Two representatives from Yamaha’s ebike division were on hand at Interbike to talk about their latest technology. This was the first year they had attended the show and Steve Markofski, Business Planner, explained that the Yamaha PW series is being used by two partners in the US right now including Haibike and Giant. He went on to explain that Yamaha first began manufacturing ebike systems in 1993 in Japan. They are a pioneer and have thus far produced 3M+ units. This is the third year the PW system has been on the market but it has only been in the US for a year or so (since late 2015). Yamaha differentiates their system by having a slide-in side mounted battery pack (allowing top tubes to angle lower), multiple chain ring compatibility (I believe up to two rings in the front vs. just one with other centerdrives) and offering a zero-cadence start which is great for mountain riding. Steve made the point that if you decide to ride one of their electric bicycles unpowered it will allow you to choose an optimal gear because of the multi-chainring design… this could be handy if you run out of battery.
There is a PWX series coming to the European market but it sounds like that won’t hit the USA market until 2018. There will be some weight savings and power improvement but it’s more of an incremental improvement than a complete recreation. I asked Steve about the lower price points and he called out their LED button pad option vs. the full sized LCD on more expensive bikes. We looked at the $5,300 Giant Dirt-E series which will come in full suspension and hardtail. I noticed that the battery and display were proprietary on this bike, it looks different than the stock Yamaha but they do use the Yamaha PW mid-drive motor. Haibike, by comparison, uses the entire Yamaha system (drive unit, battery and display system).
Steve walked me through their “Heritage of Yamaha” timeline which shows what has been happening since 1993 and the history of this division of the company. They had a Japanese model road style ebike on hand which I really liked, it featured drop bars and a super small battery pack mounted to the downtube. The bike weighs something like ~33 lbs so it’s easy to carry and ride if you decide to power off the motor. The E-Assist feature can be turned off easily and there is no drag or cogging to worry about with this bike… which is unfortunately not available in the USA (and is limited to 15.5 mph). Steve explained that in the future they want to be a kit provider for full-bicycle producers, brand partners like Haibike and Giant. Towards the end of our conversation I got some closeup pictures of the Yamaha motor and the clear cutaway one they had on display that shows the actual motor and gearing components inside the drive unit! I wanted to mention that Rob Trester, the Division Manager, was also on hand and answering some of our questions before and after the video here.