Yeah, so there I was yesterday checking on news in the elmoto world and finding that if I dug longer than 5 minutes I was transported back months. Well, maybe there’s more going on than that, but I’m not so sure. Ted Dillard’s blog isn’t exactly on fire, nor stories on Inside EVs, Ben “Swing” Rich is writing cool stuff over at Green Car Reports, but again isn’t setting the world on fire with volume. Motorcycle.com seems to actually be doing a descent job keeping on top of this as well. And you can always check Asphalt and Rubber as they have a handy “Electric” category. They are sparse as well, but there also doesn’t seem to be much cross over. This isn’t a criticism, I am just listing what I find as examples to prove the point. There just ain’t much going on these days.
Anyway, I also got in touch with a few people just to say hi. One of them being Harry Malin, you know the guy who won a free Enertia for his blogging skills. I read his reply tonight and it made me think about the progress of tech, or the much slower pace of it. Which, in turn, I feel results in a much slower news cycle. So yeah, that last paragraph had a purpose. I know it was sketchy for a bit, but really it did.
But we watched from the front row as elmoto technology developed at light speed. But it was going to. Motorcycle technology, and sorry if I have written something like this before, has been developed for 100 years. The current understanding of chassis and suspension dynamic are more than just well understood. As well as how to they should handle, feel, accelerate, and be raced. These are all well established components of motorcycle technologies. So all the work that has to be done is the drive side. Well we’ve been making electric motors and controllers for years, but not for vehicle, well performance vehicles. And we’ve been making batteries for years, but not ones with lithium ion chemistry. So the battery chemistry allowed us to try thing and immediately we ran into road blocks, compounded by the size and weight restraints inherent to a motorcycle design. We used motors that were intended for fork lifts, ingenious air cooled DC motors, and crazy-giant-super-heavy and powerful motors. Well, as we out the power to the motors they melted and/or self destructed. Then one we got that settled down with very compact liquid cool AC motors we found the poor controller couldn’t take the power from the pack that the motor was demanding. And before all that we built packs that burst into flames and we learned all about battery chemistry. And those not on the leading edge of battery technology learned the packs had to be balanced, and have super stout controls and monitors built into the packs. But these were lessons also being learned by the EV folks. And now the ultimate is liquid cooling everything. But with all the knowledge out there, and so many people developing (or trying to anyway) at once these problems were getting solved, and quickly. We started with the little Zero and shortly after that the Enertia and race bikes that were very primitive. Now we have everything from the Zero FX (which I hear is a straight up hooligan bike) to the Energica Ego45 (or the Lightning LS-218 if I was more secure in people’s ability to buy one). Both bikes that book end this spectrum are arguably hooligan bikes and could get you put in jail faster than you can say “WTF!?”. We have come a very long way in just a short time. But I think it was shorter than many of the noobs know. Nothing has changed much in the last 3 years. We have received minor improvements from both Brammo and Zero, and CRP over the last few years. Really CRP’s specs haven’t changed much sinced they annoyed the Energica I don’t even know how long a go. 4 years I think. They just actually managed to deliver what they set out. Actually I they deserve some kind of award for that. The Zeros have changed little. Every year you can count on Luke to eek out just that much more capacity out of the packs, and more heat resistant magnets, and occasionally a bit more power. There have been even less advances made on the Empulse street bike. The big prototypes have hit a controller tech wall, and they are still “only” putting out when turned all the way up. Actually Brammo was up to 180hp last I knew and that was a long while ago. And they haven’t made any more progress because their racer’s were telling them they had enough power (no, seriously), they bike needed to handle better. Well, mostly they just wanted it lighter, but still. We have already reached a point where, and did over a minute ago, major tech gains result in relatively minor performance gains. We’re right there with the gas guys at this point.
Really we are making larger gains than them still, but we are in refinement mode and waiting for a few massive leaps in technology. Battery chemistry is the biggest one we are looking for. But almost as big, yet much more subtle, advancements have been made in batteries. Mostly quality, stability, and regulation. It used to be you orded a bunch of cells and you had to order 25% more than you needed because so many were not up to spec. Not really a problem I hear about any more. They have really started to refine Li-ion chemistries and the battery cells pack just that bit more energy into themselves, and do it much more reliably. I have much less concern over batteries catching fire than I did just a few years ago. even in the hobby batteries. Batter Management Systems and Smart chargers a major reason why these batteries are safer now. All of this stuff has come so far that I fare say we are pretty ready for the next leap in chemistry giving us the range and power we want. The second break through wee need is in controller technology. They crack that egg and 300-400hp motorcycles well be an easy thing to do. Right now the bottle neck seems to a touch over 200hp for a battery powered bike due to the size and the heat they can (or can’t) take. But these aren’t the Zero controllers you put on your S. 😉 I’m not sure what bottle neck the motor will throw at us one these issues are hurdled, but I am sure someone does.
So here we sit with continual, but not particularly exciting, improvements being made. Waiting, so we can watch the next frenzy. The question is, will we see new models introduced from Polaris, or Zero even, to wet our appetites? Or is the tech still to infantile to make adding yet another seriously expensive bike to their line up, make business sense.