Home Motorcycle This electric motorcycle has a super cool new battery

This electric motorcycle has a super cool new battery

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The fuel for an electric vehicle comes from its batteries. These lithium-ion battery cells can be a source of trouble if they have flaws, such as with the recent Chevy Bolt recall. But they are also a fundamental source of innovation. Car manufacturers can introduce new technologies to try to increase their energy density and thus also increase the range of the vehicle.

Today, at an event in New York City, Zero Motorcycles, which make sleek electric two-wheelers, unveiled a new battery architecture that they boast about having around 20% more capacity but weighs around 6 pounds. less. They’re pairing this power pack with a new iteration of their SR motorcycle, which they also unveiled.

Zero’s new battery system is housed in a sleek die-cast aluminum and polycarbonate module. It contains 56 lithium-ion battery cells, which are shaped like rectangular pockets and are about half an inch thick.

Brian Wismann, vice president of product development at Zero, says there were a few changes that allowed them to incorporate the increased capacity into the battery system. One of them concerns modifications to the cells themselves, which Zero purchases from a company called Farasis Energy. “Certainly, cell chemistry has to improve in order to achieve a higher capacity,” says Wismann. “There are improvements to the chemistry itself, and then there are also improvements to the chemical stability of the cell, to allow you to charge at higher voltages.”

At their most basic level, lithium ion batteries have a few key elements in their design. The anode is the negative electrode, while the cathode is the positive. The positively charged lithium ions travel between these two electrodes, shuttling through a liquid electrolyte. A aptly named component called the separator keeps the two electrodes separate. Electrons discharge from the anode when the motorcycle – or cell phone, vacuum cleaner, or whatever – needs juice, traveling through an external circuit and eventually into the cathode. One downside to this liquid electrolyte is that it is flammable, so some companies, like Dyson, are turning to solid-state lithium-ion batteries.

[Related: Why Dyson is going all-in on solid-state batteries]

Managing the heat produced by an electric motorcycle battery as it discharges or charges is a key aspect of the design that Zero had to develop. “With this extra capacity in a small space, you have to deal with some heat, both charging and discharging,” says Wismann. “And if you are trying to figure out how to charge faster, then you have to consider that when a rider plugs in his motorcycle, the battery may already be hot.”

Wissman says they have dealt with this burning issue in several ways. One is to “optimize” its passive heat sinks: die-cast aluminum with ridges on the sides of the battery. These “extract heat from the cell,” he says.

The new battery module, as seen integrated into the company’s SR bike. The ridges are part of a passive aluminum heat sink. Zero

The most dynamic way they are dealing with the heat problem is to add two fans to the battery pack to actively cool it, a new step for the business. These fans could turn “even when the bike is sitting there and charging,” he says.

“This active management allows us to make the most of this new cellular technology,” adds Wissman. “It’s a fairly new approach, and it has been very effective for us in testing so far. ”

[Related: I rode an electric motorcycle for the first time. Here’s what I learned.]

These new batteries will go into three of the company’s chicest bikes, all of which have confusing names: the SR, SR / F, and SR / S. The company literally unveiled the new battery module and its new SR motorcycle today, and Sam Paschel, CEO of the company, explained that increasing battery density leads to better range for bikes; he estimates that the 20% increase in capacity translates on average into a 16% increase in the range of motorcycles equipped with the new module. “The reason you lose a bit over there is that no powertrain, even as efficient as ours, is perfectly efficient,” he says.

The base SR model will hit 104 mph and travel around 156 miles with a city driving load. It starts at around $ 18,000, but you can also spend more money on additional features that will make the electric motorcycle go faster and further.


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