Volt bikes have been using the well-regarded Shimano STEPS mid motor for some time in their city bikes; we reviewed the Infinity a while back and were impressed with the ride and the motor. Now the company is bringing that power system to a folding bike, which they claim is the first ever to use it. We certainly haven't seen another.
"The AXIS, when it is released in summer 2017, will be the first of its kind. Our folding e-bike partners Shimano with their STEPS 250W motor and Alfine Di2 8-speed gear hub combined with a Gates CDX Carbon Belt Drive system", say Volt of the new bike. "It will be the first to integrate all of these technologies into one foldable e-bike, placing it among the most advanced assisted commuter rides out there. The result is one of the smoothest e-bike rides on the market that can be easily stored out of the way or lifted into a bus, train or car with an approximate weight of 18kg."
That all sounds pretty good and it's certainly a high-spec machine. It isn't going to be cheap: Volt are looking at a price around the £3k mark, putting it in competition with Tern's Bosch-powered Vektron. The maintenance-free, clean-running Gates Carbon belt drive system and Shimano's electronic-shifting Di2 Alfine hub are a top-dollar transmission; the hub works especially well with the STEPS motor as they both use the same system, and the hub can talk to the motor control unit. Shimano introduced automatic shifting to STEPS and Di2 last year, and although our experience of it has been a bit patchy thus far, it's only going to get better as Shimano refine the programming.
There's no suspension fork on the AXIS, mercifully, as 20" suspension forks aren't really much cop. Instead you get excellent 20x2.1” Schwalbe Big Apple tyres to take the sting out of badly-maintained city roads, and a suspension seatpost. Shimano hydraulic discs take care of stopping. The bike folds in the middle with magnetic clasps keeping it neat when it's folded.
You're likely to be looking at a bike like this for a mixed commute, so a huge range isn't top of the want list, but given its low weight and 400Wh battery the AXIS should be well up there with other city bikes; our experience of the STEPS motor is that you'll get 30-70km out of one charge in normal use, depending on terrain and how hard you push the motor. That's certainly going to be more than enough for most people considering a folding bike.
The official planned launch of the VOLT AXIS is July 2017: we'll get hold of one when we can.