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Tiny ebike motor disappears into frame but still kicks out bulk power

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ZF is best known as an automotive technology and supply company, boasting a history of developing both everyday components and cutting-edge innovations like magnet-free motors and regenerative brake boosting. The company also has a micro-mobility division, and from the looks of things, it’s hoping to grow its name in the space. Its all-new ebike drive is centered around one of the most compact, inconspicuous electric motors in the biking game, boasting a 48-V electrical architecture, plenty of power and torque, and simple installation and removal.

ZF is introducing its new 48-V electric drive, identified in not-particularly-catchy fashion as the “ZF Bike Eco System,” at Eurobike 2024, which kicked off on Wednesday. Obviously enough, it’s a complete e-drive system that includes the motor, control hardware, app, cloud connection, and a battery pack with 504 or 756 Wh of capacity, depending on variant.

The new CentriX motor and gearing unit is the heart of the system and its most interesting component. At 12 x 9 cm (4.7 x 3.5 in, H x D) the cylindrical motor unit is only slightly larger than a can of soda (12 oz can = 12.3 x 6.6 cm). It weighs in at just 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), a full kilogram (2.2 lb) lighter than ZF’s older Sachs RS ebike motor and in line with other ultralight, ultra-compact ebike mid-motors like the FreeFlow.

Pulling the ZF CentriX motor out for maintenance
Pulling the ZF CentriX motor out for maintenance

ZF

The CentriX is still about 700 grams (1.5 lb) heavier than the TQ HPR50, a darling of 2022/23 light, fast ebike design, but it doubles that motor’s available power to a 600-W peak and nearly doubles max torque to 90 Nm (66 lb-ft), compared to 50 Nm (37 lb-ft) from TQ. That seems like loads of on-ride capability from a package that looks barely larger when installed than a traditional non-electric bicycle bottom bracket.

The flagship CentriX 90 is aimed at mountain bike builders, promising the instant grip and power necessary to negotiate shifty trail surfaces and steep ascents that want nothing more than to tug bike and rider back down-trail. For more leisurely gravel and urban riding, ZF has the CentriX 75, which comes tuned to a peak of 450 watts and 75 Nm (55 lb-ft). In terms of continuous power, both units offer the EU-standard 250 watts.

ZF's new electric Eco System is designed for the full gamut of bicycles, from urban commuters, to mountain bikes to gravel bikes
ZF’s new electric Eco System is designed for the full gamut of bicycles, from urban commuters, to mountain bikes to gravel bikes

ZF

The accompanying lithium-ion battery pack is far more conspicuous than the CentriX motor, swelling the bike’s down tube into the bloated rectangular tube well-known in ebike design. On the positive side, it features a quick-removal design to make for easier charging and better security.

The Eco System’s Core control unit integrates into the bike’s top tube and shows information like battery power on a small, circular LED display. ZF also plans an optional 2.8-in high-res color handlebar display for those who want something larger and closer to sightline.

The control unit includes a smartphone charger with magnetic pogo pin connectors and Bluetooth connectivity to pair up with the ZF smartphone app for more advanced functions like navigation, route recording, and future additions from ZF and third-party providers.

German bicycle company Raymon becomes the first to integrate the new ZF electric drive hardware into an e-MTB
German bicycle company Raymon becomes the first to integrate the new ZF electric drive hardware into an e-MTB

ZF

ZF promises that the new Eco System will be particularly easy for bicycle integration and maintenance, saying that components can be removed and replaced in a matter of minutes. The hardware has already found a home in its first bike, as Germany’s Raymon has used it as the electrical foundation of its all-new Tarok full-suspension e-MTB, also debuting at Eurobike 2024. That bike will go on sale in early 2025.

Source: ZF Friedrichshafen


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