Smart (e-)bikes battery manufacturers still prefer low cost and simplicity

E-bikes and pedelecs convince more and more people of biking to work. One of the vital parts of these bikes is the battery. Today, for the design of battery packs cost and simplicity still win from a longer battery life and higher capacity.

Imagine yourself behind the steering wheel of your car. It is eight o’clock in the morning and the speed at which you are traveling approaches zero. You are stuck in the daily traffic jam to work. Again.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could let this all behind you and cycle to work every morning? A bit of workout in the open air. A lot of people are reluctant because of the effort hurdle, the distance to travel, the hassle of changing clothes after a sweaty ride… An e-bike solves a large part of these pain points. That is also what is seen in the statistics: more and more people use e-bikes and speed pedelecs to do their daily trip from and to the office. And the upward trend continues strongly.

An e-bike solves a large part of the pain points of cycling to work

One of the vital parts of those pedelecs is the battery. In theory, all the (Li-ion) batteries used, are quite identical in structure. They all have a specific number of basic cells, chained to each other to provide the necessary voltage and current. At the heart of the pack a battery management system is indispensable. This system ensures that the cells are charged and discharged properly and that every constraint or condition is met. Typical for the battery packs used in electrical bikes (or other vehicles) is that they are regularly charged and discharged. An interesting research project, conducted by the KU Leuven, campus Ghent, checked if the commercial vendors of those packs follow the guidelines as presented in literature. The outcome appears to be quite surprising.

Without going too much into detail, one could say that the battery management systems in the different battery packs excel in simplicity. Where literature provides evidence of better taking certain constraints into account, the systems on the market by and large ignore this wisdom to the benefit of cost and simplicity. Apparently, most makers of battery packs don’t see the business case in designing a more sophisticated management system to ensure a longer battery life – or at least a longer time at a higher capacity.

With a little more consideration and design effort the lifetime and the capacity of the battery packs could be significantly extended

Just to be clear, the different commercially available battery packs are all safe and can act as a suitable power source for the modern e-bikes and pedelecs. It just seems a pity that with a little more consideration and design effort the lifetime and the capacity of the battery packs could be significantly extended. Might there be a significant business opportunity luring around the corner?

Regarding battery life and quality, one also must consider the convenience of charging them. In a conventional use case cyclists use a power chord to plug-in their battery after a long bike ride. When looking to Smart Mobility solutions like bike sharing facilities and rental services for e-bikes, this default manner of charging is not that obvious. Entrepreneurs in this field are looking more and more to alternative ways, such as inductive charging. For the moment the technological developments are following each other at a very high pace, but the dream of cheerfully leaving your bike just about anywhere to have it recharged is still a bit too farfetched.