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Is a Brand-Neutral Bike Charger About to Become Reality?

By Christopher Ashley

With mobile devices moving towards battery-charge standardisation, is the same happening for e-bike chargers?

Why does it matter?

Once the decision is made, charging your bike at work, or at a friend’s house will become commonplace and you won’t remember how life used to be before.

We live in a world where airports, coffee shops, and restaurants provide standardised charging points for mobile devices – imagine if the same standards existed for e-bikes.

It’s a group decision

All it will take to standardise e-bike chargers are a few big brands agreeing on principle – ideally Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha, and Brose. Once the big players of the e-bike motor world decide to move in the same direction, everyone else will follow.

Credit: Specialized and Matt Hunter

It makes commercial sense to agree a standard, right? A 48-volt standard sounds simple enough and with the numbers the big players sell, it would lower costs, and development could start on fast charging speeds. All it would take would be an agreement on a specific 3-pin connector and a smart battery that adjusts the voltage to suit its needs.

Do we need government intervention?

Remember the difficulty the phone manufacturers had agreeing a standard for charging phones? Apple have resisted the urge to conform to the USB standard almost every other manufacturer has adopted. What’s to stop a big player like Shimano behaving the same way?

The EU effectively ordered phone manufacturers to adopt a standard, and without this intervention it’s possible we’d still be looking at the likes of Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei producing their own individual chargers.

Should we adopt the British Standard?

Peter Eland is the technical manager at the Bicycle Association, a British organisation that offers advice on standardisation. Having previously edited Electric Bike magazine, Eland is frustrated that “just about every brand has its own charger”.

Eland is pushing for an “open charging standard” that he believes will open up new applications and business models, and create a real breakthrough for the e-bike market.

With the EU likely to follow the British Standard, and Part 10 of the development being driven by Japanese and German businesses, the move towards an open universal bike charger is gaining momentum.