Breakthrough innovation often starts with small businesses that come up with great ideas. In some cases, it is the other way round. In the case of e-bikes, it was even a very big company that came up with a simple idea. We’re talking about Bosch, a 400,000-strong company that has been a leading manufacturer of automotive technology for more than a century.
In this post, we’ll tell you the story of how Bosch got lost in the e-bike industry.
At LA CoMotion , I talked to Claudia Wasko, Vice President and General Manager of Bosch eBike Systems Americas. She told me why Bosch is suddenly busy with electric bicycles.
Do you know the story of the seven-league boots? According to this legend, the wearer can travel a full seven miles with just one step. About a decade ago, Bosch engineer Peter Kimmich wanted to make this fairytale for e-bikes a reality.
To achieve this goal, he had to solve the technical problems that e-bikes were struggling to convince Bosch to support the project.
For a long time, electric vehicles looked a little strange and were not necessarily a bestseller. They suffered from overheating problems, short battery life and did not get along well with gradients. Often, something went wrong with the bicycles, which of course neither the buyers nor the dealers enjoyed. Many e-bikes also had the feeling that the engine was in control and not the driver.
Wasko admits she did not buy any of those e-bikes back then. “They were just uncool,” she says. The development of the Bosch e-bike was triggered by a vehicle part, namely the engine of a power steering system. This engine helps drivers to steer by boosting the driver’s power.
Automakers at the time bought fewer servomotors than Bosch had foreseen.
Another bike enthusiast among the Bosch engineers came up with the idea of using the lithium batteries for Bosch’s power tools as an energy source for e-bikes. In the end, the two engineers used Bosch’s giant toolbox to design their e-bike.
The next piece of the puzzle was a torque sensor. In a car, this sensor detects whether the load on one of the seats originates from a person or a shopping bag. This is how the system decides if the safety belt alarm needs to be activated or not. In e-bikes, the sensor is used to detect uphill gradients and provide additional support to the rider. Occasionally stuttering occurred with early e-bikes, but with Bosch’s sensor system you almost feel like you’re on a conventional bike – Bosch calls it “backwind feel”.
When all the parts were finally ready, Bosch was able to take care of the construction of his e-bike. The components could not be easily attached to a conventional bicycle frame. At the same time, Bosch had no experience in the design of bicycles. So it had to be a partner. Wasko therefore went in search of companies that could design concepts for the Bosch bike.
In 2010, Bosch introduced its innovation at the Eurobike bicycle trade fair, with a total of fourteen companies presenting their e-bike prototypes.
The police in LA uses e-bikes!
At LA CoMotion – a mobility mobility conference hosted in Los Angeles – the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) presented its purpose-built e-bike for police use.
Charlie Beck, chief of the LAPD, had first talked to several other bicycle manufacturers before deciding on the Bosch system. The reasons for his choice were the high reliability of the electric bikes and the faultless test drives. Next, he went in search of a partner who could construct an e-bike for police use. Bosch introduced a number of OEM partners to the chief of police, who eventually became Bulls USA favorite. After nine months of collaboration, “The Sentinel”, the e-bike designed specifically for the LAPD design concept, was ready for the road.
A bicycle for the police must meet different requirements than, for example, a bike for bicycle enthusiasts. For example, it has to be very robust. It also has to be fast enough to track a car, even with heavy police equipment. Also, the seat height had to be specially adapted for the police wheel, so that the driver can descend better with his gear belt and keep the gun at hand.
In August, twenty of these e-bikes were already on the streets of Los Angeles, and the response from the public was extremely positive. The bicycles became the conversation starter number one and help to improve relations with the residents of the city. Since then, many LAPD police have been considering joining the bicycle police.
The e-bikes not only improved the relationship with the inhabitants of the city. Police officers with e-bikes were able to distribute as much as two hundred percent more traffic tickets compared to plain-clothes police.
“Thanks to the electric motor, police officers can travel longer and cover longer distances, enabling them to cover a much larger area on patrol,” says Wasko. “With the e-bike, you can get to tight places and in crowds. Should an emergency call come in, the police officer can simply activate the turbo mode and reach speeds of up to 45 kilometers per hour – on flat terrain this is comparable to the top athletes of the Tour de France; They are fourteen to sixteen kilometers faster than the average cyclist! “
The police usually cover a distance of over 96 kilometers a day, but they do not have to recharge their e-bike during their shift. The battery is fully charged in just two hours, so the e-bike can be recharged during lunch break; in an emergency, even the battery can be replaced.
What do the police think about it?
Sergeant Gordon Helper, who works for the LAPD Central Division, has been part of the LAPD bicycle police since 2000 and says: “The new e-bikes always have a few percent left at the end of the shift. the battery life is not a problem at all. “
One day when he was traveling by e-bike, he received an emergency call regarding a person armed with a knife. Thanks to his electric bike, he was able to respond immediately to the emergency call.
“I started my e-bike from Central Station on a bright day and heavy traffic,” says Helper. “Although I paid attention to all traffic lights and street signs, I was able to get to the scene in less than four minutes. The patrol car takes an average of seven minutes. “
According to Helper, you can not even feel the weight of the fifteen kilogram police equipment on the bike. Thanks to the e-bikes, he was able to respond to “all emergency calls quickly and efficiently.”
He also told of an incident in which one of his colleagues was hit by a car. Despite severe damage to the rear wheel, she did not fall off her e-bike and remained unscathed. A group of bike couriers were so impressed by the sight that they started cheering as she recovered from her accident.
Bulls USA also filmed a short video in which Sergeant Helper talks about his experiences with The Sentinel.
In the United States, eight other police departments use Bosch e-bikes. In Los Angeles, LAPD police bragged with their latest investment, even before the LA Fire Department, who could not help but respond a little jealously.
Bosch is convinced that its drive systems have helped drive the e-bike business. In the US, e-bike sales doubled between 2016 and 2017, reaching a total of $ 77 million . E-bikes are even more popular in much of Europe. In Germany, for example, nearly 20 percent of the bicycles sold are electric, and experts predict that this number will rise to one-third. In addition, e-bike sales are expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.3 percent by 2025 .
We got in touch with Bulls USA and for a test model of their e-bikes for
Normal consumers who are also based on the Bosch platform . So stay tuned to see if we agree with the LAPD police!
This post was sponsored by Bosch , all thoughts and ideas are still my own.