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Posted by Gregory Maassen on March 28, 2022 - Latest revision March 28, 2022  Reading time: minutes remaining

Review: The Enviolo Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for E-bikes

By Paul Levett. Images courtesy of Paul Levett and E-bike Lovers

Why I chose an Enviolo hub

I previously wrote on this blog about my experience converting a pedal bike to an e-bike at E-bike Lovers. I decided to upgrade to an Enviolo Heavy Duty (Cargo) hub with a manual shifter interface.

I had to replace my Shimano Nexus-8 IGH hub because it broke, likely due to the torque of my Bafang BBS01 motor. A Canadian bike shop owner reported on Twitter the Shimano Nexus-8 IGH can only take torque up to 48 Nm, and my motor is rated closer to 80 Nm. The Enviolo hub was laced into the rim of my rear wheel and installed by my local bike shop Papillon Cycles, of Arlington, Virginia. 

In the Washington DC Metro area, there is a good chance you have seen or ridden an e-bike with the Enviolo CVT hub. Enviolo hubs feature on approximately 1,500 Capital Bikeshare e-bikes (CaBi+) and another 200 CaBi pedal bikes with the red rear wheel cover, or approximately one-third of the Capital Bikeshare fleet.

Enviolo hubs feature on approximately 1,500 Capital Bikeshare e-bikes (CaBi+) and another 200 CaBi pedal bikes.

My experience riding CaBi+ e-bikes convinced me of the merits of the Enviolo hub.

The Enviolo brand hidden behind dust on the hub.

From NuVinci to Enviolo

Designed by Fallbrook Technologies from Texas, the hub was called NuVinci until a reorganization in 2017-18 when Fallbrook’s Bike Division was rebranded as Enviolo, with operations run from an HQ located in the Netherlands. In February 2022, Enviolo was acquired by London-based private equity group Inflexion.

Pros and cons of the Enviolo hub

Pros
  • Unlike traditional internally geared hubs, Enviolo offers stepless shifting, where the gear ratio can be changed manually by twisting a grip shifter. Enviolo also offers an automatic shifting option, called Automatiq, where you set your preferred pedaling cadence using either a phone app or a controller on the handlebars.
  • The gear ratio spread of 380% on the Trekking and Heavy-Duty models is wider than most internally geared hubs, except the Kindernay and Rohloff hubs, and is equivalent to an 11-42t cassette.
  • The hub is sealed, maintenance-free, and weather-resistant.
  • Enviolo hubs require no oil changes.
  • There are three ways to shift gear ratios.
  • The optional Automatiq shifter interface uses Bluetooth to pair with a handlebar controller or the Enviolo phone app. In both cases, you can set a comfortable pedal cadence, and motors in the Automatiq shifter interface will automatically change the gear ratio without changing your pedal cadence.
  • The Automatiq handlebar controller allows “manual” gear shifting in 5% increments by pressing up and down thumb buttons - this is particularly helpful for riders with wrist impairment, or carpal tunnel syndrome, who might otherwise find the manual twist shifter action too painful to operate.
  • QBP’s price for an Enviolo cargo hub as of spring 2022 is $400. A trekking model would be $350. The parts for the Enviolo manual shifter interface, sprocket, and cables are an additional $140. The Automatiq shifter interface for the Cargo model is $310. The wheel rim, spokes, and other parts (say $250), plus labor to have the hub laced into a rear wheel. It costs around $850 to have a bike shop convert a bike to an Enviolo hub with the manual interface and approximately $1,000 for the Automatiq. This compares favorably on price with a Rohloff conversion, which is $1,000 just for the hub.
  • The Enviolo Heavy Duty models provide more strength (100 Nm for the Cargo, 120 Nm for the Sportive models) to cope with the torque forces of higher power mid-drive motors than a Shimano Inter-5e IGH (approximately 70 Nm).
Cons
  • Enviolo hubs are not as efficient at about 85% efficiency. Some power loss is inherent to the design of the CVT hub from the internal rotating balls during power transfer between the input and output rings. Since converting my bike, I find myself riding in PAS level 4 of 5 when previously I more often used PAS level 3 of 5.
  • Using the manual twist shifter, I can shift down in small increments while pedaling uphill, but the hub will not shift up until you momentarily pause pedaling.
  • As with other internally geared hubs, Enviolo hubs can be shifted while stationary, which is helpful for riding in stop-start city traffic. The manual shifter can’t be rotated through the full 380% range, and you need to be moving to complete a full low-to-high shift.
  • The Enviolo cargo hub weighs about 5.5 lb.

Table 1: Types of Enviolo hub

Enviolo Hub Model

Gear Ratio Range

Continuous Torque From Motor

Brake Options

City

310%

50 Nm / 250w

Disc/rim/roller

Commercial

310%

50 Nm / 250w

Disc/rim/roller

Trekking

380%

75 Nm / 250w

Disc/rim/roller

Cargo (Heavy Duty)

380%

100 Nm / 500w

Disc/rim

Sportive (Heavy Duty)

380%

120 Nm / 500w

Disc/rim

Source: Enviolo (2018), Enviolo Technical Manual 2020.

For the 2020 model, the Heavy-Duty hubs were strengthened to accept higher torque to work with 500w rated e-bike motors. Some brands, including Serial 1 and Evelo, are pairing the Enviolo Sportive model with more powerful 750w mid-drive motors. Cargo bike brands Tern and Urban Arrow tend to use the Enviolo Cargo model. City e-bikes from brands including Gazelle and Azor tend to use the Enviolo Trekking model.

Enviolo Heavy Duty (Cargo) hub on the author’s DIY converted e-bike.

The Enviolo City and Commercial hubs appear to be used primarily on pedal bikes such as the Priority Turi, except a couple of e-cargo trike models from Bunch Bikes and Babboe.

Table 2: E-bikes with Enviolo hubs available in the US

Brand

Model

Enviolo Hub

Motor

Riese & Müller

All models with Vario option

Trekking or Cargo + Automatiq option

Bosch CX & Performance Speed

Serial 1

Rush/CTY models

Sportive + Automatiq

Brose S Mag & TF Mag

Evelo

Omega, Aurora, Galaxy, Atlas

Trekking + Automatiq

Dapu MD750R &
Bafang M600

Specialized

Turbo Vado 5.0, Como 5.0

Trekking + Automatiq option

Brose/Specialized 2.0

Gazelle

Ultimate C380 & C380+

Trekking

Bosch Active Plus & Performance Speed

Urban Arrow

All models

Cargo

Bosch CX Cargo

Zen Ebikes

Samurai

Sportive + Automatiq

Bosch CX & Performance Speed

Tern

GSD, HSD

Trekking + Automatiq option

Bosch CX & Performance Speed

Azor

Ameland

Trekking option

Shimano Steps e5000

Workcycles

FR8, KR8

Cargo

Bafang BBS02

Priority

Current

Trekking

Wuxi Truckrun TM01

DŌST

Drop, Kope

Cargo

Bafang BBS02

Bunch Bikes

Coupe

City + Automatiq

Bafang M400

Cube

Cargo Hybrid

Cargo

Bosch CX Cargo

Pegasus

Premio Nu

Trekking

Bosch CX

Babboe

All Yamaha models

City

Yamaha PW

Triobike

All models

Cargo

Brose S

ICE Trikes

Adventure

Trekking + Automatiq

Shimano Steps EP8

Schindelhauer

Hannah, Heinrich

Trekking + Automatiq

Bosch Performance

Fuell

Flluid-1E

Unclear if the CVT option is Trekking or Sportive

Bofeili mid-drive

Bakfiets

Electric Long

Trekking

Shimano Steps e5000

Electra

Café Moto Go!

Trekking

Bosch Performance Speed

Butchers and Bicycles

Mk1-E

Cargo + Automatiq

Bosch CX

Enviolo works with over one hundred bicycle and e-bike brands; a comprehensive listing is available on the Enviolo website. Table 2 is a selection of e-bikes and e-trikes with Enviolo available in the US. Several models are not widely available in bike shops but have an importer in North America.

Maintenance

Enviolo hubs are sealed against water ingress and require no internal servicing maintenance or Valvoline traction fluid changes or top-ups for the life of the hub. 

The manual shifter uses two gear cables that require servicing, similar to other bicycle cables. Regular servicing of the manual shifter includes checking that the gear cables are fully seated and not frayed at the handlebar twist shifter and hub interface. 

The Automatiq optional handlebar controller is powered by a CR2032 coin battery that periodically needs replacing. If the battery runs down, the Enviolo phone app can be used to change pedal cadence.

Changing a flat tire on the manual shifter involves unhooking the two shifter cables before unbolting the axle nuts. On the Automatiq you must first unplug the power cable from the shifter interface before unbolting the axle nuts. The Enviolo website has videos showing the procedure.

Tips for DIY e-bike builders

Availability

Enviolo hubs are manufactured in China and are fitted to fully manufactured class 1-3 e-bikes from European and North American brands. The hubs are also available for retrofitting to DIY e-bikes. In North America, bike shops can order the hubs for building into a wheel rim from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP).

Alternatively, you can buy the hub laced into a rear wheel online from Universal Cycles or Modern Bike. The Enviolo website has a custom ordering tool for bike shops that lists the parts required. By way of illustration, here is the parts list my bike shop ordered from QBP in January 2022. The bike shop reused my rear wheel rim. I ordered an Enviolo Heavy Duty Cargo model with the manual shifter interface:

Parts list ordered to convert my bike.

What frame can I use?

For DIY builders Enviolo recommend fitting their hubs to a frame with horizontal or semi-horizontal sliding rear dropouts. It may work on a frame with vertical dropouts if fitted with a chain tensioner. If your bicycle frame has a rear frame break or a raised chain stay, the Enviolo can be used with the Gates belt drive. A chain can be entirely encased using the Hebie chain glider chain case, which is available with a rear part to fit Enviolo hubs. Enviolo hubs are heavy, adding approximately 5.5 lb.

When Papillon Cycles of Arlington converted my bike, they laced the hub into the rim, adding reinforced brass spoke head washers and nipples. Care should be taken at the hub end of the two gear cables emerging from the end of the cable housing to cut them to an exact length.

Enviolo sells a cable hardware installation tool that measures the correct cable length. Routing the stiff housing of two bicycle gear cables from the handlebar to the rear hub may require some creativity.

Do I need a gear sensor?

You do not need to fit a gear sensor to cut motor power while shifting. There can be a short delay between the sensor signal and the motor cutting power, whereas the planetary balls inside the Enviolo hub react instantly to gear shifting cable movement. You cannot upshift under load, and Enviolo recommends that you momentarily pause pedaling during shifting.

What size or tooth count rear sprocket and front chainring should I use?

Your choice of sprocket/chainring combination should be guided by the approved gearing ratios listed in the Technical Manual.

How do I power the shifter interface for the Automatiq?

The Automatiq shifter interface attached to the Enviolo hub is powered by any e-bike battery that can supply 18-55v current. Enviolo sells power harnesses with various connectors that communicate with multiple motors, e.g., Bosch systems. For other systems, Enviolo has a generic open-ended cable product # WIRE-AT3-DS-OE.

WARNING: Be sure to follow the pin-out diagram here

Connect the yellow voltage and blue ground wires to your red positive and black negative battery terminal wires. The WIRE-AT3-DS-OE power cable also has two additional red and black wires, which are meant for Can Bus communication. While I have not used the connection, I know someone who converted the Bosch system from a manual to Automatiq system using this power cable. I was told the Canbus wires do not need to be connected for the Automatiq shifter interface to work. I recommend that you confirm this with Enviolo before building this configuration.

Can I convert a pedal bike already fitted with an Enviolo hub?

The answer depends on what type of Enviolo hub is fitted to the pedal bike you wish to convert and what type of motor you want to use. Keep in mind the maximum continuous torque rating of the different Enviolo hubs as described in the Enviolo technical manual.

Good candidates for an upright city e-bike Enviolo conversion are from Dutch brand Azor. Their online pedal bike configurator offers an impressive array of custom components. You can build up various frames with an optional Enviolo Trekking hub and front disc brake. Azor’s e-bike frame option uses a Shimano Steps e5000 with modest torque (40Nm). A better bet for steep hills would be to build up an Azor pedal bike to convert with a more powerful DIY kit motor such as the Bafang BBS02 or Tongsheng TSDZ2. Your custom configuration can be passed on to their US distributor Amsterdam Bicycle Company when saved to the My Azor website.

If you want a Gates belt drive and are thinking of converting a prebuilt Priority brand pedal bike, be aware. Priority uses more than one type of Enviolo hub. For example, the Priority Turi model is fitted with the Enviolo City hub, and I would not recommend a mid-drive motor. Still, the bike could work with a 250w front hub motor. By contrast, the Priority Continuum model is fitted with the Enviolo Trekking hub, and it could work with a 500w mid-drive motor.

If you want to use a more powerful motor rated above 500w but producing no more than 120 Nm torque, I recommend using the Enviolo Heavy Duty hubs: the Cargo and Sportive models.

Where can I find manuals and warranty support?

Enviolo has a comprehensive website with manuals and videos. QBP handles claims under the 2-year Enviolo warranty in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Sources

The information in this article is from various sources, including the Enviolo website, e-bike brand websites, online e-bike forums including electricbikereview.com, electricbike.com, and Bike Twitter, YouTube videos and conversations with the staff at Papillon Cycles who converted my bike with an Enviolo hub.
Paul Levett - E-Bike Lovers - Senior Contributor

Paul is a librarian, cyclist, and Dad, who emigrated to the US from the UK in 2005. He started riding a bicycle for transportation at age 10, delivering newspapers. Currently he rides a Breezer Downtown pedal bicycle converted to an e-bike with a BBS01 kit motor. Paul lives in Arlington, VA.


Favorite e-bike: Tern HSD


Paul Levett

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