Pinion, known for their gearbox drivetrains, is taking things to another level with an e-bike motor with integrated gearbox, opening the doors to a powertrain option that may well change the way we think about e-bike transmissions.
Under the name of MGU (Motor.Gearbox.Unit), Pinion unifies motor and gearbox in a single unit that simply should cater better to the needs of an e-bike, as well as the higher stresses it can put on components. Apart from the fact that you have the option to get rid of that pesky rear derailleur. With all e-bike necessary components that surround their MGU, Pinion is talking about their Pinion E-Drive System.
Historically, German company Pinion is not exactly the first to combine an e-bike motor with an integrated gearbox – two years ago, I rode around the Eurobike parking lot with a prototype of Valeo's Cyclee e-bike motor with an integrated gearbox that they developed together with Effigear. Since then however, and even though the system should be available by now, their entry into the mountain bike world has been eerily quiet. Nevertheless, seeing the Pinion E-Drive System close to production already with some established brands having built the first models around the system for their 2024 lineup is quite the big deal.
Pinion MGU E1.12
• Torque: equivalent of 85Nm
• Weight: 4,100g
• Maximum Support: 400%
• Q-factor: 174mm
• Optimal cadence range: up to 120RPM
• Gears: 12
• Gear Range: 600%
• Gear Jumps: 17.7%Pinion MGU E1.9
• Weight: 4,000g
• Gears: 9
• Gear Range: 568%
• Gear Jumps: 24%www.pinion.eu
Pinion's story already started twelve years ago with the attempt to bring together what belongs together, as they like to say, coming up with a full-power electric motor and high-end gearbox with electronic shifting in a compact package – a powertrain. With hardware and software having been fully developed by Pinion, the MGU can be combined with a Pinion Longlife Chaindrive or belt drive system. For the belt drive, they are using Gates Carbon Drive components, a company they've partnered with for their regular gearboxes as well, a long time ago.
The MGU and the shifters are manufactured and assembled in Germany. Only a few of the less important parts are sourced outside of the EU. The cranks are at this point still produced in Taiwan.Motor.Gearbox.Unit
Pinion has started their development with a wear-free brushless electric motor for industrial applications made in Germany as a base and has optimized it by the use of more powerful magnets with a redesigned fit for e-bikes. Delivering a comparable drive torque of approximately 85Nm, the goal was to far exceed the strain and wear of cycling applications. Using the word comparable, because the power output of the Pinion MGU can't be exactly translated to regular systems when utilizing an internal gearbox.
A better value for comparison would be wheel torque – the power that actually reaches the wheel. For example, gears 1 to 4 of the Pinion MGU provide an under-drive and deliver up to 160Nm of torque. Therefore, talking about a ‘comparable drive torque' of approximately 85Nm serves only to put the MGU’s power output into context as an approximation for comparison’s sake.
A whole host of patented internal sensors continuously read the input torque, motor speed, the position of the shifting shaft and crank arms as well as the rider’s cadence, speed, and a bunch of other factors to ensure the most natural riding feel. The multi-sensor design notices even the tiniest inputs and smallest changes within the system while the special architecture of the micro controller further helps in increasing the efficiency of the system while simultaneously reducing the amount of heat generated during operation.
Several versions of the MGU are available. The E1.9 comes with nine gears, the E1.12 with twelve gears, with the size of the magnesium die-cast housing with a Q-factor of 174mm not being much bigger than comparable mid-mounted full-power motors. Maximum assisted cadence maxes out at 120RPM and the system uses a 48V ecosystem.
The overall weight is coming somewhat close to the weight of ordinary e-bike mid-engine motors with separate transmissions. More on that later. The E1.9 is supposed to weigh 4,000 grams, has a gear range of 568% with gear range jumps of about 24%. First gear has a ratio of 1.82, fastest gear a ratio of 0.32.
The E1.12 is said to weigh 4,100 grams, has a gear range of 600% with gear jumps of about 17.7%. First gear also has a ratio of 1.82, fastest gear a ratio of 0.30.
Max input torque is 250Nm, maximum support 400% and maximum mechanical output is sitting at 600W. Supported speed is 25km/h in Europe. There are also versions for the S-Pedelec class, aptly named E1.9S and E1.12S, going up to 45km/h with a maximum mechanical output of 800W.
North American customers will have to wait until 2025 for Pinion to offer a version adapted to the rules and regulations of that market.
Pinion's Smart.Shift technology has already been introduced on a Stromer urban bike, utilizing an electronically actuated gear box in conjunction with a hub motor on that bike model. A version of it was also recently spotted on Gamux' prototype downhill bike.
A lot of the features are the same for the E-Drive System, due to the integration of motor and gearbox, so some extra features could be introduced. Pinion is using the electronic TE1 E-Trigger Shifter for gear changes, having invested a considerable amount of time on the haptic feel and ergonomics of the shifters. Shifting with Pinon's gear box doesn't require a turn of the pedals. Thanks to Pinion’s hard- and software, gear shifting on a Pinion MGU-equipped e-bike is said to happen within a fraction of a second, is supposed to be very precise and feel smooth as butter – even under load.
As the Pinion MGU was developed as a unit, this means, for example, that the system always knows which gear its rider is in and adapts its power to the rider’s cadence to deliver a smooth, connected and seamless ride feel. Also, with the unit being sealed, the elements obviously don't have any effect on the shift quality over time. Total permitted system weight is up to 180kg and there's a two-year warranty for the MGU.
Since the system always knows what gear it's in, with what cadence you are pedaling and the speed you are going, it is not only able to adjust the motor's support but also the speed the motor is running at. This allows the E-Drive to run a semi-automatic shifting function that knows when it would be best to shift by indicating it on the display or it can execute a preselected shifting command with the Pre.Select and Start.Select features.
Pre.Select allows the system to automatically shift into the matching gear for your speed when coasting downhill according to a predetermined cadence, providing you with the right gear to get back onto the pedals without having to shift up or down first. Start.Select gives you the option for automatically shifting into a preselected starting gear after a full stop.
In case the e-bike's battery runs out of power, you can still shift about a 1,000 times with the remaining charge that's always left after a motor system shuts down. To sum it up, Pinion's E-Drive System claims that it can shift while riding, while being stationary and under load. It can shift for you, it can shift manually and it can quickly shift multiple gears at once.Drive Modes
The Pinion E-Drive System offers four support levels: Eco, Flow, Flex and Fly. Eco is designed for maximum range, Fly at the other side of the spectrum delivers the highest power output. Flow and Flex are adaptive riding modes designed to be dynamic and to adapt the amount of support to every riding situation and the terrain the rider is facing.
A tuned starting aid helps to prevent wheel spin when setting off on loose climbs and a Boost Button on the handlebar controller can deliver the full power of the motor for a short amount of time, no matter what gear you're in. Additionally, all support modes can be tailored to riders’ individual preferences through the FIT E-Bike Control app.
There's also a Walk Assist function, one that can be set at a speed of up to 6km/h in the menu.
Furthermore, there's the option for manufacturers to pick between two (three, if you also count the Speed scenario for S-Pedelecs up to 45km/h) overall mapping profiles – Comfort and Performance – that match the individual e-bike’s intended purpose and characteristics best and show differences in the power curve for all four ride modes.
The Comfort setup is designed to provide a balanced, natural ride feel that, in the peaks, still offers less-trained riders a distinctly noticeable agility. This setup is best suited to commuting or touring purposes. So we can expect the Performance option to be the dominant setup on eMTBs for a more performance-oriented and dynamic power output.
In order to make the E-Drive System complete, Pinion has made FIT their strategic partner at an early stage in their development to deliver display, control and battery options and to give manufacturers the modularity and proven and reliable service infrastructure.
Among others, the FIT ecosystem includes the Ultracore range of batteries with 480, 720 and 960Wh options as well as a range extender. The Ultracore's form factor is the same by the way, so it will be easy to swap between different sizes when the bike manufacturers allow for that option. The regular charger uses 3A, a 4.8A fast charger is available. There's also a Long-Life-Mode that enables smart charging and increases the lifespan of the battery.
Multiple displays can be picked from, that all feature a uniform menu structure, no matter the size of the screen. Their system covers most of the basic information as well as navigation options when connected with Komoot.App
Just like all the other big e-bike players have done by now, Pinion has developed the FIT E-Bike Control app together with FIT to allow for customization of ride modes and access features on the E-Drive System. With the help of a FIT Key Card, you can connect to your Pinion-powered e-bike with an individual ID that uses the Abus SmartX technology and provides a secure connection to the bike with a unique key. Also, scanning the QR code on the card with the app unlocks additional functions.
Through the app you can individualize the pre-configured setups of every support mode. Values like assist ratio, maximum torque, elasticity, and torque characteristics can be adjusted.Maintenance
Reliability is another important factor when it comes to drivetrains and Pinion is claiming a maintenance-free functionality for 10,000 kilometers.
Gears never have to be adjusted as they simply can't get out of line and due to the elimination of external shifting components, wear – especially under the higher loads of an e-bike motor – is greatly reduced. That's apart from the fact that the possibility of damaging an exposed derailleur (unless a manufacturer picks a chain tensioner in its place as a way to keep the chain taut on full-suspension bikes) is eliminated. As the whole system is contained in a closed and sealed housing, dust, mud and water is kept out. Maintaining the bike therefore becomes easy, especially when it is equipped with a Gates Carbon Drive belt drive system that doesn't require lubrication. After 10,000km a ten-minute oil change is required, that's it.
Issues are taken care of through authorized dealers from the established FIT network. Firmware updates also need to be taken care of there, with the help of a FIT Diagnose Tool.Weight Comparison
With the majority of the weight centered around the bottom bracket area for a balanced weight distribution, the elimination of derailleur and cassette obviously has some major advantages.
The total weight for the 12-speed E1.12 (4,100g as mentioned) MCU with rear hub sprocket, chain and chain tensioner is a few hundred grams heavier than compared to a regular full-power e-bike motor together with derailleur and cassette (using SRAM's X0 AXS T-Type for this calculation). Depending on which motor you look at, between 615 to 865g for a setup with chain and 500 to 750g for a belt drive. If compared to a Shimano XT setup with a 10-51 cassette, add another 100g to the difference. If a regular bike design requires or uses a lower chain tensioner, like most of the high pivot bikes out there do, you can deduct about another 130g from the overall weight differential.
However, and probably more importantly, the system saves about 800 grams of unsprung mass at the rear wheel for a chain setup and about 730g for the belt version. For outright suspension performance, that is a pretty big number either way.
If you compared the weight of the MGU to the use of a regular motor with Rohloff's Speedhub hub shifting system, as Nicolai is using on variations of their G1 or GT1 EBOXX models for example, Pinon's unit is about equal in total weight with the lightest motors around and can save about 1,400g of unsprung mass at the rear wheel.
You can use a rear hub with regular Shimano driver to work with the single speed setup, using spacers. There is however a single speed hub option that Pinion has developed together with DT Swiss available.Bike Models
Pinion has partnered with a bunch of early adopters, although more of them on the urban and touring side of things rather than mountain bike. As for the eMTB sector, Rotwild, Simplon and Bulls will have mountain bikes with Pinion's E-Drive System for 2024 in their lineup.
Simplon is combining the Pinion E1.12 MGU with a Gates belt drive in the Rapcon Pmax Pinion 150 and Rapcon Pmax Pinion 170 for 2024. Both bikes utilize full carbon frames and are available in four sizes with two color options. As the name suggests, the Rapcon Pmax Pinion 150 features 150mm of travel front and rear. The Pmax Pinion 170 has a 170mm fork and offers 165mm of travel in the rear. With its flexible battery system you'd be able to get up to a ridiculous capacity of 1,430Wh when using an extender. Thanks to Simplon's build options, you can trim their spec to your liking with prices starting from €8,999.
Bulls is launching six models in total, two of them in the eMTB market. The top model is the Vuca Evo AM2 for €8,499 with carbon main frame and a 1.8" headset standard that features the Pinion E1.12 with Gates belt drive. Kinematics are based around a new concept for them, called the 4-Link Swingarm, mixing the idea of single and 4-pivot designs with 150 mm of travel. The Vuca Evo AM1 comes with a lower spec and a price tag of €7,499. Both should be available around the beginning of next year with either a 720Wh or massive 960Wh battery (add €200 for that option).
Rotwild's R.X1000 comes in two versions. The Pro with a price tag of €9,999 and Ultra for €11,999. Both feature 150mm of travel front and rear and come in four sizes. They will also offer a R.C1000 model, which will be a full-suspension mix of commuter and mountain bike.
Full launch of the bikes is expected closer towards the end of the year.
It should come as no surprise that German high-end brand Rotwild – one of the earliest adopters of e-bike technologies – jumped at the opportunity to be one of the first adopters of Pinion's E-Drive System. Rotwild's R.X1000 Ultra came decked out in high-end components and Pinion's E1.12 MGU at its heart.
The factory spec will feature a massive FIT Ultracore 960Wh battery, our early test model had the smaller (but still plenty capable) 720Wh battery installed. While most of the frame and spec looked production-worthy, a big prototype sticker on the side of the chainstay made sure to remind us that not everything on the bike was up to final spec.
Ground clearance of the MGU is excellent and much better than most of the full-size motor options out there. With a small 30-tooth chainring, the chainring is still lower than the lowest part of the motor housing by a couple millimeters.
With a measured weight of 23.12kg without pedals, the overall weight of the R.X1000 with full carbon frame is quite competitive but as our calculation suggested not the lightest, compared to other maker's bikes with similar spec.The measured battery weight of the 720Wh version is 3,631g. According to FIT's website, the 960Wh monster should come in at 4,600g. The black part you can see from the down tube is not an extra cover, it's an integral part of the battery. It can be removed from the frame via a lock with key. Turn the key, push the key down, pop the battery out. Simple.
When you start riding in the lowest Eco support mode, you might feel a bit disappointed by the system's power, or perceived lack thereof. Flex and Flow naturally offer more support but there is significantly more power input necessary than most competitor's power support setups at these levels to get the bike moving. The moment you shift into Fly mode, the system however really shows what it's capable of. I have a feeling that Pinion is on the cautious side of things when they talk about a comparable power of 85Nm to other systems. The MGU in Fly mode is significantly stronger than Shimano's EP8 with 85Nm in its highest setting for example, in all gears. Running with a Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay – with one of the strongest motors on the market but a trim that caters to a natural riding feel – next to the Rotwild, you need a significant amount more power in Ludicrous mode to keep up with Fly. Running a Specialized Turbo Levo in Turbo with full Shuttle support probably comes closer to the power of the Pinion MGU. Bosch's Race motor in Race mode might be another contender but that would require some further and proper testing, so these comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt.
Either way, the steepest and most technical sections are easy to conquer with Pinion's Fly mode and the system has enough capability to power you up the hill at almost max speed without having to put a crazy amount of energy, up to a certain grade.
Once you feel what's possible, jumping down into a lower support mode feels like launching a drag chute on a dragster. On an uphill, speed between Fly and Flex drops to about half at a similar rider input. Personally, it feels to me that the gap from the standard Performance setup, which is visualized in the graph, is too wide and discourages you from using them regularly, unless maximizing your ride distance and not the time it takes you to get back up the hill is your priority. Pinion says that they purposely chose to create a big gap in order for the rider to really feel the difference, although I wonder if that's going to be any help if you won't be able to hang with your friends riding different e-bikes in comparable mode settings.
At the time of testing, there was still some fine-tuning to be done on the FIT E-Bike Control app, so I couldn't personalize the ride modes, but it would be the first thing on my list to add some more oomph to Eco, Flow and Flex in order to actually enjoy using them regularly. Looking at the Comfort presets for bike companies, I wonder if my preferred setup would look close to those curves.
Modulation of the power feels mostly quite natural, with Fly you seem to lose a bit of sensitivity in the lower gears due to its power and you have to pay a bit more attention to keep your pedal strokes flowing in gears 1 to 4 at low speeds for the motor not to react too aggressively to abrupt changes in cadence. Also, I wouldn't complain if the starting aid to keep you from spinning out on loose steep climbs in those situations received some more tweaking down the road as it doesn't fully reach the potential of some of the best systems in that regard on the market – not saying that the E-Drive system is doing a bad job at all.
Walk Assist is fairly easy to activate. Push the button once, then hold the button down when pushing the bike to get the assist from the motor. Being able to set the speed up to a value of 6km/h in the menu is a smart idea. The Boost function is triggered by pushing the Walk Assist button on the remote above a speed of 6 km/h. You have to hold down the button to get full power, no matter what mode you are riding in. It stops once you release the button.
The noise from the motor changes with the gears, or rather brackets of gears. Due to the underlying construction and design principles of the MGU, the electric motor works in three ranges that depend on the gear range of the integrated gearbox. As the gears change, the motor's speed changes and therefore also the sound that is emitted. Climbing gears 1-4 are the noisiest ones with higher motor speeds. 5 to 8 settle down a bit but when running in Fly mode are probably a notch above most other motors in their full power modes. Once you shift into gear 9 and higher, however, the system is almost silent, even under full power. That's not marketing talk, the motor really is running deliciously quiet in those gears.
The 600% gear range is huge, and I wonder if Rotwild's R.X1000 would better be served with a taller chainring up front as gear 1 is running so slowly that it would only make sense if mountain bike rock crawling was a sport. Then again, you'll be more likely to be able to use silent gear 9 on access road climbs this way, so maybe it's just fine as it is.
As far as power consumption goes, the E-Drive in Fly mode seems to be close to most motor systems in their highest setting, possibly a bit more power hungry. Running a certain section in Flex however, painted a whole other picture. Not wanting to jump to conclusions without having run down a full battery charge only in that ride mode, but the extrapolation of the ridden section would suggest that rides way beyond 2,000 meters of altitude, possibly even 3,000 meters, would be possible with a 720Wh battery. Obviously, with the 960Wh battery that will be installed on Rotwild's R.X1000, Pinion's E-Drive System should be a backcountry exploration machine.
Pedaling beyond 25km/h is a seamless transition, but there is some drag of the MGU noticeable when pedaling without motor support. It's not as bad as with the old Shimano motor for example, but it's there.
The gearbox part of the motor is not necessarily a license to mash the pedals and trigger gear changes however you want. That out of the way, the shifting function of Pinion's MGU is impressive, especially compared to most regular drivetrain systems with a derailleur.
When shifting one gear at a time, the system can truly shift in a very unnoticeable, quiet and very fast fashion when loaded the majority of the time. Some gears shift louder than others, though.
As far as shifting speed goes, it's fast. The electronic noise while shifting might be a tad louder than when triggering SRAM's AXS and it's possibly more noticeable on the MGU because it's situated underneath the rider, rather than behind the rider. I doubt that anyone would consider it in the category of annoying and over the long run it's probably just something that you don't pay attention to after a while.
Under hard pressure on the pedals, especially when shifting two or more gears at a time, the gearbox answers with a significant clacking noise that can easily get you worried – not too surprising really, as the Pinion gearbox doesn't use a clutch as you would be used to from a motorcycle for example. However, I was told by Pinion that even with that noise, there is nothing to worry about in terms of durability as there are no chains or cassette sprockets that might fall victim to bad shifts. On the other hand, it's actually pretty simple to avoid these clacking noises by using a bit of common sense during your shifts.
It's easy to learn that if you shift with a minimum delay between the gears or reduce pedal pressure just the tiniest bit at the right time, the gear shifts will be rather smooth and quiet, even under pressure. With some of the gear shifts, sometimes also depending on speed, you notice how the cranks turn a few millimeters, a feeling that is possibly aided by how quickly the gears change. As for the haptics of the shifters, they are very defined in their pushing action and have just the right amount of resistance and ease of use. They're not overly large, but once you get used to the positioning are easy to work with.
Being able to shift while not turning the pedals (obviously, quick successive shifts don't matter at all in this case) simply elevates your possibilities during your ride. Losing speed in a tight corner and wanting to exit at a proper cadence? Rolling down a hill and getting ready for a steep counter-climb without having to get some cranks of the pedals in on possibly technical terrain? Braking hard into a tight switchback coming up behind a visual obstruction and having to finesse around the corner to start riding again with an easier gear? Quickly flipping the bike around after missing a turnoff on an unknown route? These scenarios and many more become much easier to manage. It might take some time to train your brain that you have those options with Pinion's shifting technology after being used to regular drivetrains, but it's incredibly rewarding becoming accustomed to it.
The Pre.Select function is an interesting concept, as it automatically takes riding speed into consideration when coasting downhill and automatically shifts into a gear that theoretically matches the RPM that you can set in the menu beforehand. After playing around with different values, I felt that 60RPM seemed like a nice compromise for most situations where it felt that you could gain some speed quickly without the RPMs revving up too quickly.
More often than not, Pre.Select works fine, but there were regularly situations where the gear felt too light, seldomly too hard, coming out of a corner, either because the system didn't have the chance to adapt to a change in speed quickly enough before mashing the pedals or some other variable. The one other downside happens when going downhill and manually shifting into a much lighter gear getting ready for an upcoming sharp climb. If the bike is still rolling at a higher speed in between, Pre.Select will shift into a harder gear again and mess up your intention. When talking to Pinion about it, they were aware of the scenario and said that this is one of the areas that they are working on options for the future.
Plus, the noise of the system constantly shifting the gears while you're riding downhill, whether you need the change or not, is something that takes a bit getting used to. In the end, at the current state, I ended up turning the function off again, which is just a quick and simple adjustment in the menu of the display.
Start.Select is another fun option that shifts into a preselected gear of your choice, once you come to a full stop. However, it's not without fault as well. For climbing situations, gear 3 turned out to be a smart choice for most situations. On a flat area, and especially after stopping in a downhill section, that gear was far too low to get into a riding rhythm quickly after a stop again. If the system could distinguish between the angle of the bike if it was situated on a climb, flat or downhill section, and if I could preselect different gears for those situations, that would make a huge difference in functionality.
Also, if you still have a foot settled on your pedal when you're stopping (which I guess I most of the time have), your foot rattles down a few millimeters at a time from gear to gear when the system shifts into the low preselected gear. There's nothing to worry about, it's just an odd occurrence.
I'm not saying that there won't be any riders out there that will benefit from these two functions, even if nothing changed by the time of launch for 2024 models, I myself can think of some riding buddies that will probably jump for joy for these options. Advanced mountain bike riders might look for some more tuning of the modes down the road. Either way, I'd run these modes on urban bikes immediately and never look back. Plus, it's easy to assume that even fully automated shifting, at least again for the road side of things is in the E-Drive System's stars. The technical requirements are already there.
Does the motor or gearbox rattle when there's no torque on the pedals? In my initial observation I'd say no, but I don't want to jump to early conclusions. Sometimes, it takes a few hundred kilometers for a motor to break in and start making new unwanted noises. Plus, between some chain slap and the quite noisy freehub of the DT Swiss 240 hub, it was sometimes hard to distinguish other noises coming from the bike during a downhill. Only a long-term review with isolation of other noisy factors might bring a light to this question.
As far as why Rotwild opted for a chain drive system rather than a belt drive lies the fact that positioning plays an important part within their entire portfolio. Since all of their bikes are chain driven, they wanted to spec it in the same way. Because Rotwild found the Pinion CT2 universal chain tensioner to be too exposed in the bottom bracket area, they moved it to the rear dropout, similar to a derailleur placement (although not sticking out wider than the frame itself). An aftermarket replacement from chain to belt drive on the R.X1000 is not possible due to design restrictions.
Since they are still dialing in the length of the chain and the position of the chain tensioner as well as the chainstay cover to reduce chain slap, it wouldn't make much sense to comment on the current behavior of the chain-driven setup. I assume there will also be a feature so you can take out the rear wheel easily, which wasn't possible with the prototype setup. In terms of functionality under power, there was absolutely nothing to complain about, even when madly shifting under strong loads.
Rotwild's solution by routing the cables for the electronic shifter and display through their Rotwild B220 Carbon bar with 780mm width delivers a tidy cockpit layout. As for the display itself, that Rotwild chose from FIT's lineup, it reminds me a lot of Bosch's old Purion display, only with color and in a sleeker package. That doesn't change the fact that all handlebar-mounted displays are prone to getting damaged in a crash and one can only hope that FIT is working on a top tube-mounted display for the future.
Settings are easy to adjust within the menu structure via the dial on top of the display (probably the first to go in a crash). The main drive overview shows the basics, including the battery percentage via a damn battery symbol with five charge states. I wonder how long the bike world has to wait for that symbol to disappear on e-bikes, as it will not be able to tell you if there are 20 or 5% left in the tank. Changing to a percentage view is only possible if you click the top dial twice, and that view disappears once you turn off the bike or look up another feature like trip height or cadence by selecting it in the submenu. It would be great if the user had the chance to select the three or four main features that are personally most important and put them up on the main screen (including battery charge in percentage). Also, watts from rider input would be another nice feature, which is not on FIT's list of things you can read out.
Regarding suspension performance due to reduced unsprung mass, it's hard to make a statement unless being able to test the system back to back to an identical frame design with regular components. I can say however, that the rear end of the Rotwild R.X1000 was very sensitive, stuck to the ground nicely and sometimes surprised me how capable its 150mm of travel was, apart from easily outperforming the FIT4 damping of the Fox 36 fork.
Surprisingly, it wasn't emphasized in all the marketing briefs, that the single-speed configuration lets designers build smarter suspension designs by being able to manipulate for example anti-rise, anti-squat or chain growth to just a single gear, not having to compromise to the effects of running in different gears on a large cassette. Sure, some companies like Zerode, Nicolai, Gamux or Cavalerie have been advocating in that regard for a while, but in this form, where negative factors like added drag or weight don't matter just as much, it should help spread onto e-bike designs much easier.
As Pinion says, they have done their testing, but as we all know, bikers can be real brutes, so time will tell if the system is as maintenance-free as predicted. If it is, that's a huge win for any biker. Also, without having tested it yet, it sounds like the belt drive configuration could add some major benefits to the world of cycling. I for one would be very happy, never having to clean or lube a chain in my life again.
Overall, what Pinion has brought to the table is a system with benefits that even, or especially, the big players can't overlook. There are still some tweaks here or there that might or might not get remedied until the first production models enter the market. But even now, the functionality looks pretty darn solid. Plus, having opened the doors to new technological possibilities, future add-ons can only make the Pinion E-Drive System even better. It will be interesting to see what impact it will have on the e-bike market in years to come.