Valeo reveals bargain electric powertrain
Valeo is one of the biggest automotive parts suppliers on the planet, so its decision to create a low-cost, compact, off-the-shelf powertrain for electric bikes could turn out to be a pivotal moment in the spread of battery-powered two-wheelers.
While previously focused on cars rather than bikes, Valeo is a giant by any standards with 187 production facilities in 33 countries, 63 R&D sites and more than 100,000 employees. What's more, its motorcycle powertrain design is based on mass-made components already being made for hybrid and electric cars, making for economies of scale that could radically slash prices, allowing small motorcycle brands around the world to grab a ready-made motor and transmission that's suitable for widely used 48-volt battery packs.
Valeo demonstrated its powertrain in a modified Super Soco TC Max, replacing the original Chinese 60-volt battery and 5 kW motor with its own 9.4 kW, air-cooled motor and a suitable 48-volt battery, upping performance to something close to a 125 cc petrol-powered bike.
Valeo already has a market share of more than 30% of the global market for 48-volt hybrids, and the air-cooled motorcycle motor is derived from a starter/generator that also provides an electric power boost for mild hybrid cars. The same unit is also in mass production as the power unit for the Citroen Ami electric city car.
For the motorcycle application, it's incorporated into a single-speed reduction transmission, in a package weighing less than 17 kg. With multiple motorcycle manufacturers converging on the idea of a 48-volt standard for swappable battery packs - such a standard has already been drawn out in Japan and a European consortium is hammering out similar specifications at the moment - the Valeo motor/transmission, with integrated control electronics, promises to be perfectly placed to capitalize on that.
While the petrol engines powering today's motorcycles are an integral part of their character, often used by brands to distinguish themselves from rivals, future electric models won't be able to use that tactic.
Riders aren't likely to notice or care about who made the whizzing electric motor driving their bikes, or to be able to distinguish one from another, opening the door to opportunities for a host of new brands, bolting off-the-shelf suspension, lighting, instruments and powertrains to their own frames and styling in a way that's likely to see the most significant shake-up in the motorcycle manufacturing status quo since the rise of the Japanese industry. Valeo might remain a name that goes under the radar, but its powertrain could be a driving force towards that revolution.