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E-bikes and Their Electronics

April 11, 2024

There’s a Keystone in every great invention.

Who Doesn’t Like a Good Pedelec Ride?

When it comes to bike riding, there are no shortage of reasons why people engage in this activity. Exercise, recreation, exploration, traffic congestion, competitive sport, stress relief and for some, reducing their carbon footprint are some of the common reasons. The bicycle has been around for more than 200 years. Although it is debatable who invented the first bicycle, it is normally credited to Karl Drais, a German inventor in 1817. 

During the past 2 centuries, we’ve seen every kind of bicycle on the market: road bikes, mountain bikes, beach cruisers, city bikes, folding bikes, BMX bikes, touring bikes, gravel bikes, recumbent bikes, tandem bikes, cargo bikes, utility bikes, cyclocross bikes, specialty bikes, let’s not forget stationary bikes, and of course the popular e-bike.

So why the electrification of bicycles? Because it’s the latest fad? Not really. It didn’t take long in the 1800s for someone to strap a battery to a bike frame and a DC motor to the hub of the rear wheel. Ogen Bolton Jr, an American inventor did this in 1895. However, the electric bike was slightly ahead of its time. Mass appeal was limited mainly due to the heavy weight of the electrically driven wheels and the low range of the batteries. It wasn't until the late 20th century that e-bikes became more popular and practical, particularly with the advancements in battery and motor technology.

The weight problem was solved in 1991 with the invention of the lithium-ion battery. Affordable batteries for e-bikes and other applications materialized largely due to the mass production of laptops. Today, one battery charge on an e-bike can support a 60-mile bike ride. Riders can now travel longer distances and endure hills and headwinds with less effort. The electric assist allows more people especially the older population, to enjoy the benefits of cycling. The global market for ebikes was 36.5 million units in 2022 and is expected to reach 77.3 million by 2030. 

Enter the Age of the Pedelec

A Pedelec, (Pedal Electric Cycle) is an e-bike that requires the rider to pedal to activate the electric motor. Integrated e-bikes often incorporate aesthetics and aerodynamics while maintaining functionality and accessibility for battery maintenance and removal. E-bikes are available in a wide range of designs, riding styles and intended uses. Depending on local laws, many pedelecs are legally classified as bicycles, not mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from licensing, mandatory safety equipment and stringent laws regarding the certification and operation of more powerful two-wheelers often classified as electric motorcycles.

Electronic/electrical components used in e-bikes today include an electric motor, battery pack (lithium-ion or lithium polymer), motor controller, chargers, sensors and wiring, display control unit, and pedal assist sensors. The capacity of the motor measured in watt-hours determines the range of the bike. A motor controller provides features like speed limiting and regenerative braking. And with all these electronic features and functions, there are the accompanying pc boards: motor controller PCB, display/control unit PCB, battery management system PCB, sensor PCBs, and accessory PCBs for lights, turn signals and electronic locks.

Plenty of places on e-bikes to find Keystone Electronics components including:  LED holders, spacers and lens caps; Fuse Clips and Holders; PCB test points and terminals; spacers and standoffs; and PCB plugs, pins, jacks, and sockets and more.