The electric motorcycle segment is beginning to mature. We know this because word from Japan has Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha collaborating together on various standards for electric motorcycles.
If it doesn’t immediately strike you as such, this is incredibly big news.
The move sees the Big Four creating a consortium that will work together to bring homogenized battery, charging, infrastructure, and other items into reality so that there can be interoperability between the brands and less confusion in the marketplace.
When it comes to current lithium-ion battery tech, cobalt is an essential element – both literally and figuratively. Cobalt is so important to current battery technology that China has gone to great lengths to secure it, predicting a global rise in its demand.
Some reports state that the global supply of cobalt and lithium will reach critical levels by as early as 2050, if current trends and predictions about the adoption of electric vehicles remain true. This statement is especially true for cobalt, with reserves only expected to meet half of the predicted demand.
Before we go further, it should be noted that current roughly half of all cobalt mined in the world is used in batteries (and roughly half of all cobalt mining is done in the Democratic Republic of Congo). This is because of cobalt’s unique structure as a transition metal.
Panasonic, as one of the biggest battery providers for electric vehicles, sees the trend happening with cobalt usage, and understands what it means for the company’s bottom line.
As such, the Japanese technology brand has made news by announcing its plans to eliminate cobalt from its batteries that are destined for electric vehicles.
If you needed a bigger sign that the current zeitgeist of vehicle transportation is electric, look no further than BMW’s recent investment of €200 million for what the German brand is calling a “battery cell competence centre.”
The rather large capital expenditure, based in Munich, centers around the German brand’s commitment to electric vehicles, and its desire to develop next-generation electric drivetrains.
Specifically, the battery cell facility will allow BMW to explore new battery cell designs, chemistries, and technologies, so it can better work with battery cell manufacturers for the automotive company’s growing needs.
There is an easy and quick way to lighten your bike, lower its center of gravity, and marginally improve its dynamic performance for $200 or less: the starter battery.
Lead-acid, absorbed gas mat, and gel batteries have been around for years now, and while they provide cheap, reliable, and robust performance, they are obtrusively heavy and large.
In terms of packaging and placement, most bikes have them mounted high and away from the center of gravity; basically, it’s like carrying around a brick at arm’s length all day.
Luckily, the market for starter batteries has been moving in the direction of new battery technologies with the latest iterations utilizing lithium iron phosphate chemistries.
These batteries are not plagued with the same issues that lithium ion batteries faced (read: exploding when cycled improperly), and are more environmentally friendly and theoretically last longer than the equivalent lead-acid or AGM battery.
We had two companies send us their most popular models for testing and we came away impressed with the weight savings, performance, and overall value that they had to offer.
Many of the electric vehicle blogs that I follow are all buzzing right now over the idea of supercapacitors — well, more accurately, graphene-based supercapacitors, which could potentially solve a few of the issues that EV’s currently face with market adoption.
What’s the big deal? Well with batteries, one can store a great deal of energy in the cells, but the rate of discharge (and the rate of charging) is relatively limited. Capacitors on the other hand have the inverse problem, quick to charge and discharge, the amount of energy that they can hold however, is relatively small.
In theory, supercapacitors have the best qualities of both batteries and capacitors, featuring both high-energy capacities and quick discharge/recharge rates, and in this realm graphene is showing to have very promising results.
Basically a molecule-thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a lattice, until recently producing graphene has been a very laborious undertaking, and one that did not scale well for mass production. However, some clever scientists at UCLA have come up with a relatively cheap and easy way to produce graphene sheets, and the technology bodes well for making supercapacitors a more practical solution for electric vehicles.
Allowing vehicles to rapidly charge (as in within a few minutes, instead of hours), supercapacitors solve the great recharge-time issue with EV’s, and would potentially be on par with gasoline vehicles, if not quicker in this regard.
The down side is that graphene supercapacitors are currently about half as energy-dense as the current crop of lithium-ion batteries, which makes them physically cumbersome in applications like on a motorcycle.
Our first proper leak ahead of the upcoming EICMA show in Milan is now officially in the bag, as Asphalt & Rubber has gotten word on Zero Motorcycles’ 2012 electric motorcycles. Completely revamping its model range, our sources tell us that the 2012 Zero Motorcycles will have all-new motors, battery packs, and bodywork. Talking in numbers, the battery pack options will be 6kWh & 9kWh, with prices expected to be $11,000 and $13,000 respectively. Perhaps the most compelling news (and there’s plenty to be compelled about with this news) is that Zero Motorcycles plans to have the new models under production in December, and on dealer floors by January.
Brammo has another product announcement for us today, as the Oregon-based company is ready to reveal that it is adding the Brammo Enertia Plus to its 2011 line-up. Basically a Brammo Enertia with a power-pack similar to the Brammo Empulse 80, the Brammo Enertia Plus doubles the range of Brammo’s original model from 40 to 80 miles on a single charge.
This moves comes as Brammo attempts to address the “60-mile barrier” that Brammo believes is holding some customers back from pulling the trigger on an electric motorcycle. With 6.0 kWh on-board, the Brammo Enertia Plus still tips the scales at 324lbs like the original model, and pricing will start at $8,995 MSRP. More info, photos, and a video after the jump.
One of the big talking points for electric motorcycles is the subject of price/performance parity, i.e. when electric motorcycles will provide similar performance figures as internal combustion engines (ICE), for the same price. Performance can mean more than just raw power of course, with the cost of a motorcycle over its lifetime also being an important measure.
Considering that ICE motorcycles require more up-keep…and gasoline, the variable costs can stack up over time; whereas electric motorcycles require very little in additional costs, but are more money up-front (fixed costs). If that sounds like a lot of economics and math, it’s ok because a blogger by the name of Empulse Buyer has put together a handy break-even calculator that shows the total cost of owning electric and ICE motorcycles.
By now you’ve surely read about MotoCzysz’s new eDD and it’s “suitcase” chassis design. Recently Asphalt & Rubber got a chance to take a peak into the Portland, Oregon based company’s service bay and take a closer look at the 2009 E1pc D1g1tal Superbike, with a specific interest in its quick-release swappable batteries and unique chassis design. We’ll be covering these innovations in a two-part series, starting today with a never before seen look at the MotoCzysz battery packs. More and photos from Peter Lombardi Kustom Photography after the jump.