Yamaha celebrates its pioneering electric bike with new drive unit

Ebikes seem like a relatively new creation, but this year marks 30 years since Yamaha invented the modern electric bicycle. Coinciding with the occasion is the motorcycle maker’s debut of a new ebike motor designed for urban commutes. News of many automotive-branded ebikes from the likes of Jeep, Hummer, Audi and Harley-Davidson cross our desks, but we were surprised to learn that Yamaha even sold ebikes in the U.S. Apparently, they have since 2017.

One would think there’d be more hoopla around this, as Yamaha pioneered the ebike as we know it today. Previously, electric bicycles had essentially strapped motors to a wheel or bottom bracket as an alternative to pedaling. In 1989 Yamaha debuted the world’s first ebike with PAS, a Power Assist System, which boosted the rider’s pedaling action. The amount of boost depended on pedal pressure, making for a natural and intuitive user experience.

The PAS ebikes went on sale in Japan in 1993, fitted to an urban commuter bike commonly used in Japan. Since then, Yamaha has produced 2 million ebikes in its home country and 4 million drive units globally.

The newest drive unit is the PW-series C2, a 250-watt unit that provides 41 lb-ft of torque, 10% more than its predecessor. The entire unit weighs only 6.6 pounds and has a max support speed of 15.5 mph. Additional features include four modes and a walk assist function. It’s debuting in Europe and tailored for European riding habits, but a variant is likely going to make its way to the U.S.

It makes sense for the anniversary drive unit to be for city bikes, as that’s where the Yamaha PAS system got its start. Beyond that, however, Yamaha makes several more drive units for applications like speed riding or mountain biking. They sell the drive units for other ebike designers to incorporate into their designs, but Yamaha also has a lineup of their own ebikes. Earlier this year it released a 30th anniversary edition of tits YDX-MORO 07 mountain ebike. 


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