“We really think this is the future,” explains Riley. “Lithium is still a small percentage of the battery market, less than 5 percent, but we are No. 1 in market share.”
Shorai makes a premium priced battery, but one that offers tangible benefits: Dealers can make money. Performance-minded sportbike riders were early adopters of lithium battery, but the lower maintenance needs and more environmentally friendly aspects of lithium batteries can attract buyers on all sorts of machines. Shorai’s energy dense battery is smaller, making fitment options more flexible.
“Our products are a good upsell, with raw profit better that traditional batteries,” states Riley. “Dealers only have 22 battery case SKUs, making Shorai very easy to stock. And for a dealer with 100 bikes on the showroom floor, a battery that doesn’t self-discharge could be very useful to have.”
The next big step for Shorai is to make the jump to OEM supplier. According to Riley, several OEMs have pursued this path but are cost-conscious. Engineering relationships need to be forged to make the most of LFX technology. And while Shorai was the first lithium battery supplier to make an impact, the lithium battery market is quickly heating up with new options for consumers. Alien Motion claims to have the best weight-savings-to-dollar ratio of any available powersports battery, and EarthX offers a made-in-the-USA lithium battery that boasts its own internal processor for cell balancing.
RECHARGING THE FUTURE
Of course, lithium batteries already serve a primary role in electric motorcycles. But one of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle proliferation is limited range, so improvements in battery energy storage are being hunted by engineers in the motorcycle, auto and aerospace industries.
One hunter is Abe Askenazi, chief technology officer for Zero Motorcycles. Askenazi is clear on the limitations of current battery technology but is also positive on the potential improvements that he believes are right around the corner.
Askenazi explains that before the electric motorcycle could be built, battery chemistry had to be developed to match a bike’s needs. Prior to the boom in electric vehicles, lithium batteries were built with a focus on energy storage for things like consumer electronics or with a focus on power delivery for items like cordless power tools. Neither chemistry offered the strength in both areas required to power a motorcycle.
“There was no power and energy combo,” explains Askenazi. “Along came NMC [nickel manganese cobalt] that gave really good power and density.”
Compared to the horsepower and torque specs that powersports enthusiasts usually discuss, battery energy and power represent different types of performance. Battery power represents the maximum discharge rate that a battery system can achieve and thus the maximum amount of work (kW or HP) it can support. (Continued)