Catrike recently introduced its eCat solution for its recumbent trikes. This article does a detailed comparison of the eCat solution by Bosch with Falco direct drive system. The final conclusion is that eCat is a non-optimum add on with very high life cycle costs. Let us visit some of the factors which lead us to this conclusion.
We are going to divide our discussion in three sections:
- Most Important Factors
- Cycling Experience;
- Second Most Important Factors
- Throttle Operation;
- Hill Climbing;
- Third Most Important Factors
- Loss of Gears;
- Life Time Costs;
#1: Quality of Bosch eCAT kit vs. Falco eBike Kit:
A geared system which is doomed to fail: BOSCH is a Goliath of a corporation spanning the globe.
- Blind Leading the Blind: Bosch's branding power blinds all of the little companies to their faults.
- History of Failures and Recalls: BOSCH launched their electric bike kit in 2011 and have had two major recalls since their introduction in Europe.
- Not State of the Art: In the electric motor industry, people are feverishly trying to get away from any motor system which involves gears. It does not matter whether you use plastic or metal gears, any system with gears is inherently doomed to fail much much earlier than a solution without gears. Therefore, no matter what quality system you claim to be, how do you justify a fundamentally wrong solution.
- No Reliability Data: BOSCH has released no data which shows the reliability. There is no data which indicates what is the MTBF or Mean Time Between Failure. A company like BOSCH ought to release such data and not continue to confound the end users.
- Lower Warranty: This is also the reason why BOSCH only offers 2-year warranty on their kit. Why not have a life-time warranty on their motor system? What is stopping them to have a life time warranty? It is because these kits are doomed to fail sooner than later.
The above chart is a conservative estimate of probability of failure of mid-drives (on the right axis).
Falco eBike Conversion Kit that does not fail: Falco is the "David" in this battle. Falco's team has always believed that mid-drives are a disastrous solution for a recumbent trike.
- Simple is Beautiful: Falco's direct drive is extremely simple in its mechanical structure with very few parts as compared to a mid-drive solution.
- Complexity is trouble: Quality of a system greatly depends upon the complexity of the system. More complex a system, poorer is its quality.
- Quality and Reliability: Falco's team has always believed in utter simplicity. Simplicity leads to tremendous quality and reliability.
- 5-Year Warranty: This is the reason Falco's electric bike motor comes with a 5-year warranty.
#2 Cycling Experience
This is quite a subjective criteria and everyone has an opinion about it.
- What is an amazing pedal assist experience: However, let me define it simply. I consider the cycling experience to be "elite" when I get the exact power I need while I am riding. I don't want less power. I don't want more power. I want the precise and exact power I need while I am riding at every speed. It has to be automatic. It has to be seamless. It has to be precise. It has to be natural. Falco's system offers that every time you pedal. Falco's electric bike conversion kit offers that for everyone - young, or old, thin or fat, challenged or athletic.
- What is BOSCH's pedal assist experience?: BOSCH's eCAT kit on the other hand fails to offer it. Here are one of the testimonials from a rider who attempted the BOSCH system:
Dr. Doreen Scott Says - "Bosch Motor was not assisting her when she wanted to ride long distances and not providing a needed boost for hills or when she got tired. I have a rare disease, affecting my balance and movement and the Bosch motor requires too much effort to pedal and does not allow for a throttle option which I want when I am tired".
As can be seen in the figure above, mid-drives are severely limited and ill-suited for the US and Canadian customers.
- Most Advanced Pedal System in the Industry: Falco electric bike kit has the most advanced pedal system in the industry with precise delivery of power when the rider needs it. This amazing and extraordinary cycling experience is possible because of the advanced knowledge of rider intent which is captured through Falco's patented torque and speed sensors.
- Throttle Operation: Falco eBike conversion kit also allows for a throttle operation.
- Customization: Falco's electric bike wheel is the only electric wheel in the industry which allows for customization from a highly challenged rider to world class athlete.
BOSCH's 36 Volts, 400 Wh systems are bare minimum in the industry with extremely low range. Catrike claims a range of 62 miles with a price tag of $2600 on the kit. Falco's f7.9 system with 48V, 672Wh battery offers a range of 120 miles with a price tag of $2295.
Falco's direct drive brushless, gearless electric bike kit offers superior range, speed and price as compared to BOSCH's geared mid-drive solution by Catrike. However, mid-drives have one and only one advantage. They offer better hill climbing albeit at a massive cost. That is not required for recumbent trikes.
#4 and 5: Safety and Comfort:
Falco's electric bike conversion kit offers stability, comfort, and portability without any penalty of speed. BOSCH's mid-drive addition changes the stability of the trike as shown in the figure below:
With a heavy motor unit at the cranks, the stability of the trike changes.
Mid-drives have a very high life cycle costs as compared to direct drives. Mid-drives are known to chew up chains and rear derailleurs like there is no business. They also required constant maintenance as the plastic gears get worn and requires a trip to the bike shop. These trips begin to add up significant costs. In addition, there is a tremendous costs associated with the battery replacement. BOSCH's system is proprietary and one must buy a BOSCH battery to continue. Falco's electric bike conversion kit is an open system where any battery in the market can be used. Mid-drives are inherently unreliable over their life-cycle.