Sometimes you get the impression that fresh ideas are rare in the e-bike sector. Then someone like Clip Bike shows up on the scene. Even at first glance it becomes clear that a company has taken a direction that hardly anyone else is taking. So, let’s see where this takes us.
Simply “Clip” is how the manufacturer names his system, with which you can transform an ordinary bicycle into an e-bike within seconds. Therefore, it is a retrofit kit, but it is based on a completely different approach than already established solutions such as those from Pendix, Swytch, Add-e, Bafang or E-Bike Solutions. In the case of Clip, the motto is: Nomen est omen. The drive is clipped onto the two tubes of the fork. Two parallel, slightly tapering side wings run diagonally forward from there. They meet in the axle of a wheel. This wheel acts as a drive pulley and rests on top of the tyre of the front wheel. Seen from the side, it looks a bit like a very massive hour hand pointing roughly to the ten in the dial of a clock. Or to the two – depending on which side you’re looking from.
Friction not always a handicap
Inside the roller is a friction motor. It makes the clip’s pulley rotate in a counterclockwise direction. Since it rests on the tyre of the front wheel, the wheel rotates clockwise – more than it would by simply you pedalling. The reason for this is the 450 watts of the motor. Its power is transferred to the wheel through friction. You are propelled forward as if by magic – without additional sprockets or gears. That’s never been done before! Yes, it has. As with so many things, an old idea has merely been transferred into the present. In the early 1900s, a friction motor was the basis for some units made by the US engine manufacturer Lambert. Later, VeloSolex took up the idea of power transmission by friction on its motor for bicycles and even had Brigitte Bardot pose on such a vehicle for advertising purposes in the 1970s.
System with limitations
Some of you may already have become a little suspicious. A pulley runs along the front tyre all the time with a certain amount of friction. How long can that last, for example in terms of wear? Well, Clip Bike itself claims quite a long time. It would be strange if they didn’t. The manufacturer states that tyre wear always presupposes that there is slip in the contact between the drive pulley and the tyre. Here, however, the self-developed algorithm is so clever that it always provides the optimal torque at the right speed to the tyre. In this way, slippage is effectively prevented. Unfortunately, it is not possible to check from a distance whether this works as well in practice as it sounds in theory.
On a second aspect, however, Clip Bike admits that the drive is not yet fully mature in its current stage of development. This applies to conditions that counteract good friction between the motor-driven drive roller and the bicycle tyre. This means such everyday things as rain and snowfall. Currently, the system works best on dry to semi-dry roads. In fact, Clip Bike specifically advises against riding it in the rain. However, the next generation will remedy the situation.
The company’s founders can certainly be trusted to do so. After all, the CVs of the two thirty-somethings show some impressive stations. For example, CEO Somnath Ray helped develop the CityCar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Being part of such a challenging project at one of the world’s leading technical universities is guaranteed to be no accident. He has also been awarded as one of the top innovators under the age of 35 in India. Clement de Alcala, COO at Clip Bike, is hardly inferior. He has already worked at the French Space Institute and for the energy company Devergy.
On “click” you go
Even in its current version, it is clear to see where the advantages of the Clip lie. Thanks to the retrofit kit, an ordinary bicycle can be transformed into an e-bike in no time at all. Not every one, but quite a few. We are talking about bicycles whose wheels have a size of 26 to 28 inches and are equipped with a rigid fork. There is no technical conversion. You don’t even need to take a tool in your hand. Such a change could hardly be easier. If you are always afraid that your bike will be stolen because it is an e-bike, you can simply remove the drive unit and carry it with you in your backpack or take it with you to the office or home. Since the motor and battery form a single unit, you also have the option of using your bike as a normal bike at any time. Or you can ride several of your own bikes with electric assistance. Simply unclip from one bike, attach to another – and off you go. At three kilograms, Clip is significantly lighter than most fixed electric drives currently on the market. At the same time, with a current price of around 400 US Dollars, it costs only a fraction of that.
More than commuting hardly possible
Of course, the whole thing has a catch. Or two. While the motor has plenty of power at 450 watts, the battery performance lags behind. The space and weight of the system apparently set rather narrow limits on what is feasible. You can expect a range of 16 kilometres. According to the manufacturer, the best-case scenario is probably 24 kilometres. In addition, there are limitations with regard to the weather. Furthermore, the question of rolling resistance and tyre wear remains open for the time being. Customers’ experiences over longer periods of time are still missing. You should not forget the changed driving experience that will inevitably result with Clip. After all, three kilograms of additional weight will suddenly be relatively high up on the front wheel. That will be noticeable. There is also no display for the drive. But that probably doesn’t weigh the same for everyone. Compared to other retrofit systems, this is still presentable. For example, the simplest kit from Pendix, Pendix eDrive150start, offers a comparable range, weighs about twice as much and costs around 1,000 Euros.
Clip is expected to be available from this summer, but only in the USA. An export to Europe would require some technical changes, for example with regard to the motor’s power output. Nevertheless, it is clear that the manufacturer is considering this step.
Convincing with “green” arguments
First, however, the inventors want to make a splash on the US market. To do so, they had the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) do a calculation. Clip Bike wanted to know how many greenhouse gas emissions could be saved if NYC commuters switched to its technology. The institute used different types of cars, public transport and pedestrians as a comparison. It determined that someone using Clip needed about 5.59 watt-hours per kilometre, emitting 1.52 grams of CO2 equivalents (Co2e). If all modes of transport and commuters who could potentially switch to Clip are considered, there is the potential to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuters in New York by about 12,900 megatons of Co2e. Looking only at drivers who could potentially switch to Clip, annual fossil fuel use could decrease by about 1.5 million gallons. This is equivalent to almost 5.7 million litres.
However, the calculations are based on the assumption that Clip users pedal about 50 per cent of the time. The rest of the time is presumably reserved for rolling or standing with the bike.
Technical features of Clip
- Colour: black frame with brushed aluminium sides
- Weight: 3 kg
- Speed: 24 km/h (15 mph)
- Motor power: 450 W
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Battery: 36 V, 144 Wh
- Range: 16 to 24 km
- Charging time: 100 % charged within 40 minutes
- Charger: 36 V / 5 A
- Warranty: 1 year
- Compatibility: Bikes with rigid fork with wheels from 26 to 28 inch size
- Price: $ 399
Pictures: CLIP.BIKE Inc