Rubbee turns regular bikes into e-bikes without adding any modifications or excessive wiring to them. It began as a hobby project back in 2011 when Gediminas Nemanis built the first prototype in his garage.
“I set out to build a plug & play device that can be attached or removed from the bike within seconds. This is how the first prototype was born,” says Rubbee’s CEO, Nemanis.
A couple of years later he partnered with a Lithuanian company, called Elinta, which helped to turn the prototype into a commercialised product.
“We introduced the very first Rubbee 1.0 version on Kickstarter in 2013. We launched production and introduced later versions 2.0 , 2.5 and 3.0. Each version was an improvement on the previous, this way we were learning the ins and outs of the e-bike market and learning about the specific needs and wants of our customers. Then in 2018 we started working on the brand new Rubbee X version which was a complete revamp compared to the previous versions,” says Nemanis.
“We’ve put all our knowledge and experience into the new version and now you can see Rubbee X on the roads of 36 countries worldwide. It’s amazing to look back and see how it all began and how the product matured over time, providing more value and fun miles to our customers,” he adds.
Nemanis went on to explain how the conversion kit works. He says Rubbee is the easiest to install e-bike conversion kit on the market.
“You don’t have to change the wheels, install controller, battery packs or wires on your bike. It’s a completely integrated system with batteries, electronics and the motor all tightly packed into a single hand-held unit. It’s a friction drive based system with the drive roller touching the tire and pushing you along when you pedal. It clips just below the saddle and touches the rear tire to provide assistance.”
In 2017, the Rubbee X concept was unveiled, a completely wireless version of the conversion kit. The following year Rubbee finished its crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo platforms. With the funds raised, it set out to bring Rubbee X into large scale production.
The most exciting features of our latest version are the wireless cadence sensor and expandable battery modules, says Nemanis.
“The wireless cadence sensor clips onto the pedal crank and turns on automatically when the rider starts pedalling. It measures when, how fast and to which direction the rider is pedalling and transmits this information via Bluetooth to the main unit. This allows Rubbee X to adjust and adapt assistance level in real time, multiple times a second. No buttons to push, no magnets or wires to install. Just hop on and ride, Rubbee X does the rest.”
“Regarding the battery modules – it’s a great innovation that allows our customers to adapt Rubbee to their specific needs. If you use your bike only for short hops to the shop or the office – one module is all you need. But if you want more power and more range – you can easily install up to two additional battery modules into the same unit, thus improving the performance characteristics. It really comes down to what the rider wants. Rubbee X also has a smartphone application, a quick release system for easy installation, integrated suppression system, a really bright rear light and regenerative braking,” he says.
The adoption of regenerative braking means the bike’s battery can be charged while going downhill or when braking. To enable it, the rider must turn the pedals backwards for about half of a rotation. This movement activates the regenerative braking and the motor turns into a generator and charges the batteries.
“This gives some extra mileage and saves your brake pads. When you want the regenerative braking to stop, just pedal forward and it will automatically switch back to electric assist mode. It feels really intuitive when you get used to it and you can always adjust the strength of the braking via the app,” he notes.
Leaving Fossil fuel Mobility Behind
An obvious question, but it just had to be asked, why not just buy an e-bike?
“Because you already have a regular bike! You don’t need to buy a whole e-bike just to get the ‘e’ part of it. It’s all about circular economy. We have to use what we have and extend the lifetime of regular bikes. People love their regular bikes – the custom components that they put on, the seating position or the way they look.
“When buying a fully built e-bike you give up all of that and have to discard the old bike (which, in most cases, is still road-worthy). So we offer a simple solution to bring the old bikes from garages, cellars and storage sheds back to the streets by making them electric in just a few minutes.”
Since the first prototype was built back in 2011, the market for e-mobility has rapidly changed and the demand for e-bikes has rocketed.
“It was the early days of e-bikes with oversized batteries and in 2011 the first generation Nissan Leaf just hit the market. So it was really the very beginning of e-mobility. During this time the whole perception changed both of the end-customers and businesses alike. Back then e-mobility was ‘the way of the future’ but e-mobility these days is the way of NOW, there’s no way going around it.
“Demand for e-bikes was rapidly growing for the last 5 years, but the pandemic really accelerated the mass-adoption of them. It’s a perfect storm for e-bikes – people tend to avoid mass transit systems and look for more exercise opportunities so e-bikes are the obvious solution. It’s really great to see people whizzing though traffic jams on e-bikes and leaving the fossil fuel cars stuck behind. I think this is really a sign of things to come,” adds Nemanis.
“By the year of 2030 I expect the ‘fossil fuel free’ zones in urban centres to be a common sight.”
Turning to the company’s expansion plans, Nemanis says its main focus right now is markets in Europe. He thinks Rubbee will become a regular sight on the roads of most European cities quite soon.
“Of course, the plans were influenced by the pandemic due to shortage of components and logistical nightmares that everyone is going through right now. But with virtually unlimited production capacity and the growing interest in our solution it seems the best is yet to come. We are also gearing up to launch in overseas markets so we have our hands full these days and are super excited to introduce Rubbee X to new customers,” he says.
Finally, we asked Nemanis what will urban mobility look like by 2030. He predicts there will be fewer cars and more light mobility vehicles (LMVs).
“Cities are now playing catch up with the ever growing numbers of LMV’s like scooters and e-bikes. In this case, local governments, planners and regulators actually have a chance to do a lot of impact with long lasting positive effects. Pandemic lockdowns were a great time to invest in and upgrade the city infrastructure and adapt it to a more fluid traffic flow of light electric vehicles.
“Our local city of Kaunas in Lithuania actually did a great job of that by building tens of kilometres of new bike and pedestrian paths thus improving safety and comfort of the riders and really future-proofing the main arteries of the city. Build it and they will come.”
“By the year of 2030 I expect the ‘fossil fuel free’ zones in urban centres to be a common sight, we already see them popping up all across Europe. We will also see a lot more public charging stations not only for electric passenger cars but for LMVs too. I really expect the regulators to enforce such green initiatives as soon and as strictly as possible. 2030 will be clean, efficient and silent,” concludes Nemanis.