A persistent cliché is that of the stingy Scots. At any rate, this cannot refer to their ingenuity. FreeFlow Technologies (FFT) from Glasgow provide further proof of this. It has just convinced several investors of the merits of its new drive system for e-bikes. The investors were so impressed that the financing round was heavily oversubscribed and ended with proceeds of 1.85 million British pounds for FFT. Reason enough to take a look at what exactly caused so much confidence.
Probably some of the excitement can be attributed to what one does not see of FFT’s electric drive. On first pictures showing bikes with the current version of the system, there is almost nothing to be seen of the motor, battery and display. And this is not because everything is missing.
Rather, FFT’s solution points very strongly in the direction already taken by manufacturers such as Fazua, Mahle and others. Their technical approaches follow very much a visual guideline: the e-bike should become so slim that it can no longer be distinguished from a normal bicycle. This, however, in combination with a low weight and the possibility of still being able to switch on the electrical support – keyword “minimal assist bike”.
FreeFlow Technologies think absolutely similar. Motor and battery are inconspicuously integrated into the frame. Their system, so far without a specific name, also works without resistance. If the motor is switched off, the e-bike rides like a regular bike. The battery can either be permanently mounted in the down tube or the manufacturers can later offer the option of removing it. The future will show whether this then works in a similarly comfortable way as with Fazua.
Motor and battery slim and slender
The motor is based on two bearings, each of which is locked in one direction. If you stop pedalling or pedal backwards, it will not be damaged. FFT uses a high-speed motor that is compact and lightweight. At its peak, it is said to be able to deliver up to 290 watts. The target for continuous operation is 250 watts. Support is expected to be limited to the usual 25 km/h. However, there is probably some room for manoeuvre in terms of torque. In this respect, the manufacturers can then decide which torque best suits the respective e-bike. In terms of weight, FFT specifies a range that extends from 2.5 kilograms to 3.5 kilograms.
Less is currently known about the battery. What is certain is that at least two capacities are available: 252 watt-hours and 387 watt-hours. The weight is correspondingly different. Here, 1.5 kilograms and 2.5 kilograms respectively are available. On request, the system can probably be supplemented with an additional battery, probably attached externally to the frame.
Statement to the competition
If you now add up the lowest weight of the motor and battery, you get exactly four kilograms. Fazua leads the field with 600 grams for his Evation drive. This would justify FreeFlow Technologies’ pithy claim that it can offer “the lightest drive in the world in relation to its performance”. However, at this point in time it is not possible to say for certain that this is actually the case. Who knows which parts the manufacturers include in this calculation – and which do not. Nonetheless, this is a clear indication that all the existing players have the right to prepare themselves for a new serious competitor. In the best-case scenario, the increased competition will result in better and cheaper products. Both sounds very pleasing.
How FT’s drive can be operated has probably not yet been clarified down to the last detail. Various support levels can be selected via a unit integrated in the top tube. The remaining battery capacity should also be readable there. Fazua sends its regards.
Insiders at work
It is common business practice and sometimes perfectly justified to look at other manufacturers. In any case, FFT’s management seems experienced enough to know when it might be worthwhile. After all, the company has attracted people who have held leading positions at Dyson and cycling brands such as Cannondale, Rapha, Marin Bikes and Whyte Bikes.
The money now raised will go towards FFT’s move to East Kilbride, 15 kilometres south of Glasgow. There the company is establishing its new headquarters and expanding its R&D facility. The team will also be further strengthened. There will be plenty of work waiting for the new arrivals. According to FreeFlow Technologies, there are already a number of brands working on frame designs to fit the new drive into e-bikes due to be launched in 2021.
Pictures: FreeFlow Technologies; 4C Design