We recently talked about so-called Digital Drives in the world of electric bicycles, and how they could shape the future of two-wheeled mobility. Essentially, these types of electric drives eliminate the need for a physical connection between the pedals and the wheels, and make use of complex systems – sometimes even AI – to tailor power delivery to the wheel.
That said, one of the biggest names in the world of cycling has just introduced its own digital drive tech. Look Cycle, a prominent French brand in the world of cycling, has teamed up with French active mobility specialist Cixi, for what it’s calling the PERS system. The Pedaling Energy Recovery System (PERS) is designed to replace a traditional gear and chain/belt setup, and makes use of cutting-edge technology to provide a seamless and efficient ride. Here, a complex algorithm will analyze each and every pedal stroke, and send power to the electric motor while taking other variables (i.e., terrain, incline, and speed) into account.
At the level of the motor, the system will incorporate a continuously variable hub, so no gears will be necessary. Even more interestingly, the system is said to be able to deliver power to the motor even with an empty battery, so long as the rider keeps pedaling – though I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to work. Unsurprisingly, the PERS will be linked to a proprietary mobile app that allows riders to further fine tune the system’s performance through a selection of ride modes. It also incorporates regenerative braking to provide extra range on longer rides.
At this point, we’ll have to make a distinction between what can actually be produced in the real world, as the jargon-filled word salad surely makes a lot of promises. To show proof of concept, Look and Cixi presented the Rover 45, an electric bike featuring the PERS technology. As its name suggests, it's a pedelec that can hit speeds of up to 45 kilometers per hour (28 miles per hour). Here, the PERS is mated to a 700-watt-hour battery pack housed in the seat tube, while the generator is housed in the bottom bracket, sending power to a rear hub motor.
Thanks to this setup, the bike can take on a variety of shapes and configurations, though the Rover 45 looks more like a standard commuter e-bike. Look and Cixi point out that the PERS transforms your bicycle into a maintenance-free mobility option, as you’ll never have to worry about repairing or lubricating a chain, adjusting your gears, or replacing worn out belts.
As I stated in my previous article about Digital Drives, this tech instills quite a sense of skepticism in me, and presumably, in a lot of other people. Eliminating a physical connection between the pedals and the wheels certainly has its applications in certain bikes, but for the most part, I’m sure most cyclists would rest easy knowing that pedaling their e-bike home like a regular bike is the worst-case-scenario in the event of an electrical malfunction.