Schaeffler, a German automotive supplier, has teamed up with Heinzmann, an electric drive specialist, to create an innovative chainless drive system called Free Drive. The system is specifically designed for electric cargo and utility bikes that are ideal for inner-city goods transportation. The company has recently supplied its first customer fleets with the drive systems, marking a significant step towards rethinking mobility for tomorrow’s cities.
According to Matthias Zink, CEO Automotive Technologies at Schaeffler AG, “Electric cargo bikes fill an important gap, particularly in last-mile goods delivery.” The electric cargo bike market is projected to grow from USD 630 million in 2021 to USD 2.14 billion by 2032, indicating a significant growth market.
One of the key benefits of the Free Drive is that it has no chain, belt, gear rings, sprockets, or other mechanical drive components, which means it is much less prone to mechanical wear than conventional e-bikes. “With the Free Drive, replacing worn-out drive chains is a thing of the past,” said Dr. Jochen Schröder, Head of Schaeffler’s E-Mobility business division. This robust design reduces maintenance requirements, which is a significant plus for operators of cargo bike fleets.
The Free Drive is an optimally matched system that consists of a pedal generator, drive motor, customer-specific battery solution, and human-machine interface (HMI). It produces constant pedal resistance and provides electricity for the motor in the rear-wheel hub. The system is sold by Heinzmann to bicycle manufacturers and fleet operators. The pedal generator developed by Schaeffler is the core component of the system, and it is designed in such a way that pushing the pedals requires significantly less muscle power than with conventional e-bike drives – a major benefit for cargo bike riders, especially on long delivery routes.
The chainless drive system also opens up completely new possibilities in bike architecture and pedal configuration, including designs with two, three, or four wheels, with or without a roof. The digital bike-by-wire concept means that gear shifts and changes between operating modes are performed by software. All components of the system sold by Heinzmann communicate with each other via a CAN connection.
CIP Mobility GmbH is the first customer to place an order for the Free Drive, and its mocci Smart Pedal Vehicles, designed as an innovative micromobility platform, are the first to use the system. According to CIP co-founder Dimitrios Bachadakis, “The partnership between Schaeffler and CIP leverages innovative power and performance to strengthen Germany’s position as an R&D and production location.” The mocci cargo bikes are made using recyclable, high-performance plastics rather than steel or aluminum, and the front and rear wheels consist of a single structural component, making them less vulnerable.
In conclusion, the partnership between Schaeffler and Heinzmann has developed an innovative chainless drive system called Free Drive, which is designed for electric cargo and utility bikes. The system produces constant pedal resistance and provides electricity for the motor in the rear-wheel hub. The chainless drive system is less prone to mechanical wear than conventional e-bikes, reducing maintenance requirements. The Free Drive opens up new possibilities in bike architecture and pedal configuration, and CIP Mobility GmbH’s mocci Smart Pedal Vehicles are the first to use the system, setting new standards in efficient, low-maintenance, and sustainable commercial-sector mobility in cities and industrial zones.