Skip to content

“Many things have been thrown away that we could have used.”

Brose runs a programme for remanufacturing its own ebike motors

The development away from the patterns of a throwaway society towards a community in which used things do have value has long permeated many areas of our lives. So far, ebikes have not necessarily been considered a prime example of this trend. But the industry is gradually changing. For example, Brose was the first German drive manufacturer to launch a series remanufacturing process for old drive systems in 2021. The project is headed up by Vincent Bahar at the company’s headquarters in Berlin. In an exclusive interview with Elektrfahrrad24, he explains what this more efficient use of resources looks like, what limits it currently still faces and what is still needed for a wider acceptance of remanufactured ebike components.

Mr Bahar, please describe in your own words what Brose’s remanufacturing programme is all about.

When we talk about remanufacturing in general, i.e. not just motors, but generally about a product that has been remanufactured, we are talking about components that we have rescued, i.e. recovered, from old products. This means that there is a certain selection process. We have to clean the components and check whether they are still suitable for use in a new motor. If the quality fulfils our specifications, the components are married to the remaining new components on the line. The result is a remanufactured product. Its quality is at the same level as that of a new series product. Accordingly, the usual two-year warranty also applies.

Let’s stay with the motors. Where do they come from?

For 99 per cent of them, these are drives that have been complained about and are covered by the warranty. We get these from our service partners and specialist dealers. The last one per cent are defective test drives that were used for quality assurance. In the past, we would have scrapped such a drive unit. But there are many components in them that still work and can be reused.

And you want to reuse them in future?

Exactly. The components in question are first-class products. They have proven themselves in the field and have already optimally fulfilled their task.

Which motors are we actually talking about here? Brose has several in its programme.

We are talking about both model series, both the motors with aluminium housing and those with magnesium housing. The only exceptions are our TF drives for speed pedelecs.

Brose ebike motor with magnesium housing

In addition to motors with magnesium housings, Brose can now also reuse motors with aluminium housings.

Which parts exactly can be reused?

There are various components. A large proportion of them are electronics, which now form the heart of a modern motor. Mechanical components are less so. Wear and tear usually prevents them from being reused.

Exploded view of a Brose ebike motor

Currently, 30 per cent of motor parts can be saved from recycling due to remanufacturing.

What processes does such a remanufactured part go through?

Firstly, the reclaimed drive unit is examined in detail. After all, we have to check whether it is suitable for remanufacturing at all. Then, we dismantle the motor step by step into its individual parts. This has to be done anyway for correct recycling. The next step is cleaning. The method depends on the component. After all, I can’t clean an electronic component with water. This is followed by testing. In total, each component is inspected three times. In the returned drive during the first test, as an individual part with various testing methods and finally on the end-of-line test at the end of the last production station. For electronic components, this includes deleting all previous data and resetting the software. Finally, the parts are carefully stored. Separated from the new production so that nothing is inadvertently mixed.

New and remanufactured parts still come together in the remanufactured motor, right?

Yes, we can currently manufacture around 30 per cent of the overall weight of the drive from used components.

Overall, that sounds like quite a complex process. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to manufacture everything from scratch?

There is definitely a lot of work involved. At the same time, we do everything completely in-house. Costs for suppliers, logistics, procurement, additional development – all that is eliminated. In the best-case scenario, if we can reuse all the components that are theoretically possible, this also reduces the amount of CO2 emissions for an motor by around half.

An ebike system includes many more components such as batteries, displays, cables and sensors. Can these also be recycled?

Batteries are of course a huge issue. This is also demonstrated by the “right to repair” of smartphones and other devices with batteries that the EU is striving for. However, disassembling and recovering battery components requires very special and, above all, very expensive safety measures. In addition to sustainability, the economic aspect also plays an important role. If we expand the remanufacturing programme, then only if the two are in balance. In addition, remanufacturing a battery is actually a repair from a technical point of view. Applying our label to it would therefore be misleading.

How easy is it to reconcile this ecological will with the necessary costs?

To be honest, it’s not that easy. One reason for this is the trend towards ever smaller and lighter motors for ebikes. To achieve this, we glue and press components together instead of screwing them together. Therefore, they are more difficult to dismantle than before.

Vincent Bahar heads the remanufacturing programme at Brose for refurbishing its own ebike motors

Vincent Bahar heads the remanufacturing programme at Brose for refurbishing its own ebike motors.

In your opinion, are there technologies that will allow Brose to resolve this dilemma somewhat better in the foreseeable future?

It’s not so much about new technologies. It’s more about thinking ahead. If you consider from the outset during development that this product will later be recycled, you can make the right decisions.

What is the actual motivation behind this remanufacturing programme?

On the one hand, the realisation that a lot of things that we could easily have used again were being thrown away. Secondly, we wanted to offer our end customers spare parts at more favourable prices. For example, in the event that someone wants to replace a drive with the same unit outside of the warranty, but would like to save some money in the process. This allows us to make a favourable and sustainable offer.

What was the reaction at Brose when you first came up with the idea of remanufacturing motors?

Oh, it didn’t take much effort to convince our colleagues. Brose wants to become a CO2-neutral company by 2039. Remanufacturing fits perfectly into this strategy and ensures that the production of our products is as sustainable as the use of ebikes themselves. The much bigger challenge was the actual implementation.


Well, it was essential to ensure quality. We took around two years to develop things like test benches for quality assurance, endurance tests, various running tests and the like. Not everything always runs smoothly. So, it’s all the more motivating to see how far we’ve come in the meantime.

What role could remanufacturing play in the bicycle industry in the future?

Hopefully a big one. It was already started in the automotive industry in the 1970s. In my view, it is crucial that remanufacturing becomes more uniform through standardisation. Where remanufacturing is labelled, there should be a precisely defined process behind it that guarantees a defined quality. This is the only way to get rid of the negative undertone that sometimes still resonates when talking about used things these days.

How could this be achieved?

One approach could be standards. This is where the German Institute for Standardisation comes into play. DIN has already developed a specification for such processes. Last year, representatives from the institute visited us to see how we approach the matter. And fortunately, much of what DIN is proposing is in line with what we are doing.

Why do you think this commitment in the form of a standard is so important?

Well, in the end, trust determines the success or failure of such programmes. People will only accept remanufacturing if they can be sure that they will receive a high-quality product. One that has been cleaned, tested and carefully assembled. This can later be signalled to the outside world by a seal of approval.

Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Bahar.


Pictures: Brose Antriebstechnik GmbH and Co

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *