Better Batteries Are Fueling Electric Scooters

The year 2019 was a huge year for electric cars. The Model 3 sedan was produce by Tesla, Audi launched the e-Tron all electric SUV, Porsche revealed the Taycan sports car, while Daimler stated that it will not be developing next-generation combustion engines but instead focus on electrification.

In developed countries, cars dominate personal transport, while in the developing world two-wheelers, such as motorbikes and motorcycles, account for the majority. Two-wheelers are most popular in India and China, which also contributes to the country’s air pollution problems. Two-wheelers account for approximately 20% of India’s CO2 and 30% of India’s particulate emissions.

37 of the 50 most polluted places in the world are located in India and China. This is why it is imperative to study this sector. However, electric vehicles must be mass-market products. We have examined the requirements for improving batteries.

Driving Electric Range Minimum

An earlier Conversation piece discussed an easy way to calculate the amount of energy an electric vehicle needs to travel for a given range. This usually done using a battery.

Similar to the previous research paper, we also analyzed the battery requirements of electric two-wheelers in order to better understand how they compare with gasoline-powered scooters and motorcycles.

For a range of approximately 100 km (60 miles), we found that a battery pack of 2.5 kilowatt-hours is require. This battery pack is eight times smaller than what would be require to drive the same distance in a sedan. The typical two-wheeler’s daily driving distance is 100 km. However, gas-powered two-wheelers can travel up to 300km with a full tank.

Understanding the two-wheeler’s battery requirements and projected costs of the batteries – another vital factor – will help you to determine when electric two-wheelers can compete with gasoline-powered cars. This allows consumers to better assess whether electric-powered two-wheelers are able to meet their daily driving requirements.

The Cost Challenge

A vehicle must resist three forces in order to move: drag (or resistance from wind), friction from the road, and inertia (or resistance to speed changes). All these factors have an impact on energy storage capacity and battery size.

The battery pack size is limited in an electric car or SUV because of space limitations and weight. This is not an issue for electric two-wheelers, however. Their total storage requirements are significantly lower because they have smaller vehicles and can carry less cargo.

Commercial batteries are generally improving in terms of their specific energy, which is the energy stored relative to its weight. This has an important impact on the range of larger electric vehicles. This is because two-wheelers consume less energy than scooters and motorcycles, so the technical advancements have a negligible effect on their driving range.

The cost of the battery packs is also important. India’s average two-wheeler retail price is US$1,000. The battery pack costs approximately $180/kWh in small-volume markets. This means that electric two-wheelers will need to pay close to $500 just for the battery pack.

The overall trend in battery prices is down, which is something few could have predicted. In 2018, the battery cell price broke $100/kWh for high-volume markets such as electric cars. The trend of declining costs is expected to continue in the next ten years.

Micromobility With Electric Motor

In India and China, there is a strong push to encourage adoption of electric two-wheelers. China accounted for 90% of the 40 million electric two-wheeler sales last year. FAME is a financial incentive program that India launched to encourage the purchase of 86 types of electric two-wheelers.

The small battery pack allows electric two-wheelers to be charged from any regular wall socket. We spoke with Ather Energy’s CEO and principal advisor to NITI Aayog, an Indian policy think-tank poker pelangi.

Ather Energy data shows that the majority of electric-two-wheeler owners charge their bikes at home. A policy push to establish residential charging facilities in large residential buildings, such as apartment complexes and homes, would be a positive step towards adoption and usage.

Micromobility is booming thanks to improvements in battery performance and cost savings. A market is developing for electric scooters as well as electric mopeds, scooters, and one-wheel scooters. Each has a range of between 10-20 km, or six to twelve miles. According to Ark Investment’s analysis, which cites U.S. government data, vehicle trips less than six miles make up about 60% of all trips. However, in terms of trips traveled, they only account for 15%.

The analysis shows there are three main trade-offs in engineering two-wheelers. These are battery pack storage capacity which is translated into driving range, average speed of drivers and cost per kilowatt hour. Many thousands of Asian consumers are already buying electric motor scooters. There’s even an version to the famous Indian scooter, the Bajaj Chetak. We believe that electric scooters will be more popular once manufacturers are able to make two-wheelers with a range of 100 km at a similar price as gas-powered ones.