German company Schaeffler has just revealed an innovative new drive system for electric bicycles that eschews traditional bike chains and belts for an entirely electrical-driven system. The new system is known as the Schaeffler Free Drive and marks the entry of one of the most divergent electric bicycle drivetrains we’ve seen in years.
The Free Drive, which was co-developed with electric bicycle drivetrain specialists Heinzmann, is based upon a generator installed at the bike’s bottom bracket.
The rider’s pedaling action powers the generator and converts the energy from mechanical to electrical energy.
That removes the need for any form of mechanical power delivery to the rear wheel, such as chains, belts, or driveshafts.
Instead, the electricity is sent to the motor in the rear wheel, where it is converted back into mechanical energy to power the bike forwards. This “bike-by-wire” system is all controlled with CAN communications between the motor, battery, generator, and control electronics.