It wasn’t a question of if, but when Shimano was going to introduce a new flagship motor. The days of the old Steps E8000 were numbered. Long live the brand new STEPS EP8!
All new, all better. With 21 percent more torque than the E8000, now offering up to 85Nm, compared to the old system's 70Nm, with a maximum power output of 500W The EP8 (DU-EP800) isn’t just more powerful, it has become more compact and lighter at the same time.
Shimano EP8 Details
• 85nM torque
• 500W maximum power output
• Magnesium drive unit case
• Weight: 2.6 kg
• 36% reduction in drag compared to previous version
• New assist algorithm.
Thanks to a magnesium drive unit case and its enhanced shape the new motor has shaved 300 grams off the scale, coming to a total weight of 2.6kg. A ten percent smaller form package adds even more ground clearance over its predecessor. The motor mounts are still the same as before, so bike manufacturers can actually fit the new motor into existing frames without any modifications.
Another big improvement over the old motor is a 36 percent reduction in drag and greatly reduced driving noise. Heat management has been optimized by introducing heat dissipating materials, an increased surface area in the case and even a refined heat management algorithm.
Speaking of algorithms, Shimano has completely reworked their assist algorithm for all of their support modes, organically matching the rider’s efforts and delivering the right power at the right time. Instead of a single assist ratio for each riding mode the new algorithm constantly calculates the ideal assist ratio depending on the situation.
There’s a new display, the SC-EM800, which looks very similar to the known SC-E8000 but features a more capable chipset, expanded compatibility with third party computers thanks to ANT, and the ability to select two different custom ride profiles. Also, with this display compatible new wires can transmit data faster due to increased bandwidth and make the system future-proof for new features.
A new handlebar-mounted assist switch (SW-EM800) with larger buttons and greater tactile feedback is now available, as is a new chain guide (CD-EM800).
A 160mm crank arm option has been added to the 165, 170 and 175mm range, keeping the Q-factor at a narrow 177mm.
Also updated is the E-Tube Project app that can communicate with Shimano’s electronic equipment (Di2 shift components also). In terms of customization, the options are expanded massively, allowing the riders to adjust each ride mode with ten different assist curves to control how quickly the power ramps up to match their input. Additionally, the maximum torque limit can be set between 25 to 85 Nm of torque.
Most Shimano displays can communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth with the app.Ride Impressions
Due to a series of unfortunate events, I couldn’t ride the new motor anywhere near as much as could have been possible, but then again, the few extended rides that I did get in, I depleted the battery every time and collected some proper testing impressions.
Merida’s 2021 eONE-SIXTY 8000 with carbon front triangle, mixed 29/27.5” wheel setup and smart details - like Thermo Gate cooling vents at the steer tube area to help warm air from the battery to dissipate - acted as our test bike. With Merida and Shimano having worked closely together when developing the frames that were launched in 2020, their entire range has now been upgraded with the larger 630Wh internal battery (500Wh for XS size), enhanced Energy Guard battery cover with softer outside material to reduce noise and help sealing the battery compartment, further integrated cable routing, front light and of course the brand-new Shimano STEPS EP8 motor. Our model was equipped with Shimano’s SC-E7000 display, the two higher carbon models 9000 and 10K feature the new SC-EM800 display version.
Time to play: good riddance to error W013 - the new EP8 can finally be started up quickly without any hassle, even when pedaling.
It’s pretty obvious just how much more powerful the new EP8 is. Not only more powerful, but more well-rounded, with torque smoothly progressing, no matter what mode you’re running the bike in. Gone is the jerking motion that sometimes especially accompanied the Boost setting. Even when starting out in steep sections, the motor reacts extremely sensitive to pedal input and it’s rather easy to transfer the power to the ground and keep the wheels from spinning.
All of this at the sensation of how quiet the new EP8 is, almost taking it to a new level in the category of full-size motors. Even in Boost mode, under full load, the noise does not amass to much more than a low hum, hard to even recognize over the ambient noise of a ride.
Also, the base setup of the Trail mode has become much more fun to use. At least in theory, when checking the range between Trail and Eco mode, it almost doubles in distance thanks to their new algorithm. Naturally, the support from the motor is much less in Eco compared to Boost, or now even Trail, but I assume that there are still going to be a lot of people that will want to ride predominately in this mode to get some workout in. Although I have not ever spent much time in Eco with the E8000, other than when I was in trouble with my remaining range, the new support algorithm is also noticeably affecting the lowest support mode in a positive way.
Although it wasn’t bad before, pushing beyond the 25km/h threshold also feels more natural now with the reduction in drag, apart from the fact that having to keep a heavy e-bike at speed will always be a bit more challenging. As far as overall range goes, the new EP8 system seems to be benefiting from its enhanced efficiency and should be right there with its biggest competitors, although I’ll have to run my little test lap for some comparable numbers.
Better than before, but still noticeable, is the transition every time you start spinning the cranks from standstill and when stopping to pedal. For lack of a better description, it’s sort of a subtle double-clicking resistance that can slightly be felt through the pedals and, if you pay attention, even be heard. While it doesn’t really affect the ride quality, I’m going to need to spend some more time with the system to see if there are certain situations where that sensation becomes annoying.
Most importantly, once you are pedaling, transitions from the motor support is perfectly seamless and feels extremely natural. Kudos to the new algorithm.
Finally, Shimano’s Walk Mode is now usable. Easy to shift into and activated with the thumb remote, it pushes the bike along powerfully, no matter what gear you’re running. At the push of another button, you’re back to your regular riding mode.
Unfortunately, when trying to connect to our test bike with the E-Tube app there was an error, since the new motor wasn’t part of the official system yet, so I can’t say to what degree the modes can get affected.
Even with as little time as I spent on Shimano’s new EP8, it’s safe to say that it’s an improvement over the E8000 in every single way. I will spend a lot more time with the new system for a detailed review and run it head to head to some of its biggest competitors to figure out in what areas it does perform better and where it still has some catching up to do. Stay tuned.