Add-e Electric Bike Conversion Kit—Lightweight Power.
The very first E-bike I rode had friction drive. That was over 20 years ago and it was quite primitive, slow and heavy. The Add-e uses that old technology, yet brings it to date with a modern style battery and control system. Rather than the motor being part of the wheel, or transferring its power through a chain or belt, it sends the power right to the tire tread with a rough sandpaper like friction wheel (the outer casing of the out-runner motor). This has its benefits and drawbacks.
The benefits are many, one being the entire conversion kit weighs just over 5 lbs. The next useful feature is when the assist is not in use, it offers exactly zero drag to the bike it is converting. It is very easy to install, although depending on the bike and control method, it can be a touch more difficult. I opted for the easy route, which also allowed me what I felt was the better choice of motor control. And to be sure, this is a very powerful unit and drives the bike with decent assist. Before I go deeper into my findings and the whole story, let’s discuss the drawbacks.
Each of the things I didn’t like about the Add-e might matter to you in varied levels of importance, so here they are in no particular order. This is a noisy little beast. The motor itself is as silent as can be, yet when it is in contact with the tire, it sounds off very noticeably. It isn’t too bad at the lower level settings. At full song, it is howling with gusto. I got used to it (mostly) but one the whole I didn’t like it that much. My first E-bike had noisy internal reduction gears, yet not at this decibel level.
It would have taken a lot more testing to see how much it was wearing out the tire tread, but it did have black rubber dust on the unit when I removed it when the test was over. I would have liked them to add some kind of battery charge level lights or gauge (it has neither), so I had a touch of warning when the power was ready to fade. I could feel the power weakening some before it just fully turned off, leaving me to pedal unassisted (not that bad though because the bike was still lightweight and not encumbered with extra drag).
It does have a small capacity lithium battery (which weighs close to nothing), but the range is the loser here. Many will be happy with this, depending on their needs and travel distance. I got only 8 miles on one of my charge sessions, yet I was at full power the whole time, used it a lot and took on some steep local grades. On another charge cycle I did 16 miles and felt like the battery was only half discharged. That time I was using the power when needed and did your basic hill and dale riding without too much steepness.
One more thing here before I go on about how much I liked it, that tiny motor got pretty hot on the hill climbs. Not once did it seem to affect the performance, yet after a particularly long (not real steep, yet steep) run, my heat gun read out at 250 degrees (F) on the motor housing. That is getting up there. The motor hangs down in the breeze and has large vent holes so it cooled back down pretty quick, yet it getting that hot, and what that have been doing to my tire, did concern me some.
Past all that, the Add-e never skipped a beat and was able to power my hybrid bike to maybe 23 mph on level ground. For such a small system it was surprising to see it rated at 600 watts. It did get-up and go almost as good as some powerful 500 watt hub motor E-bikes I have ridden. Never once was I wanting more drive, as this featherweight itty bitty conversion kit packs a mean punch. The battery is rated at 24 volts and 7.2 Ah (this adds up to about 173 watt hours—not that much compared to all the other E-bikes out there). It must be pretty efficient to get the performance it does. BTW, the battery has a one hour recharge time.
The motor is attached to the small ECU (control unit) with a hinging mechanism. Gravity keeps the friction wheel away from the tire when not powered up. The force of the motor starting pulls it in contact with the tire when in use. Once engaged, it transfers the turning energy to the tire with friction (some of that heat is a result of this). There are adjustments on the unit to make it work just right. Very ingenious and consistent I must say.
It mounts to the bike either to the kickstand bracket (meaning no kickstand unless you have or purchase a rear mounted one), or under the bottom bracket bearing race and retaining nut (with included brackets). It should fit most modern bikes, yet I couldn’t get it to mount to my vintage bikes (but I bet I could with some fancy maneuvering). The sensor for the automatic pedelec function also mounts in this way (under the BB race and nut).
I decided to take the easy route and use the hand throttle it comes with, (actually 2, thumb or half-twist—I used the thumb). I felt I could control the power better this way—it made for an easier install—and felt like the best way to go. The knob on the top of the bottle battery (which mounts just like any bottle cage) is the power level control actuator. Off is fully counter-clockwise and each click the other way (6 in all I think) giving more power, with full available when turned all the way clockwise.
Unlike most E-bikes with a hand throttle, this one works more like an on-off switch, with your power level being chosen with the battery knob. This made sense to me as it is replacing the on-off function of the bottom bracket sensor. One thing to note, the battery knob does not shut down the system completely, so even turning it off leaves the basic system powered up. When not in use, I would just lift the bottle battery slightly out of its cage so the contacts in the bottom would be disconnected. Otherwise it will run the battery charge down while sitting idle. The battery has a fairly tight friction fit, that and gravity were all that holds it in, this was never an issue during the entire test.
With so much to like, I think many could easily overlook the few failings (maybe not the correct word). The Add-e conversion is very stealthy and light. It is powerful too. Being made in Austria you know the quality is strong (as is the price). When you compare it to complete E-bikes and other kits, the buy in is not too bad, and it does seem to be a one-of-a-kind unit, with very unique features some are looking for. Maybe the Add-e is that one you have been looking for,
E-biking can be so easy and fun, Turbo Bob.
“I am afraid it is a non-starter. I cannot even use a bicycle pump (let alone a computer).”—Judi Dench.
Look for Add-e on their site or Facebook.
Thanks to ELV Motors for letting me test an Add-e kit off the shelf.
I took some videos of the Add-e (of course), Here they are.