Most retail electric bicycles focus on mountain bike or hybrid style designs, leaving few options for those seeking sleek electric road bikes. But that could be about to change, as Chinese electric bicycle parts manufacturer Bafang announced a series of new mid-drive motors and batteries at the China International Bicycle and Motor Fair in Shanghai.
One of the most promising of Bafang’s new offerings is the M800 system designed specifically for road bikes, which includes a 5 lb (2.3 kg) mid-drive motor, a 4.4 lb (2 kg) integrated frame battery, satellite shifter pods and a color display. The entire package weighs less than 9.7 lbs (4.4 kg).
Bafang, also known as 8fun, has designed the motor with exercise-conscious road bikers in mind. The M800 system includes 10 user-selectable assist levels to provide a range of power from a significant boost down to just a light tailwind.
However, unlike more powerful e-bikes that can provide constant pedal assist, the M800 is designed to provide assist only during acceleration and on uphill climbs. Essentially, the motor aims to flatten out terrain and help the rider get up to constant speed, at which point the rider takes over to provide the rest of the pedaling power.
At only 200 W, the motor is definitely a helper motor as opposed to a ‘do the work for you’ motor. However, the upside of lower power is that the smaller 200 Wh battery should be plenty for even long rides due to the lower power draw. Bafang claims that the 200 Wh battery should last anywhere from 31 to 93 miles (50 to 150 km), depending on the assist level.
Bafang has also tuned the motor for different markets, with a 15.5 mph (25 km/h) option and a 28 mph (45 km/h) option, depending on a country’s local regulations. As most road cyclists can easily surpass 15.5 mph (25 km/h), it makes sense that Bafang designed the M800 system to only provide assist during acceleration and hill climbing.
The motor is not a bolt-on mid-drive like many of Bafang’s previous mid-drive motors meant to allow customers to convert their own bikes into e-bikes at home. Rather, the M800 mid-drive system is designed to allow electric bicycle designers to incorporate the diminutive motor and battery directly into bicycle frames for a fully integrated design.
Other new Bafang electric bicycle components
Bafang also unveiled a few other products at the China International Bicycle and Motor Fair.
The company’s already popular M400 mid-drive was reworked as the M420. This drive is intended for the European market due to its 15.5 mph (25 km/h) speed limit. Like the M800, it is intended to be integrated directly into the frame design, but is rated for higher power and for use with higher capacity battery packs.
The M420 is best suited for manufacturers developing hybrid city or touring bikes, as it can better handle the rigors of urban riding.
Bafang also unveiled the M500 and M600 systems, which are even more powerful and rated at between 250 to 500 W. They are designed for off-road bikes that require higher power and more robust drive components. These motors are also capable of much higher torque, rated at between 90 to 120 Nm.
Lastly, Bafang unveiled three new batteries: two F-series batteries of 450 and 600 Wh that can be designed into the downtube of a bicycle frame and removed from either the top or bottom of the frame, and a new high-capacity 1 kWh pack.
All of these new motors and battery options are intended to help expand Bafang’s offerings to electric bicycle manufacturers and facilitate new designs that can take advantage of their unique target markets.
While all of these products will be great assets to OEM e-bike manufacturers, the M800 system is especially interesting. There are already many mid-drive systems out there from big names like Bosch, Yamaha and Shimano, but most of these are designed for higher power. With that higher power comes increased weight.
At just 4.4 kg, the entire M800 system including the battery weighs less than some competitors’ motors alone. This extremely lightweight new drive system can open the door for some exciting new electric road bikes as manufacturers decide how they want to incorporate the M800 system into their lineups.
While many people might scoff at a 200W pedal assist system, it is important to remember who this system is aimed at: road cyclists. This isn’t a commuter e-bike setup or an off-road setup, it is meant for those that want to be able to spend longer periods cycling but perhaps don’t have the strength required to climb the hills in their area or to accelerate quickly enough to keep up with their group. For that segment of the market, the M800 fills a niche that hasn’t yet been adequately addressed.