In recent years, electric bikes have been selling like hotcakes… but conversion kits are also making their way. This equipment allows you to transform a classic bike into an electric bike while saving money. Here are three technologies currently available for such conversion.
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In many countries, the electrically assisted bicycle was boosted by the Covid-19 crisis, and since then, it has not been stopped.
And that’s without counting conversion kits, which are developing rapidly. E-bike conversion kits is a technology that transforms a classic bike into an electric bike. A typical conversion kit has a motor, a battery, and electric wiring. It often also has a control display and other elements.
That is an excellent opportunity to bring out your old bike that is gathering dust in the garage and give it a modern twist. This alternative has the advantage of saving the price of a brand new electric bike (between 600€/$ and 6,000€/$) while saving the planet the carbon footprint associated with its manufacture (134 kg of CO₂ on average).
Most of these kits, sold between 400€/$ and 1,000€/$, are ordered on the internet and are to be assembled by oneself. However, some manufacturers also provide assembly through retailers and partners.
Beware: in most cases, the financial aid from the State for the purchase of an electric bike does not apply to a conversion kit, but some cities may offer their financial helping hand.
If you want to take the plunge, here are three types of conversion kit technology currently available.
Read also: Can traditional bicycles be converted into e-bikes? And, How fast do e-bikes lose value, depreciate?
An electric motor integrated into the front or rear wheel
The principle: you install a front or rear wheel on your bike with an electric motor integrated directly into the structure of the wheel. The battery and the controller to manage the electric assistance are added to the bicycle’s frame, with one or two cables.
Different wheel sizes are compatible with many bicycle models. This system has the advantage of being easy to assemble… as long as you have minimal DIY skills. It offers more dynamic but less powerful assistance than the system integrated into the crankset (mid-drive system).
Quite a few manufacturers of conversion kits offer front wheel motors “compatible with almost all bikes.” Such a kit usually has a speed limit of 25 km/h (for Europe) or 15.5 mph (for the USA).
A typical kit includes an LCD screen, a mounting pack, a battery, and a charger. Prices vary and are usually in the range between 800 and 1100€/$. Certain kits can be adapted to mountain bikes, city bikes, and even folding bikes.
The British brand Swytch Bike has designed a conversion kit with the “world’s first pocket battery.” The battery, which clips directly onto the handlebars, is no bigger than a smartphone or a tablet, depending on the model chosen.
However, the Swytch conversion kit offers limited autonomy (about 15 km for a small bike and 30 km for the bigger one).
Read also: Front, mid-drive, or rear e-bike motor. Which one to choose? And, What is the difference between e-bike motors?
An “all-in-one” electric system hidden in the front wheel
The entire kit (motor, battery, and controller) is integrated directly into the wheel structure. An alternative guaranteed without cables… and less “headache” to assemble.
This solution typically includes a 250-watt motor with a 400 Wh battery and can provide around 30-50 miles (50-80 km) of theoretical autonomy.
Such a wheel, presented as “intelligent and autonomous,” is activated by a simple button and “adapts to your style of driving and your needs for assistance.” The battery is removable and can be fully charged in 3-4 hours.
Notice to the “geeks” a USB port allows you to recharge your mobile devices on your bike! The only drawback: the wheel weighs 7 kg, which can be felt behind the handlebars. This model is proposed at 799 € on the Solexon website. The manufacturer Teebike markets a model at 795 €, guaranteeing a range of 60 km, rechargeable in 4 hours.
These wheels are designed to be connected to your smartphone, which allows you to manage the assistance modes. However, this is not ideal for safety when you have to take your eyes off the road, compared to the fingertip controls available on a classic bike.
Read also: Are electric bikes good for exercise? And, Can I use an e-bike to get fit or for weight loss?
An electric motor coupled to the pedals
The principle is the same as for most e-bikes: the motor ensures that electric assistance is integrated into the crankset. That does not facilitate the assembly but offers mighty assistance.
This system has the advantage of distributing the weight and power over the entire bike. In addition, depending on the model, it offers a torque of 75 to 110 Nm, which accompanies the cyclist’s efforts.
There are several providers of mid-drive conversion kits. For example, Virvolt offers a model that can be assembled by one of the company’s 250 partners in France, Belgium, or Switzerland. It’s feasible on “99% of bikes,” according to the company. In the last three years, the company has adapted about 4,000 models on the market.
The company claims that such conversion makes bicycles more accessible, ecological, and sustainable since they convert the existing bike fleet. The system is also interchangeable when the bike or the motor becomes obsolete, which is not usually the case with ready-made e-bikes. The installation of this motor costs about €1,200, including labor.
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