Electric bike motor maker Bafang unveils new 3-speed automatic shifting hub transmission
Chinese manufacturer Bafang is a titan of the electric bike motor industry, and thus news swirling around the company generally trends toward new motor announcements. But the latest headline-grabbing product unveiling from Bafang isn’t a motor at all, but rather an internally geared hub designed to provide automatic shifting on both electric and non-electric bikes.
The new Bafang hub offers three gear ratios and is able to shift between the gears automatically based on the bike’s speed.
The hub is designed to fit a wide variety of wheel diameters and thus can have its cadence-based shifting points adjusted to meet changing wheel sizes and bike requirements.
Unlike some internally geared hubs that weren’t originally designed for the high torque of electric motors, Bafang’s offering is intended to withstand powerful motors pulling up to 80 Nm of torque.
While that won’t be sufficient for some of Bafang’s most extreme motors that can output torque figures at twice that level, it will cover most of the company’s motor lineup as well as nearly all European mid-drive motors like those made by Bosch and Brose.
The automatic shifting nature of the hub removes the need for a shifter cable or handlebar controls, simplifying the user interface and reducing cable clutter on a bike and its bars.
Bafang says that the hub is designed for compatibility with a wide range of electric bikes from city and utility e-bikes to cargo electric bikes. Interestingly, the company is also positioning the hub for use in non-electric bikes as well, which would put it in competition with other major bicycle component manufacturers such as Shimano.
The new internally geared hub is designed to work with either typical chain drives or alternative belt drives. Belts such as those developed by Gates Carbon Drive are becoming an increasingly popular option for mid- to high-tier electric bikes.
We had the chance to tour Bafang’s manufacturing facility in 2019 and watch how the company assembles its motors on its production line. You can see that process in our video tour of the Bafang factory below.
We’ve actually suspected for some time now that Bafang would get into the transmission game. It makes sense considering that many of the company’s more powerful motors have pushed the limits of existing bicycle drivetrains produced by OEMs such as Shimano.
This isn’t even Bafang’s first transmission in a hub, though it may the company’s first standalone model. Bafang has previously produced hub motors with built-in automatic two-speed gearboxes, and some of that development work likely helped lead the design of this new three-speed hub.
I’m a bit surprised we haven’t seen Bafang innovate on the higher power end of the transmission range, considering its highest power motors are commonly known to be particularly harsh on basic bike components such as chains and sprockets that aren’t designed to handle such high power and torque levels.
Perhaps such a transmission is still under development though, with this 80 Nm offering being an early release before its big brother hits the market.
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