The electric bike was first developed in 1870 by two inventors who used a steam engine with an internal combustion engine. Later in the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented with several U.S patents. In 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. received the patent for a battery-powered bicycle with a 6” pole brush and direct hub motor connected to the rear wheel. Bolton’s bike had no gears, and the motor could only power up to 100 amperes from a 10-volt battery. Later in 1897, Hosea W. Libbey improved the electric bike, designing it with dual motors and batteries. His idea was that only one battery would work on a flat road, but when climbing a hill the second battery would initiate. This was one of the first versions of an electric bike controller. This invention was dubbed the ‘double electric motor.’ Libbey’s creation accompanies similar design principles of modern-day mid-drive motors we see on bikes today.
One year later in 1898, Matthew J. Steffens patented his design of a rear-wheel-drive electric bike with a driving belt on the outer edge of the wheel. Subsequently, In 1899, a patent was given to John Schnepf for his design of a ‘roller-wheel’ style rear-wheel-driven bike. Schnepf’s design was further redesigned by G.A. Wood Jr in 1969. Wood’s version included a range of gears and used four fractional horsepower motors. However, all these inventions had a flaw- the batteries were heavy and enormous. 50 years later, Jesse D. Tucker was given a patent for a motor that uses internal gearing, allowing one to freewheel. Meaning a rider had the option of choosing to use the pedals in conjunction with the electric motor or not.