Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Test drive with the new S5 and A5 e-bikes from VanMoof

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VanMoof just announced its latest premium electric bikes: the S5 . on scale with 27.5-inch wheels and the smaller A5 with 24-inch wheels and, as a first for the company, a step-through frame. They bring a host of refinements as VanMoof tries to capitalize on rising demand for e-bikes from new buyers, even as it raises prices above the emotional threshold of $2,000.

“There are only a handful of parts left from our previous models, the S3 and X3,” VanMoof chief executive Taco Carlier said in a statement. “Every last detail, from the frame to the chipsets and sensors, has been designed for the smoothest, most powerful ride ever.”

I had the opportunity to test near-final technical prototypes of both the S5 and A5 at the company’s new headquarters in Amsterdam. The company grew from about 250 people at the time of the S3/X3’s launch in 2020 to almost 900 people today. Importantly, many of those new hires have joined the support and engineering teams to achieve VanMoof’s goal of getting 10 million riders on their e-bikes by 2026, while avoiding a repeat of the missteps seen in the early days. of the S3/X3 plagued launch.

One of the biggest changes to the S5/A5 is the replacement of VanMoof’s iconic top tube display with two illuminated “Halo Rings” near the Bell and Boost buttons next to the left and right grips. According to the company, the lights make you more visible on the road, and the new steering interface provides real-time information like battery life, speed, lock status and more to the rider — all without taking their eyes off the road ahead.

The new Halo Ring and the new multi-function interface with two buttons next to both the left and right handles.
Image: VanMoof

A brighter and slightly redesigned taillight and new Halo Rings make the bike more visible.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

A brighter and slightly redesigned front light and new Halo Rings make the bike more visible.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

VanMoof knows the decision will be controversial. Sometimes you have to “kill your darlings,” Carlier said with a laugh during a Q&A with reporters last week, echoing the idiom that guides designers to release anything they find personally exciting but adds no value to the user.

The VanMoof app can be used as a dashboard with optional phone holder and new USB-C charging port under the steering wheel.
Image: VanMoof

If you want more information during your ride, you’re in luck: VanMoof has designed an optional phone holder with SP Connect and added a new 5V USB-C socket under the handlebars. That way you can keep your phone charged while the VanMoof app opens to a new dashboard view. Price and the official unveiling of the mountain are still unknown.

Both engines have a top speed of 30 km/h in the US and 25 km/h in Europe thanks to a reworked, fifth-generation 250W “silent” front hub motor with a modified VanMoof design, with a boost button that now offers slightly more torque. (68 Nm) offers than before (59 Nm). Also new is a three-speed automatic transmission coupled with a new torque sensor that is now standard in all regions. Combined, the S5 and A5 would ride smoother than the four-speed S3 and X3 e-bikes.

That motor is powered by new, more powerful 47V/5A batteries with a capacity of 487Wh in the S5 and a slightly smaller capacity of 463Wh in the A5. The 23 kg (almost 50 pounds) S5 has a slightly longer range of 60-150 km (37-92 miles) compared to the 22 kg (49 pounds) A5, which has a range of 55-140 km (34-87 miles) ) while driving in full power or eco mode. The non-removable (except for service) batteries charge from 0 to full in a slow six hours and 30 minutes with a smaller and lighter 48V/2A charger that comes in the box, although an optional 48V/4A fast charger that comes with 4 brings. hours and 30 minutes (price to be determined).

Where previous VanMoof S-series bikes have been criticized for being too tall for many riders, the S5’s frame height has been lowered by 5cm to accommodate riders 165cm and taller. The small A5 can accommodate riders as small as 155 cm (5 feet, 1 inch) and uses a more angular frame compared to the X3 it replaces, making it easier to step through.

VanMoof S5 equipped with new “Click-On” extended battery.
Image: VanMoof

VanMoof A5 equipped with optional front and rear luggage carriers.
Image: VanMoof

Another notable change has been made to accommodate a redesigned “Click-On” extended battery coming in “Early Summer”. The optional additional 463 Wh battery (price will be at launch) nearly doubles the capacity. It can power the motor directly (or charge the main battery) without all the messy cabling and Velcro found on the VanMoof PowerBank it replaces. It attaches to the S5 and A5 via a new “Lock Dock” mount that will not fit older VanMoof e-bikes.

Other changes include brighter front and rear lights that are now more visible from the sides, a new auto-retracting pin on the integrated Kick Lock (no longer necessary to roll the bike once unlocked), integrated environmental sensors for air quality and temperature , better cable management and improved location determination using a combination of GPS and LTE-M (a type of low-power wide area network). Both bikes offer a variety of front and rear luggage options, including a heavy-duty rear rack for both the S5 and A5 that can carry up to 27kg (almost 60lb). Features such as integrated Apple’s Find My network, theft recovery and the built-in alarm are carried over from previous generations.

The S5 and A5 will only be available in gray at launch.

During my short test rides with the prototypes, I can confirm that the S5’s slightly smaller wheels and lower overall frame height make it noticeably easier to assemble than VanMoof’s notoriously tall S-series bikes. The smaller A5 is much easier to enter thanks to its new entry-level design which is an improvement over the straight X3 frame it replaces. I can’t comment directly on the much-praised improved “smoothness” as I was testing non-production firmware on a short test track. However, I hope the shipping bikes maintain the power, smooth shifting and quick start-up with torque (assisted by a push of the Boost button) that I achieved by stomping the pedals on the prototypes.

The jury is still out on the benefits of the Halo Ring interface. To my left I noticed a solid ring of static white lights as I drove, while the opposite ring went up and down with no apparent 1:1 correlation to what I was doing – did it show pedal assisted power, speed or something else? And when do I use the new secondary buttons below the boost and call buttons? VanMoof tells me the new multifunction buttons will be used to control Halo Ring functionality, enter a passcode to unlock the bike, and toggle between the four pedal-assisted power levels. None of this was immediately apparent, despite VanMoof’s hopes that novice riders won’t have to consult a manual. Honestly, I only rode the bike for five minutes and even the old VanMoof interface required some training.

The VanMoof S5 was unveiled last week at a press event in Amsterdam.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Unfortunately, like almost every other e-bike manufacturer, VanMoof has been forced to raise prices due to a shortage of chips and rising transportation costs. The S5 and A5 can be ordered today for $2,998 / €2,498 with deliveries starting in July – that’s well above the current price of $2,448 / €2,348 of the S3/X3 models, and well above their introductory price of $1,998 / € 1998 from just two years ago. And if anything, those prices will rise over time, not fall, Carlier said when asked The edge

Even at those higher prices, Carlier says the company is preparing to produce about “15 times” as many S5 and A5 bikes at its factory in Taipei compared to its pre-pandemic production rate. While Carlier won’t give an exact number (he says it’s “less than 100,000” a month), the company will need to ramp up production dramatically to reach its five-year target of 10 million VanMoof riders — significantly more than the 200,000 or so riders. it currently has, after being in use for over a decade.

And yes, for those paying attention, VanMoof skips the “S4” generation bikes with its naming. If you ask Job Stehmann, head of product design, he will repeat his CEO and say it deserves to be skipped a number because the bike is such a big improvement over the S3. (Carlier admitted during the Q&A that four is also an unlucky number in Asia.) It’s also worth noting that VanMoof released a number of updates to the S3/X3 bikes in early 2021, in addition to minor refinements made in 2020, without ever giving up. increase the model numbers.

VanMoof is good at generating hype for its very popular e-bikes. We’ll see if the new S5 and A5 models are worth it once we can do an in-depth review. I hope the Carlier brothers can apply all the lessons learned over the past two years by providing a better, defect-free product with no support issues to justify these higher prices.

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