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Will Shimano offer wireless recharging for electric components?

Newly published patent application suggests Shimano has worked on a non-contact system of charging electronic components that could live in a bottle cage or e-bike battery, but will it ever come to market?

Shimano is working on a non-contact system of charging bicycle components, according to a patent application (US 2023/0021733 AI) that has just been published.

The patent application refers to road bikes, mountain bikes and various other types of bikes, and discusses a ‘non-contact charging method’ for components with electronic shifting such as a front derailleur, light, adjustable seat post and adjustable suspension. It specifically mentions that this system isn’t intended to charge a rear derailleur or the drive unit of an electric bike.

2023 Shimano non-contact patent application - 2

Current electrical bike components – derailleurs, adjustable seat posts, and so on – require an onboard power source (one or more batteries) that needs to be periodically replaced or recharged.

However, Shimano says, “Recently, some electrical devices are charged using a wireless charging technique that uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two or more devices based on inductive coupling.

> Your complete to Shimano road bike groupsets

“The device to be charged receives the electromagnetic energy through resonant inductive coupling and converts the electromagnetic energy to electrical energy to charge a power supply of the device to be charged.”

Yes, as usual, the language is convoluted but the patent application suggests that Shimano is at least considering bringing a non-contact charging system to the cycling world.

2023 Shimano non-contact patent application - 3

“The bicycle component basically comprises an electrical part a rechargeable power source and a non-contact charging portion,” Shimano says.

“The rechargeable power source is electrically connected to the electrical part. The non-contact charging portion is configured to wirelessly receive external electric power and to supply the external electric power to the rechargeable power source.

“The rechargeable power source of the bicycle component can be conveniently charged without using an electrical cable.”

2023 Shimano non-contact patent application - 5

Shimano describes many other details about exactly how the system would work. The non-contact charging device could be held in a bike’s bottle cage, for example, it could be “a mobile device that is carried by the user”, or it could be the battery unit of an e-bike.

As mentioned, the system could be used to control electrically adjustable suspension – “the stiffness and/or stroke length of the… suspension can be adjusted,” says Shimano – or a front derailleur.

As you use each component its power will be depleted, of course, so sensors will ensure it is automatically recharged from the charging device.

Shimano outlines how the external non-contact charging device “can be placed within a few centimetres (about 4cm or less) of the non-contact charging coil of a bicycle component”.

It also says, “On the other hand, the non-contact charging coil can be configured to use magnetic resonance, so that the non-contact charging devices can be one or two meters away from the bicycle components.”

2023 Shimano non-contact patent application - 4

Everything is controlled via wireless communication and, believe us, there’s a whole lot of depth here – 29 pages of it, to be precise.

We've not reported on anything similar from other brands here on but Cycling Industry News covered the development of wireless electric bike charging from Intis in September 2021.

As we always point out with anything patent-related, there’s no guarantee that these plans will ever come to fruition. Shimano applies for – and is granted – loads of patents every year, many of which never make it off the computer screen.

It seems to us that a non-contact charging system would offer few benefits, especially given that almost all wires are already hidden internally, but what do you think? A step forward or needless complication? Let us know in the comments below.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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