograms to be competitive in the market. For instance, models like TQ HPR50 and Fazua Ride 60 fall within this range.

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