Electric vehicles break range barriers

STORM electric motorcycle featuring modular battery packs. - Electric vehicles break range barriers

The biggest barriers for electric motorcycles are range and recharging times, but now a couple of achievements are set to break those barriers.

A Dutch university team called STORM (pictured above) has completed an 80-day World Tour with its electric motorcycle and Spanish renewable energy company Acciona has finished this month’s Dakar Rally in an electric rally car.

Acciona electric rally car featuring modular battery packs. - Electric vehicles break range barriers
Acciona electric rally car

What both of these projects have in common are modular power packs made of individual lithium battery modules that can quickly be replaced.  No need to sit around for hours waiting to recharge a battery.

STORM electric motorcycle featuring modular battery packs. - Electric vehicles break range barriers
STORM electric motorcycle features hexagonal-shaped modular battery packs which can quickly be replaced

Charging infrastructure

The US is installing more and more quick-charging stations, thanks to a recent partnership between BMW and Nissan who have opened 174 more outlets.

However, even with a total of 668 dual-port DC fast-charging stations across the country, it’s still nowhere near enough.

And by “quick-charging” they still mean at least half an hour to charge a flat battery to about 80%, depending on the size of the battery.

That’s a lot longer than the five minutes it takes to fill and pay for fuel for your motorcycle.

Barriers to EVs

Surely the answer is in developing standard-sized battery module replacements so you can quickly change a battery or a module or two and be on your way.

However, that requires everyone in the industry to adhere to standard-sized modules. It’s a bit like the old VHS/Beta debacle.

So long as motorcycle and car manufacturers go their separate ways with electric powertrains and battery technology, the barriers of limited range and slow recharging times will continue to be an issue.

Growing range

Meanwhile, range of electric vehicles is continuing to grow.

Zero Motorcycles claims a maximum of 320km on their Zero SR with an expensive power pack and the Tesla Model S 100 D claims range of 540km on a single charge.

But those distances may be eclipsed by UK-based start-up Vigo Motorcycles which claims an unbelievable 640km of range.

While they are not yet revealing how they can achieve such a figure, they are also claiming the 160kg sportsbike will reach a top speed of 290km/h, go from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds and cost about $A13,000.

However, it’s all just “on paper” or, at least, “on screen” at the moment. They are yet to produce a working prototype for which they are seeking crowdfunding.

Given how investors were burnt by the Skully head-up display helmet crowdfunding debacle where the money was squandered on fast cars and women, it may be difficult to secure the necessary funding.

The words “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” seem to be ringing loudly in our ears.

One barrier the EV industry does not need is false promises.

9 Comments

  1. I’m not that chained to my “noises” that I would not entertain buying an electric moto – but the charge times and range are the big killer with current technology.
    Now if we had something like : http://www.topspeed.com/motorcycles/motorcycle-news/nuclear-powered-motorbike-2050-version-2-ar81780.html
    then I’d be VERY interested, as long as they didn’t make it look so damned awful.
    Then you just pull into your “servo” after a few years when your isotope is depleted, and they exchange …just like BBQ bottles.

  2. Gentleriders: can I suggest you direct your attention to Z Electric Vehicles website? We’re talking bikes, not cars, aren’t we?

    They are test marketing battery-powered scooters and motorbikes, made in the U.S. and selling hundreds per year.

    Yes. it’s early days yet, but 283 k’s @ 80 k/hr range is encouraging and so is a top speed of 150 k/hr. for these products which are all in a price range you and I can afford – right now.

    With battery prices dropping 40% per kw/hr between ’14 and 15, and even further last year, we’ve seen enormous improvement towards really affordable power packs for two-wheelers.

    I’ll plug in my transport overnight to charge up and find my costs per kilometer one-sixth of my petrol machines. Forget noise, fumes, oily servicing and ask yourself what you really want from your set of wheels.

    1. What do I really want form my set of wheels?

      Lots of noise and good vibrations!

      And the ability to ride it to Sydney to buy a morning paper if I feel like it!

      With a 5 minute fill at the gas station and not sitting around waiting for the thing to charge!

      And did I mention noise?

      And lot of good vibrations!

      And don’t foget the exhaust sound either!

  3. Watching that Elon Musk fella the other day. He reckons that one day soon, with his solar roof tiles, powerwall lithium battery technology, inverters etc, a house in a place like Australia would be pretty much self-sufficient in electricity – including powering up an electric vehicle or two. So if this is not all pie in the sky, I wonder how is the government going to replace all the lost fuel excise revenue and GST? Must admit I would love to give government and the oil companies the middle finger, but can an electric bike ever have the character of a V4 or a big twin?

      1. Elon Musk is full of it. I live off-grid and recently had to replace my battery bank, due to the manufacturer of the bank we originally installed changing the way it manufactures its cells so that they only last half as long now as they used to before the company was bought out.

        We ended up with German gelled lead-acid cells ($27,000 worth installed), as lithium still has a long way to go. Even if Tesla’s Powerwall were compatible with off-grid systems (which they aren’t; they use a voltage that’s only compatible with grid-fed hybrid systems), they are not suitable for stand-alone systems due to capacity and ambient temperature limits. Their maximum capacity also diminishes very quickly by comparison to other technologies. To be able to charge electric vehicles from a solar home would require at least two vehicles for alternate days, unless the driver works night shift. It’s not practical to charge batteries, or in fact use any unnecessary equipment, when the sun is not shining and especially at night, as that just destroys the household bank much more quickly (exponentially in fact, when average Depth of Discharge is compared to battery cycles, or lifespan).

        I can see issues with battery-swap stations for electric vehicles, such as when a driver wants to swap his five-year old nearly cactus battery for one that is not so old. I can’t see such stations being willing to wear those sorts of losses, so there would have to be a hefty fee at each exchange. I do look forward to current limitations being sorted out though, as even without taking global warming into account, fossil fuels, like everything else on planet Earth, are a finite resource – we’ve already passed peak oil.

        1. To be fair, I should have added that LG Chem lithium batteries can be used in an off-grid situation, as they are a normal 48V DC battery, but are only really suitable for weekenders or small households that don’t need to run modern appliances like electric refrigerators, unless they are prepared to run the backup generator set quite a lot.

          Elon Musk of Tesla is a marketing genius, but his products don’t live up to the hype. All you need to do is research how many owner complaints about the build quality of Tesla electric vehicles there are: it’s right up there with the likes of Dodge, Jeep and Rover.

  4. My son recently rode a zero and said it was a brilliant commuter. Just needs charging every night.
    Front brake however was very weak.

  5. I still believe that electric cars (and bikes) are the next big thing. And they will always be the next big thing. The issues of battery interchangeability (or lack thereof) is the issue. Besides which.. who wants to ride a bike that doesn’t roar and growl as you twist the throttle and give it the beans?

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