In one of the most anticipated product announcements of 2020, Shimano is finally ready to release its new high-performance e-MTB motor, called EP8. Coming in above the existing E8000 and E7000 drive units, the Shimano EP8 motor comes out swinging with more power, less weight, and a more compact profile than its predecessors – all desirable improvements in the world of electric mountain bikes. There’s a whole suite of other improvements around drag and efficiency too, but for us one of the biggest stories of the new EP8 system is its much greater range of tune-ability, something we’ll go into detail about shortly. Firstly though, let’s take a closer look at the new motor and how the Japanese intends to stick it to the latest engines from Bosch, Brose and Yamaha.
Coming in above the existing E8000 and E7000 drive units, the Shimano EP8 motor comes out swinging with more power, less weight, and a more compact profile than its predecessors – all desirable improvements in the world of electric mountain bikes.
It’s Got Heaps More Grunt
As expected, the new Shimano EP8 motor gets a hefty boost in power, with a claimed maximum torque output of 85 Nm. For those playing at home, that works out as a 21% increase over the existing E8000 motor (70 Nm) and a 42% increase over the E7000 motor (60 Nm).
It’s significantly more muscle, which was much-needed in order for Shimano to keep up with its competitors. Speaking of, here’s how the new motor lines up with the competition;
- Specialized SL 1.1 – 35 Nm
- Fazua Evation motor – 55 Nm
- Shimano E7000 – 60 Nm
- Shimano E8000 – 70 Nm
- Yamaha PW-X2 / Giant SyncDrive Pro – 80 Nm
- Bosch Performance Line CX Gen 4 – 85 Nm
- Shimano EP8 – 85 Nm
- Brose Drive S Mag – 90 Nm
Of course maximum power output is only one aspect of an e-MTB motor’s performance. How that power is delivered, and how all the gubbins are physically packaged together are just as important. And you can bet that Shimano has made some big improvements here too.
It’s Lighter & More Compact
Coming in at 2.6kg (claimed) the new EP8 motor uses a magnesium casing that helps to shave off 300 grams from the E8000 drive unit. More importantly though, the EP8 motor is smaller. Shimano claims there has been a 10% reduction in overall volume over E8000, which provides a bit more ground clearance and the possibility of sleeker frame integration.
Coming in at 2.6kg (claimed) the new EP8 motor uses a magnesium casing that helps to shave 300 grams off the E8000 drive unit.
There is no change to the Q-Factor, which remains at 177mm. However, crank arms will now be available down to a 160mm length (as well as 165, 170 & 175mm lengths). The new crank arms are specific to the EP8 motor, so there’s no cross-compatibility with the E8000/7000 drive units and crank arms.
But The Mounting Points Stay The Same
In what might be the most surprising move from Shimano, the EP8 motor uses exactly the same mounting architecture as E8000. That means, at least in theory, you could upgrade to the EP8 motor if you already own an e-MTB that uses the Shimano E8000 or E7000 motor. We’re still waiting to confirm with Shimano Australia on the street price for such an upgrade.
It also means that bike manufacturers with newly released e-MTBs (like the Santa Cruz Heckler, Merida eOne-Sixty and Norco Sight VLT 29) will be able to now spec the EP8 motor, without having to completely overhaul their frame designs. In the fast-moving world of electric mountain bikes, that kind of backwards-compatibility isn’t guaranteed, so massive props to Shimano for keeping it real.
That means, at least in theory, you could upgrade to the EP8 motor if you already own an e-MTB that uses the Shimano E8000 or E7000 motor.
The new motor does use new generation Di2 wiring that’s slimmer and lighter than before, but Shimano will have an adapter that will allow you to use the new EP8 motor with the previous generation Di2 wires. Otherwise Shimano will still continue producing both disc brake and chainstay-mounted speed sensors, both of which have been updated with the new slimmer Di2 wiring.
On a side note, Shimano states in its press release that the new slimmer wires “expand the potential capabilities of Di2 systems in the future“. No word on what those potential capabilities are, but we can only assume that’s referring to new generation Di2 shifting. Stay tuned…
Less Drag, Cool Runnings
As well as being more powerful and more compact, Shimano says the EP8 motor is more efficient too. It’s claimed to have 36% less drag than an E8000 motor, thanks to the new internal gear design and updated sealing. It’s also supposed to be quieter, with a claimed reduction in noise by 2 dB.
It’s claimed to have 36% less drag than an E8000 motor, thanks to the new internal gear design and updated sealing.
The increase in efficiency means that in theory you’ll be able to get more range out of the new motor. In fact, Shimano reckons you’ll get 20% more range when using Eco mode – on flat terrain. While riding in Trail mode on actual off-road singletrack with steep climbs, Shimano reckons you’ll get about the same range as the previous E8000 motor, albeit with the significantly greater torque and support. On those steep climbs, the EP8 motor is also more heat-resistant, helping to maintain that higher 85 Nm of torque for longer.
Power Delivery Has Been Refined
The assistance modes remain exactly the same as what we’ve come to expect from Shimano. So you’ve still got Eco, Trail and Boost settings, plus the separate Walk mode. The power curves have been updated though, in order to provide a greater distinction between each mode. Here’s how the EP8 comes setup out of the box:
- Eco is designed to provide more range than before, with less energy consumption at low input torque levels. Eco tops out at 30 Nm of torque
- Trail offers a more progressive and dynamic power curve, while now being able to hit a higher level of support than before. Maximum output torque in Trail mode is 85 Nm
- Boost is claimed to be much more natural feeling than previously, while actually hitting the 85 Nm maximum output torque earlier at a lower rider input torque
But Now You Can Go To Town On Tuning
What’s really exciting about the new EP8 drive unit is the fact that there’s a load more control over the motor’s output. Utilising Shimano’s E-TUBE PROJECT app, each of the three modes can be customised via your smartphone, allowing you to tweak three unique characteristics;
- Assistance Character – 10 levels of adjustment, from Eco to Powerful
- Maximum Torque – 10 levels of adjustment from 20 Nm to 85 Nm
- Assistance Start – 5 levels of adjustment from Mild to Quick
So not only are you fine-tuning the maximum power output for each mode, you’re also adjusting how quickly the power arrives, and how progressive the power curve is throughout the power delivery.
So not only are you fine-tuning the maximum power output for each mode, you’re also adjusting how quickly the power arrives, and how progressive the power curve is throughout the power delivery. For example; if you’re a much smaller and lighter trail rider, you might want a more gentle delivery of power compared to a heavier rider who’s self-shuttling DH trails. Tuning the power delivery not only provides you with the type of support you want, it can also optimise the motor’s efficiency so you can get more range per ride.
This app-based tune-ability takes a similar approach to Specialized’s Mission Control app, and it’s a level of customisation that we’re very glad to see from Shimano. While Bosch is yet to offer any such customisation of its e-MTB systems, we expect they’ll have to introduce something soon for fear of being left behind.
New Display & Touch-Points
Along with the EP8 motor, Shimano is also rolling out a new EM800 display unit, which otherwise looks identical to the previous version with its 1.6in colour screen. However, the EM800 display offers you the option of creating separate riding profiles via the E-TUBE PROJECT APP. So you might have a specific profile for commuting, one for steep and technical riding, and one for big all-day rides where you need maximum efficiency.
Wireless connectivity is built into the EM800 display, with Bluetooth for communicating with your smartphone, and ANT+ for chatting with your GPS computer. Once paired, compatible devices will display information like battery life and gear selection. How geeky!
However, the EM800 display offers you the option of creating separate riding profiles via the E-TUBE PROJECT APP. So you might have a specific profile for commuting, one for steep and technical riding, and one for big all-day rides where you need maximum efficiency.
There’s also a new EM800-L switch unit. This sits on the left side of your bars so you can flick between the assistance modes. Ergonomics have been improved to be more tactile with concave-shaped buttons, and it still offers a narrow profile that means it’s compatible with dropper post levers. The switch unit can be removed entirely however. That’ll give you a nice clean cockpit, and you can still use the EM800 display to change assist modes as needed.
Shimano will be offering a variety of battery options for the EP8 drive unit, including the existing 504Wh internal and external battery packs that have been out in the market for over a year already. There are also three new batteries that Shimano quietly launched back in May alongside the new Deore 1×12 drivetrain. These batteries are;
- BT-E8016 – An external 630Wh battery pack
- BT-E8036 – An internal 630Wh battery pack
- BT-E8035-L – An internal 504Wh battery pack
That last battery (the E8035-L) actually shares the same physical dimensions as the internal 630Wh battery. Why? It’s basically a cheaper option for OEM brands. Those brands might manufacturer a single frame, but have several different spec levels for that bike – cheaper models might come with the 504Wh battery, and pricer models can get the 630Wh battery, but the frame cavity is the same size between the two. Of course that also gives riders the option to upgrade to the 630Wh version down the line if they so choose.
What Bikes Will Be Coming With Shimano EP8?
At the time of writing, the list of confirmed brands is actually quite small. Shimano’s biggest e-Bike customer, Merida, is one brand that will be going hard with EP8 from the get-go. You’ll find the new motor on the 2021 eOne-Sixty, the eOne-Forty, eOne-Twenty, eBig Nine and a couple of hybrid bikes too. According to Merida’s Australian distributor, we should see the new bikes arriving in Australia around November. Head here for specs and pricing in our story about the 2021 Merida eOne-Sixty range.
Commencal has also announced its new generation Meta Power, and small UK brand Privateer has just rolled out its first ever e-MTB, also built around the Shimano EP8 system. Given how many other brands currently use Shimano motors though, we’re expecting a tidal wave of 2021 e-MTB announcements to come off the back of Shimano’s EP8 release.
We suspect that’ll include the likes of Norco, Focus, Pivot, Sunn, Orange and Santa Cruz, and we’ll update this story once we have confirmation from those brands, and others. We’ve even heard rumours of a boutique Colorado-based brand, which is yet to make its debut in the e-MTB space, is on the cusp of announcing an EP8-equipped bike. Ooh!
Flow’s Take On Shimano EP8
It’s hard to believe that Shimano’s current E8000 drive unit has been in the market for four whole years now. Given how fast things are evolving in the e-MTB market, that’s a really long time. And it says a lot about the ride quality and dependability of the E8000 system that it’s been able to hold its ground for so long.
However, with the announcement of EP8, Shimano is bringing some welcome improvements to its e-MTB motor that’ll help bring its performance back up to the competition. The increased power is a big one here, and so is the improved drag and efficiency. Add in the option to tune the support and power of each assistance mode via a smartphone app, and things are looking very promising for Shimano. We’re very keen to try all of that out on the trail, and we’ve got a brand new EP8-equipped 2021 Merida eOne-Sixty 9000 with our name on it, so stay tuned for our ride impressions once that bike lands.
That aside, we’re impressed that Shimano has stuck with the same mounting system though. That could have easily been changed in favour of producing a different shaped package, but sticking with the same mount has ensured compatibility with current frame designs, which is good news for the OEM brands spec’ing Shimano motors on their bikes.
We also think it’s good news for existing Shimano E8000/E7000 owners, who may be less keen to buy a whole new bike, and perhaps more interested in upgrading just the motor and hardware. Especially for those who may have just forked out for a $15K+ Pivot or Santa Cruz e-MTB. Unfortunately Shimano Australia is still yet to confirm a price on such an upgrade, since it isn’t as simple as just changing out the drive unit alone. Still, we think it could potentially be a popular option.
But enough of what we think – what do you folks reckon of the new Shimano EP8 system? Do you see enough benefits in the design to consider upgrading your whole bike? Would you prefer to simply upgrade the drive unit on its own? Or do you think the likes of Bosch, Brose, Specialized and Yamaha still have the upper hand on Shimano? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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