Schaeffler has developed the FAG Velomatic, an automatic gearshift system for pedelecs. Before the start of volume production, customers from Schaeffler tested the system in Italy, where cycling is regarded alongside soccer as a national sport.
Many car drivers appreciate the benefits: The automatic transmission, which changes gear independently depending on the speed and actuation of the gas pedal. But automatic gearshift systems for bicycles are still uncommon, although they offer a major advantage for pedelecs by optimally matching the pedaling assistance provided by the electric motor to suit the riding experience. With the FAG Velomatic, Schaeffler has developed one of these gearshift systems. The system is currently being integrated into the first volume-production pedelecs in conjunction with a German premium manufacturer; the first models equipped with the FAG Velomatic will be brought onto the market in the summer of 2016. Schaeffler is now presenting this innovation to customers and users in order to gain as much feedback as possible before the launch. Various bicycles fitted with electric drives and the FAG Velomatic were available for testing at Eurobike, the leading trade show for the European bicycle sector. The pilot-production sample types were subsequently shipped to Italy, a very traditional bicycle market. This is where Schaeffler Italia Industrial presented the FAG Velomatic to its customers at the E-Bike Day in Pozzolengo, a small village in Lombardy on the south shore of Lake Garda.
Massimo Ottavio Pavan is all smiles when he returns from a test ride through the hilly Lombardy countryside. "The FAG Velomatic system is cool", he says spontaneously. "You don't need to think about the bicycle and its technical equipment and can fully enjoy the ride and the wonderful vineyards in this region." For Mr. Pavan, cycling is a lifestyle and much more than just a means of transport. And that is why Pavan, the marketing manager of a large Italian industrial company, founded his own start-up "Mopbike" 20 months ago in Pordenone near Venice. Since then, he has been manufacturing and selling urban utility bikes in his leisure time; his bicycle manufacturing operation currently offers three models in the upper price segment. "The exciting thing about the FAG Velomatic is the option of offering individual shifting programs", he says. "The optimum setting depends on the ride, which I'm currently doing – whether I'm cycling in Holland, where everywhere is flat, or here in the hills, or in the town on level terrain." The gearshift behavior of the FAG Velomatic can be adjusted depending on the implementation by the bicycle manufacturer, for example, with the Velodaptic app.
Sofia Cabrini comes directly to the Schaeffler Italia Industrial E-Bike Day from her office in Piacenza, 120 kilometers away. Wearing high heels, Ms. Cabrini, the marketing manager of an engineering office, now climbs on the test bicycle from Askoll with a 250-Watt electric motor and the FAG-Velomatic in combination with a 7-speed Shimano gearshift system. "I hope that it'll be all right in these shoes", she says a little sceptically, before she starts her test ride. But a short time later she is also impressed: "That was my first ride on an e-bike", she says, "but thanks to the automatic gearshift system it was very easy to operate." She particularly liked the pedaling assistance provided by the electric motor. "It meant I could cycle without any effort, even in my office clothes", she says. "A bicycle fitted with an electric motor and the FAG Velomatic is also suitable for business use. I didn't have to concentrate on shifting gears and could control everything with my feet." The bicycle tested by Ms. Cabrini is extremely versatile and is definitely an alternative for the daily commute to the office. "Of course, it depends on the route, which you have to travel. But for medium distances, such as from the outskirts of the city to the city center, this type of bicycle is ideal", she says.
The FAG Velomatic was developed by Schaeffler over the last two years in order to improve the riding experience for different requirements – such as for leisure rides, city rides or for sporty cycling. It has control and power electronic systems, which control an actuator on the basis of influencing factors such as speed or the uphill/downhill gradient. The actuator comprises a small electric motor, which drives a spindle via a clutch and gear unit. The spindle is supported by a radial deep groove ball bearing. A spindle nut supports the gear cable and actuates it as soon as the control system requests a gearshift. The entire system is accommodated in a 200-millimeter long housing, which thanks to its compact diameter of 24 millimeters can be fitted in the seat tube or down tube. The automatic gearshift system is connected via bluetooth or CAN bus to the operating system, for example, a smartphone, on which the Velodaptic app displays important parameters such as the speed and current gear. Users can also preconfigure the FAG Velomatic and adjust their individual gearshift characteristics for different requirements via the app – for a pleasant ride through the vineyards of Lombardy, for example.