If riding a bike every day is too challenging, an e-bike might be tempting. However, the production of batteries for e-bikes consumes a significant amount of natural resources like lithium and rare-earth elements. These natural resources necessitate environmentally damaging mining processes.
E-bike batteries have also been blamed for deadly fires in cities around the world. New York City has recently enacted new e-bike restrictions as a result.
Adrien Lelièvre, a French entrepreneur with an electronics background, has developed an innovative, sustainable solution. The new French e-bike, called Pi-Pop, is equipped with a supercapacitor instead of lithium batteries.
The bike charges during periods of low cycling intensity and during braking.
Lelièvre explained that the supercapacitor releases energy rapidly when necessary. This allows the bike to assist in more challenging actions such as starting or riding uphill.
It’s estimated that the supercapacitors provide enough assistance to handle a 50 m elevation gain if charged on a flat surface beforehand. This makes Pi-Pop suitable for approximately 80% of European cities.
Supercapacitors are not a new invention; the first ones were manufactured in the late 1970s. Nowadays, they are commonly used in photovoltaic systems, digital cameras, and some hybrid or electric vehicles to enhance performance.
The bike’s production does not involve any rare earth materials. The supercapacitors are made from carbon, pulp, aluminum foils, and conducting polymer. These materials can be recycled.
Additionally, unlike traditional e-bikes, there’s no need to wait for the bike to charge.
Lelièvre claims that the supercapacitors have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, in contrast to five or six years for lithium batteries.
Moreover, in the unlikely event that the supercapacitors catch fire, they can be easily put out with water. Lithium-ion battery fires are much harder to put out, and putting water on them actually makes them worse.
The bike is assembled in Orléans, France. Keeping production within France was important to Lelièvre, who has a background in the French electronics industry. Lelièvre told Euronews that maintaining local control over production is necessary for innovation and job creation.
Pi-Pop currently manufactures 100 bikes per month, with plans to increase production to a thousand bikes per month by 2024.
Lelièvre also has aspirations to target the European market by 2025 and is currently exploring potential fundraising opportunities. This endeavor holds significant potential. Last year, EU member states imported 1.2 million e-bikes and 5.2 million non-electric bikes.
Image Source: Le Média Positif, https://shorturl.at/bEV19