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E-Motorcycle Standardised Battery Problem

Blog Date - 10 September 2020

I saw an article online the other day regarding the 4 big Japanese manufacturers. They're going to try an put aside their business rivalry and work together to create a standardised battery for e-motorcycles. There is a great deal of logic in this. If you know anything about electric vehicles you'll know the biggest stumbling block at present is the combination of fairly low range and long charging times. 

For a rider like myself a good portion of my journeys are under 50 miles. A ride to see mother, 20 miles round trip. Sharon's place is 27 to 40 miles away depending on route choice but I could charge up when there. There and back to see my son, about 40 to 50 miles. I have 3 local town centres around me all within a 15 mile round trip for any shopping I need. Most of my friends are within a 25 mile radius.

Ren's CBF125 without the engine in place, showing a space where an electric motor could be
I reckon I could get a battery and motor in there just fine.

As such most e-motorcycles would suit my needs just fine. Then it all falls apart if I decide I want to go and see my dad, 280 miles away. If I want to go camping even somewhere comparatively close like North Wales or Derbyshire? Nope. A trip to Scotland just wouldn't be practical even with a 2 week window.

It seems reasonable to expect a modern e-motorcycle to come with a range of, let's be generous, 100 miles. It's still "sub optimal" but that's a match for the 100 miles my old SLR650 could cover before needing fuel and I got that around Scotland just fine. How? Because there are lots of fuel stations and filling up takes what, 3 to 5 minutes if you include going to pay. Filling up isn't TOO inconvenient.

But waiting 2 hours for an 80% charge or 5 to 8 hours for a full charge? That's a whole new pain-in-the-derriere. 

An old Bradex 8 battery charger
Might take a while longer with this old thing.

The idea then is rather than waiting to charge a battery you simply swap your now mostly discharged battery for a standardised and already fully charged battery. I can visualise a big honking box with a handle that slides into and out of the bike somehow. So you'd pull into the station, pull your battery out and insert a charged battery, and of course pay someone. The discharged battery would be put on charge as you ride away.

A badly made digital Battery Swapping Station
Artistic rendering of a futuristic BatteryStation.

What an absolutely wonderful idea!!! But it is most definitely NOT without problems.

So let us skip the competitive issues and imagine all motorcycle manufacturers could agree on a standard format. Let us call this RenBat1. Over the next 3 or 4 years lots and lots of motorcycles are sold with RenBat1 standardised batteries and lots and lots of battery stations pop up across the country and the world. We're all whizzing around saving the environment, charging up at home mostly but on longer trips or if we forgot to charge we can "fill up" at a station. 

A simple drawing of what RenBat1 may look like
Welcome to RenBat1! 

Motorcycle manufacturers make money by selling motorcycles, just like TV manufacturers make money by selling TVs. Modern TVs are reliable so how do you sell more TVs? You have to create new standards. HiDef, you know it makes sense. HiDef is old hat now you need 4k! 4k, it's like watching in black and white, you need 8K. And so on and so on.

So we establish RenBat1. Move forwards 3, 4 or 5 years and of course tech has moved on with better chemicals, better metallurgy, new fangled whatsists and Quantum flux capacitors. RenBat1 is just SO last year! We now have RenBat2. RenBat1 and RenBat2 are compatible. Fine, cool. 

But wait! The new RenBat3 is here with Shifting Hyper One Technology! (S.H.One-T.) and this runs at 72 volts unlike the 48 volts from RenBat1 and RenBat2. RenBat3 is not compatible. So all your RenBat1 and RenBat2 motorcycles will soon be defunct save for home charging.

This is my biggest concern re a standardised battery. The principle is an effective solution and an easy sell too, I just fear a back door to incredibly effective planned obsolescence. 

Ren wants to test ride and review electric motorcycles. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Evolution can be painful, change can be even worse.
Electric vehicles are nothing new, 100 + years and counting and some have done a decent job, milk floats for example.
This evolution will be politically driven and heavy penalties in the form of taxes will deter many of those that try to fight it.
Range anxiety and cost are the two main issues holding back wholesale adoption of electric vehicles and that will not change for many years to come, but when you think that driving and riding are seen as unnecessary by many of today's young then perhaps personal use electric vehicles are also destined to encounter an early demise.
I personally can't imagine I would ever purchase a touring motorcycle with a 100 mile range even with interchangeable batteries. But we'll see.
Shifting Hyper 1 Technology, I see what you did there, don't you ate that expression.....

10/09/2020 01:06:48 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll be interested to watch and see if The Big Four come up with a standard and then see if it is ever adopted.

The real solution to EVs will be the discovery/development of a new battery technology that can give both good range and rapid charge. If I were to say to you that you may only get 100 miles range but you can recharge in 5 minutes OR a 300 mile range with maybe a 15 minute charge, would you be tempted? I certainly would be.

I'm dreaming of no tappets and small ends to wear out. I'm imagining a world with perhaps hub mounted motors hence no chains, belts or shafts (unsprung weight issues though). No rusty pipes too. I know I know, it will be far from perfect. There will be computers, there will be battery issues and there will be the typical wheel bearings and head bearings and leaky shocks and so on.
10/09/2020 02:37:29 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Living in a household that tries to be green I have been watching the evolution of electric vehicles with interest and some scepticism.

Our house roof is fitted with a bank of Thermomax solar tubes which provide free and sometimes too much hot water for 9 months of the year. Resources used = very low, carbon emissions form the pump = negligible. This makes greensense to me. As do photovoltaics and domestic wind turbines.

The energy for electric cars and bikes still has to be produced somewhere,so these vehicles simply shift the pollution elsewhere if the source is hydrocarbons. It does make sense when most energy is coming from national solar or wind or when it is produced on the roof of your house.

There are several people near us who have e-bikes and who love them to bits, the main benefit being that they encourage exercise, rather than save the planet. The best has a range of 70 miles. Might suit you Ren? You might look good in the lycra too.
10/09/2020 02:40:14 UTC
Upt'North said :-
300 miles and a fifteen minute charge...... Yes please.
Sub £10,000 or £200.00 per month on a PCP for 10,000 miles year....... Yes please.
Clean energy to provide all this...... Yes please.
Will it ever happen?
I am not a nay sayer or a technophobe, well perhaps a bit, I mean I've got a colour TV and a Huawei tablet on my lap, but electric or hybrid vehicles are not really being made to save the planet, they are to make people rich. The unfortunate part there is it's not us.
10/09/2020 04:07:16 UTC
Ross said :-
I think battery vehicles could be a blind alley, as well as the problems you outlined, is there enough natural resources to make all the batteries needed?

The need to upgrade to RenBat 3 could be bypassed by people opting for PCP type loans rather than outright ownership, which would work well with leasing a battery and not having to worry about an expensive replacement if it fails or no longer holds a reasonable charge...youngsters are used to this type of deal with their phones so it seems a natural extension...assuming you need to 'own' a personnel transport device in the future, what with us all(!) working from home now! Modern life is complicated!
10/09/2020 04:25:38 UTC
Upt'North. said :-
I think most manufacturers offer a generous warranty on batteries, for cars at least, I think the industry norm would be a warranted 70% capacity over 10 years or so many charge cycles. But this may be for first owner only of course so its probably worthless in reality.
And 70% of not a lot is just even less.
Complicated you say? I wonder if steam could make a comeback?
10/09/2020 04:43:43 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Damn and blummin blast, thwarted by a genius again

Posted Image
10/09/2020 04:50:14 UTC
David Barwick said :-
The Spanish made scooter Silence S01 uses the cartridge battery system Ren describes, and they are also working on a battery swapping station system (in Spain initially)


There is a very positive review of the E Scoot here;

Re; test rides on E-motorcycles, I am fortunate to live near the English Electric Motor co. in Suffolk, and recently rode 2 (125cc equivelant) models, the Super Socco T-Max, and the Horwin C6.

The owner Alec is a really nice guy, and they even offer (your)doorstep demos (at a cost, distance dependant)

I would love to have an electric blke, and really liked the Horwin, however the current (no pun) technology means range anxiety and the investment (£5000, chinese made) as "an early adopter" sadly put me off.

Honda are rumoured to be developing an E-version of their CB125R;
They already have a Hybrid PCX 125, and a full E-version but sadly not for European market currently.

David, Norfolk.
Posted Image
10/09/2020 07:37:35 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I'm just not interested in any sort of EV on the market at the moment. Oh, and they're really not at all good for the environment either.

I'm pinning my hopes on the development of solid state batteries. Development is in the early stages at the moment, but apparently its theoretically possible to make then out of non toxic, easily available chemicals, and the charge time is potentially very quick too at about 5 to 10 mins. However, this technology may turn out to be another nuclear fusion, and never quite get there. Even if this technology does arrive, there's still the problem of generating all the electricity to recharge all the batteries and the mist probable way of doing so at the moment would be with nuclear power stations which are hardly good for the environment either.

An outsider is hydroen power using fuel cells. Yet another outsider is the good old ICE. Formula 1 is hoping to be carbon neutral sometime in the near future using modern, hi tech two strokes (ha, eat your heart out Ren!) and synthetic fuel. I don't know if this technology is scalable up to mass production, but I certainly hope so!
10/09/2020 07:53:27 UTC
Bogger said :-
Sniff, blub. But I really like the modern internal combustion engine. They are brilliant, sniff.

10/09/2020 08:32:07 UTC
Snod said :-
Why does no one mention supercapacitors any more? :(
10/09/2020 09:00:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I am presently working on my fusion reactor. The science minded among you will know there are projects around the world trying to "crack" the fusion problem. The thing is we need to reach temperatures in the millions of degrees to get hydrogen to turn into helium and release energy as the Sun does.

Another option is high pressure, usually due to the effects of gravity. Regular readers will know Sharon is the Queen of super extra mega tight packing, managing to get 3.7 gigatonnes of clothing, shoes and things that girls seem to need into a pannier. This presently has the effect of gravitational lensing which does cause some strange visual disturbances while watching her ride. I think if I tell her we're going away for more than 4 weeks she will eventually create a localised singularity, a "personal" black hole. This ought to produce enough energy to power a motorcycle indefinitely.

My only concern is when she reaches critical mass what will be the results? Time could slow to a stop (this already happens as I wait for her to pack) and there is a risk we could disappear up ourselves. Some would argue I already have.
11/09/2020 10:38:11 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I think your more immediate concern should be the small but deadly thermo nuclear explosion that will occur when Sharon reads your last comments Ren. I'd start running now...
11/09/2020 11:00:45 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Flywheel energy storage was implemented on the Swiss tram network for a while as I recall. This stored, then recovered energy that would otherwise be lost during braking. Ideally this technology needs either a huge slow wheel or a light, very fast spinning one contained in a vacuum to hold sufficient energy to be practicable. One advantage on a bike is that the machine could be parked upright or inclined without the need for a side or centre stand owing to gyroscopic stabilisation. How cool would that look outside the Ace Cafe?

I might at some time be tempted by an electric bicycle or motorcycle, provided it is not made in China. I cannot understand why the UK government does not encourage re-deployment of skilled staff currently being laid off at RollsRoyce, British Aerospace, etc, towards the redesign and manufacture of new technostuff like this. Britain could be at the centre of another industrial revolution, rather than 'service industries'. Take a look at the current explosion in sales of drones, none made in Britain (or Europe) but all containing inventions that WE have made.

Oh dear, that's got me started. Time to get out the inflatable soap box that I always carry. Pump .. pump ...
11/09/2020 11:57:40 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I agree with so many comments and disagree with probably as many. Yes, battery technology isn't perfect - but just look at how it's come on in the last few years. Yes, we need to generate the electricity somehow - and I agree with Pete re nuclear - but solar and wind are becoming more efficient and cheaper by the day. And we have a much neglected resource in tidal energy for which there are several very promising schemes. Don't forget the Rance barrage in Brittany has been generating for decades. But of course we threw away the option for the Severn barrage preferring to pay billions to the Chinese and French (as well as committing all of us to higher electricity bills) for Hinkley Point. It's worth noting that the Flamanville power station, to the same design, is about 10 years behind schedule and is still not running - unlike Rance.

Of course fusion power is a non-starter being 20 years away as it always has been and always will be. But we have a giant fusion reactor in the sky providing far more power than we can ever use. It's called the sun and it's free.

Fuel cells are another promising avenue but this (and previous) governments seem to have preferred to support the financial services "industry" rather than manufacturing and research despite the warm words about "levelling up". It's been this way since Thatcher....

We could also invest in making our homes more energy efficient - we're about the worst in Europe - currently so much fossil fuel is burnt just heating up the walls and roofs.

I commend to Mark Noel a slim volume produced in the 1970s by the Lucas aerospace Trade Unions. See link below. We've been here (many times) before and each time governments have chosen short-termism and ideology over rational planning for what is needed rather than what makes good daily mail headlines.
11/09/2020 12:18:23 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Here, here and all the wind turnines, solar panels and wave thingymabobs can all be installed South of Birmingham. We've got enough crap cluttering up our landscape already thank you very much.
Or maybe the Isle of Man..........how to make friends and influence people?

11/09/2020 01:38:43 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Oh, and re gyroscopes - OK till you want to take a corner. Precession may prove interesting.....

As for wind turbines I love them and think they actually enhance many landscapes.
11/09/2020 04:43:43 UTC
Upt'North said :-
If I wanted to look at blummin windmills I'd visit clog land.
The last straw was when they festooned Windylaw with the god awful things which are all clearly seen from Lindisfarne........criminal.
Put the things on brownfield sites in the areas that use the flaming energy.
Rant over.
11/09/2020 05:25:51 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
We all seem to have a wide range of views on this subject! If it were a perfect world for the generation of electricity fusion would theoretically be the cleanest solution but as Ian states for over 50 years this has been about 20 years away. In the meantime we're struggling with projects that may be renewable but have a negative impact on the local environment, be it the 3 gorges dam in China flooding vast swathes of the country or your next door neighbour's back yard wind turbine.

My hope is that we KEEP on working this problem. Much like Tour-A-Plank there will be plenty of failures, lots of dead ends, minor incremental improvements and perhaps one day a workable solution. We don't know what that solution will be or how long it will take to achieve but if we stop looking for it we'll never find it. We can't just keep on burning stuff we dig out of the ground.

Much like Bogger I do enjoy the internal combustion engine. It's visceral, tangible, it almost feels alive! I recall my Grandad's love of steam trains, something I too appreciate but much like steam - petrol and diesel motors will become museum pieces or tinker toys. My dad is a member of Amberley Museum and enjoys spending a day or two each week bashing big lumps of metal together then playing choo-choos on a short stretch of narrow gauge. One day that could be me, fixing my antiquated CBF125 so that kids can see how silly old men used to get about "in the olden days".
12/09/2020 10:40:46 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
It's sunny this morning and our solar tubes are already registering 80C, so the tank will be piping hot by noon in time for the washing machine to go on, make tea straight out of the tap and for us to have deep, free baths.

In July and August the bank of 60 tubes produce so much energy that we have to run off hot water down the drain, as the circuit valve shuts and the tubes stagnate at 150C. If only I could convert that into steam and generate electricity then life would be eco-perfect.

My strong view is that all new house builds should be compelled to include thermal hot water or solar cells on their roofs. It simply makes good sense and the cost of the kit will fall as the numbers increase, plus jobs will be created. If we still had a residual engineering base then the UK could make the equipment too. The Conservatives promised to be the 'the greenest government ever' but have withdrawn subsidies, the feed-in tariff, press on with HS2 and plans to build 300,000 houses per year. How green is that?

As for objections to wind turbines: well I have never heard anyone complain about the forest of electricity pylons which blight the English landscape, and yet turbines are much more attractive in my view.

Then folks who are petrified of nuclear power are quite happy to ignore coal mining accidents, associated air pollution, slag heaps (which release radon gas) and buildings rotting by acidified rain.

My portable soap box is now fully inflated as you can guess!
12/09/2020 12:43:54 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Shucks. The sun went in and the water stayed cold. With a cloudy forecast for the next week it looks as if my bath will have to wait until next weekend or even October when it might be sunny. Fortunately we are not expecting visitors.
12/09/2020 07:00:57 UTC
ROD said :-
Interesting thread.

The problem for myself is not the technology of batteries ect, but generation of the power and the cost.

As already stated the majority of the power produced is not likely to be green.

The cost problem is this. Many think that EV are very cheap to run and this is the main attraction for them, but I believe this low cost is political. If you take the tax off of the petrol/diesel this fuel is cheap (look at the cost differential around the world), so if the government looses this tax revenue from petrol/diesel it will tax the new EV in a way to compensate. This may be a tax directly on electricity, although this is unlikely as domestic use would also be taxed. It is more likely that batteries, road pricing, or annual road tax will be introduced/increased.

However I do feel the new EV on the horizon is being factored in to new vehicle purchasing decisions now.
13/09/2020 11:17:48 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"As already stated the majority of the power produced is not likely to be green."

People keep saying this. Have a look at the link below which shows the electricity generation from various sources. Currently renewables are at 59% although this is an instantaneous figure. There is absolutely no reason why this can't be increased massively given the political will (which at the moment is sadly lacking I grant you).

We should be identifying ways of redeploying the millions who will be losing their jobs from areas such as hospitality into more socially useful ways of occupying their time. Green revolution anyone?
13/09/2020 03:48:13 UTC
Ross said :-
Interesting to read about your solar water heating, Mark, we've got solar PV panels on our roof and they've proved to be a good investment what with what we save on gas and electric bills and get payed for surplus electricity going back in to the grid, plus we also have a 'solar boost' gadget the uses surplus electricity to heat our hot water by powering the electric immersion heater in the water tank. We just need to remember to run the dishwasher and washing machine during the day when the sun is shinning!

Rod, re the cost of running an EV, some are suggesting that part of the push for smart meters in the home is so that the system will 'know' when you're charging your EV and charge you accordingly...personally I think road pricing is more likely, but who knows for sure!?
14/09/2020 03:07:26 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Thanks for the valued input, Ross.

We have a bank of 60 Thermomax tubes which generate hot water 9 months of the year. The system is not 'fit and forget' and we did have one or two problems after it was installed 13 years ago. We opted for more than the recommended 20 because I originally wanted to store excess heat via a borehole into the rock beneath the driveway but in the end did not. As a result there is too much power and half of the tubes must be turned over in June (to present the shiny side to the sun) thus cutting the output.

We are now seriously considering solar PV now that the cost has come down and the power per panel has risen. The key issue is storage, which in your case is via hot water and in ours would have to be batteries. There is little incentive to feed back into the grid because the Manx Electricity authority pay only half of the consumer charge. What fraction do you get per unit in the UK?

We are on the cusp of deciding on a system either on the roof or an array in the field adjoining. The key driver has to be to cut carbon rather than to make money.
19/09/2020 05:18:09 UTC
Ross said :-
Hi Mark,
Warning, other BAT’ies should probably look away now unless you’ve got a weird interest in solar PV subsidies…
… being a government scheme, solar payments aren’t straight forward here! Basically, I have a 20 year contract with the energy company and the FIT (feed in tariff) is made up of two elements…the amount you ‘actually’ generate and a ‘deemed’ payment (they assume you give 50% of what you generate back to the grid). These two separate rates are adjusted each year for inflation and are currently 14.65 pence per unit for generation and 5.50 pence per unit for deemed. These figures apply to the contract that I have and was set up several years ago, but I understand that later contracts aren’t as generous as the government looks to reduce the subsidy. In a further twist, there is a push on to convert everyone to ‘smart’ metres which means FIT payments are no longer available on new installations and you are only payed for what you export to the grid (smart export guarantee) the amount of which is set by individual power companies!

Our system was installed in 2015 and I’m close to break-even on the initial investment! :) Sorry to have droned on, but hopefully I’ve got it all about right and it’s of some use!

21/09/2020 09:58:46 UTC
Mark Noel said :-

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it does seem to complicated enough already and with 'smart meters' and and the loss of FIT payments the disincentive is rising for new UK installations.

The problem for us is that Manx Utilities seem to want to discourage feed-in from solar installations because they have a huge mortgage to pay on the power station and so need to maximise their profits. However, since the IOM is a designated Biosphere Reserve there is a growing movement to push the government to encourage solar, wind and tide.

For some strange reason many people here are installing ground source heat pumps in the belief that their heating bills will drop dramatically. I simply do not understand the physics of this: you are effectively using electricity to refrigerate the soil, consuming energy for a small thermal return. It makes much more sense to install solar hot water or PV. After all the sun cannot be refrigerated!
21/09/2020 11:05:38 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Heat pumps are in fact much more efficient (ie in terms of input watts per BTU produced) as instead of burning fuel directly to produce heat they're just moving the energy from one place to another. And of course they work equally well in reverse as air conditioners. But they are very expensive to install.

I agree that using that big fusion reactor in the sky either directly via PV etc or indirectly by wind / wave power is probably better.

But you're probably just flying another kite......
21/09/2020 03:52:36 UTC
Upt'North said :-
We stayed at a rental last week that had an air source heat pump, it worked well enough with the underfloor heating. I don't know about the running costs though.
The pumps are a little noisy but you'd get used to it I'm sure.
I have stayed in a rental with a ground source heat pump and it seemed a little problematic and complicated.
I think all these pumps work better with underfloor rather than with traditional radiators which seem to run just too cold to be of any use.
21/09/2020 05:36:11 UTC

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