Bike Frame Material Sustainability Thoughts

That’s a good point. Although most broken carbon bikes don’t get repaired just as most broken steel bikes don’t get repaired. We’ve become a throwaway society. At least with steel and alu you can recycle the material.

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I skimmed through that when you posted it. There are a few too many generalisations amde and his ‘omission for the sake of brevity’ removes teh nuance of the broader picture. An interesting discusion though.

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@bushtrucker thanks for posting. Some pretty good food for thought in that article.

On the other hand, the life expectancy of an electric bicycle is shorter than that of an unassisted two-wheeler because it has more points of failure. The breakdown of the extra components – motor, battery, electronics – leads to a shorter lifecycle due to component incompatibility.

Extending the useful life of electric bicycles has less impact on lifecycle emissions when compared to unassisted bikes. That’s because the battery needs to be replaced every 3 to 4 years and the motor every ten years, which adds to the resource use of spare parts. 11

This one had me thinking the most. I wonder what the motor manufacturer’s have an official statement about how long will they support the old generation motors and batteries? It would suck if they deprecate (no longer support) the line after 5 years.

I recently saw this bike in the store: $2.7k for a e-hardtail: Aventon Ramblas

Its really impressive to get a bike with that spec (dropper, fork drivetrain), and a motor + battery. However, it comes with a non-branded motor and battery, meaning repairs and support is probably not easy. Plus, the bike is like 40lbs, so it would be pretty crazy to ship it back and forth to get serviced. I immagine a bike like this gets ridden into the ground and thrown away.

Ill poke Bosch when I get a chance to see what their plan of record is for older motors and batteries.

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Cheers. Personally I think the cheap e-bikes are an absolute disaster but so then again so is most cheap technology. I know the Shimano batteries which I’ve sold a bunch of are supposed to run at 60% after 1,000 charges. And you’d think a company like that would support whatever interface they use for as long as possible. No idea what they plan to do with the old batteries. I guess issue with lithium isn’t that it’s impossible to recycle it’s that it’s far cheaper at this stage to just mine for more of it.

Re: Retail e-bikes: We own a LBS and are not an authorized dealer, so we can try to repair whatever brand rolls in. I’ve asked my hubby if he knows what his customers do with the bikes that can’t be repaired/replaced. He couldn’t say. They run the bikes to the ground within the year or so, then they show up with a different, newer e-bike as their daily driver.

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I used to wrench in a bike shop and remember a few customers with older Derby Cycle (Focus, Kalkhoff, Cervélo… now a PON brand) electric bikes that had broken down. The drive unit on these was a relabeled panasonic product, there were still batteries available but the main point of failure was a mechanical pawl and spring freewheel inside the motor/gearbox and there were no spares available… Very disappointing.

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I reached out to VPL, american supplier/engineering resource for BOSCH about the product lifecycle. Here is what they had to say (within minutes!):

How many years do they plan on supporting the Gen3 and Gen4 systems with replacement batteries, motors, head units, etc?

Gen 3 and 4 will be supported directly until 2030, then will be handed off to a 3rd party (similar to automotive with Napa and Checker auto parts) for distribution. That will likely still be distributed through QBP.

Are batteries backward compatible (if I had a Gen3 system and the battery died, could I use a gen5 battery?)

BES2 batteries are all backwards compatible. BES3 (Smart System, in production now will be backwards compatible until at least 2032- likely until 2036.)

How are repairs done? Let’s say I had a Gen3 motor unit, and it broke. What would I do?

Depends on the repair. On gen 2 motors bearings could be replaced and serviced. Gen 3 we haven’t seen any bearing issues, so repair/refurbishment is unlikely. In NYC commercial environment, they only had a crash replacement in the past 2 years on Gen 3. Gen 4 similar. If there is an issue though, the first step on a bike that is in the field is to go to a Bosch dealer or direct to the OE for a diagnosis. That report is sent to Bosch for evaluation, and then replacement. The replacement comes from QBP flashed with the same software and it is swapped.

When the batteries inevitably decline, what should the user do?

Call to Recycle and Bosch have a contract to recycle the batteries and the end consumer pays $15 at the time of purchase to cover the recycling fee. The cells are about 98% recyclable back into new cells. It avoids new mining and is expected to sustain new battery purchase by 2027.

My thoughts:

  1. Not only am I impressed by their product lifecycle support, but I am also grateful that someone got back to me with such a thoughtful response. I continually get ghosted by SRAM or Shimano…
  2. To my knowledge, only BOSCH is capable of this long-term support. They come from outside the bike industry and have years of experience in automotive and industrial applications. Imagine buying a car only to have a sub-component die in 3 years and no replacements available! I think the culture of the company really matters in their design and approach to sustainability.

Really happy to see their response. I will poke at some other motor drive manufacturers to see what they say.

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All sounds good but in the UK battery recycling is not readily available. Most eBike shops I know of have piles of batteries that they can’t dispose of. As Magura-Bosch refuse to take them after any warranty repairs.

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This is quite different from what we heard from Bosch here in Germany a few years ago. Displays were probably the biggest problem then. And Bosch was quoted in the newspaper as saying that they were not producing or stocking any replacements at all because development was so rapid. When I think of other German companies with the best reputations, I can well imagine that—building the same kitchen appliance for twenty or thirty years, but five years later there are no spare parts. The other thing is: are there any dealers who do the work of looking for the spare part, then ordering it and fitting it?