Posted: January 7, 2015

Contributed by Jim Morrison

During the press events yesterday I met the North American Manager for Bosch’s eBike. She invited me to come by the booth and speak to her colleagues who were visiting from their facilities in Germany. I took her up on that offer and wow, I am very glad I did. I had the pleasure of speaking with a relatively new Bosch employee who was nearing completion of a two year management training program. This Bosch employee was fantastic - intelligent and personable. I could not have asked for a better person to educate me on this fairly new product from Bosch.

What is the eBike exactly?

Before I get into the technology of the eBike, let’s start by clarifying what it is and more importantly, what it is not. The eBike is not an electric bike that pedals for you and allows you to ride “feet  free”. The eBike is like a variable multiplier to the power you input into the pedals. Bike enthusiasts may say, I do not want to take away from my ride experience. Ah, but the eBike does not take away from the ride experience, it adds to the ride experience. Going uphill can feel more like going downhill. The rider can set how much of a multiplier effect they want to get from the eBike experience. You can find more information on the eBike here. Bosch is doing very exciting things and were very clear in highlighting that they are seeking to innovate solutions that make peoples lives better. This goes even further beyond bikes and transportation and touches on both consumer and industrial automation. This is a great summary of Bosch board member Werner Struth's keynote at CES.

Now let's talk about the basics of the eBike

Drive Unit

The drive unit is composed of 3 sensors, a motor, motor drivers, a microprocessor, non-volatile memory, power management, a CAN bus transceiver and it runs an internal software instruction set. These functions could be handled by individual IC’s or many of them could be handled by standard automotive MCUs that feature embedded Flash, CAN Trx blocks, the MCU itself and a PMIC block. Either way, that is a fair amount of technology in just one third of the eBike.

The Battery

The battery is a 36V, 400 watt hour detachable battery and charges from standard AC duplex outlets. The battery module contains a power management IC to maximize efficiency, a microcontroller, and a ADC. Again, these functions could be handled by individual IC’s or many of them could be handled by standard automotive MCUs that feature embedded Flash, a CAN Trx block, the MCU itself and a PMIC block.

 PowerPack 300PowerPack 400
Mounting typeFrame battery / Rack batteryFrame battery / Rack battery
Voltage (V)36 V36 V
Capacity (Ah)8,2 Ah11 Ah
Energy content (Wh)300 Wh400 Wh
Weight (kg)2,0 kg / 2,4 kg2,5 kg / 2,6 kg

The Interface

Bosch calls their two interface units the Intuvia and the Nyon.

 

The Intuvia is a small LCD monochromatic display and computer. The Nyon is a more sophisticated 4.3” diagonal display employing transflective LCD technology, which provides the highest contrast even under extreme brightness conditions, and a lot more technology inside. We’ll get to that shortly.

The Intuvia is used by the rider to select the speeds and to observe output from the riding experience. Ituvia contains the display, display driver, a rechargeable battery, power management and a CAN transceiver.

How much silicon are we talking about?

So from a technology perspective, we have three main electronic modules; the drive unit the battery pack and the rider interface. There is one additional module that should be considered and that is the battery charger modules. Bosch offers a travel charger and a more stationary home charger. Between these three modules, there are, depending upon how the solutions have been implemented anywhere from 10 to 20 pieces of silicon. Not bad for a bike. The Bosch spokesperson was not 100% confident he knew whose silicon they were using but he was confident that Bosch choses the best solutions. Given what we know about the Bosch solutions, we are very confident that the sensors and the motors are Bosch. The microprocessors could be anyone’s guess, NXP, Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Freescale, etc. The same may be true as well for the PMICs and the CAN transceivers.

Let’s talk volumes now. The market for eBikes across Europe exceeds 1 million pcs/year, with Bosch capturing the #1 market share since 2012. Given the culture of Europe, this does not surprise me. The eBike is attractive to both the older generation, who can benefit from the multiplication effect, and to biking enthusiasts who can double, triple or quadruple their biking experience in a given day.

In North America, the eBike was  recently been launched and is gaining traction quickly. Already thousands of eBikes have been sold and the uptake rate is very positive.

Global Assumptions

Let’s make an assumption that globally we are talking about a half million units per year and good solid double digit growth. Let’s do the math…10 to 20 chips x ½ million bikes = 5 to 10 million pieces of silicon shipping annually, just for bikes. This could easily exceed 100 million units in the very near future. It certainly is not smartphone volumes, but the incremental revenue all goes to the bottom line.

I may just have to get one...

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