Electric Motorcycles: The Case For KLD Energy Technologies
File under Electrical
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
As we all know, like it or not, electric motorcycles and scooters are the future. More and more manufacturers are coming out with electric bikes, many are start-up companies (Zero, Brammo, Volta, etc), but now even mainstream motorcycle manufacturers are starting to offer real electric motorcycles and scooters. Notably KTM have their real electric off-road motorcycle, the Freeride (article ). Honda has recently announced their first high-powered motorcycle concept (Honda RC-E) at the Tokyo motorshow.
The recent motorcycle exhibition, Eicma 2011, had a plethora of electric motorcycles and scooter (article ).
But not all technologies used are the same. Many, especially low cost Asian manufacturers, bolt on the electric motorcycle/scooter, an engine, controller and batteries, belonging to different suppliers. It's true, that they'll work, give you a decent power and range, but in the long term, they'll give you reliability and cost issues.
There are three important components to an electric motorcycle; the engine, the controller and the battery. American KLD Energy Technologies have a compelling case. This is their story.
KLD, based in Austin, Texas make all three components, not just one. Their technology differs from most other suppliers. Though KLD do not manufacturer, they design the components and ensure the quality of the production from their suppliers.
Most electric engines consist of a stator (the core) and the rotor. The core consists of metal wire coils in which electricity passes through, alternating on and off at a high frequency. That generates the electric magnetic field, that make the rotor turn.
Usually, the stator runs at a maximum frequency of 100 Hertz. Higher frequencies result in overheating, making the engine inefficient and can deteriorate the engine.
An important issue is that if there's a malfunction, requiring engine disassembly, the coil is difficult to remove. It needs to be unwrapped, replaced, and put back together.
This requires specialists, equipment, time and ... money.
The KLD stator (figured above) consists of different blocks, each with its own wiring and other elements. The technology used can run at 2500 Hertz, making the engine more powerful, though the KLD runs at a lower frequency, making the engine more reliable. But having separate stator blocks also means if there's a problem, all that needs to be done is replace one block.
It also means that motorcycle manufacturers can offer an upgrade, since not all stator blocks need to be in place. By increasing the stator blocks (3, 4 or 5), you increase the power. More blocks mean not only more power, but also an increased price. This means that a motorcycle manufacturer, using KLD, can offer entry levels models, with upgrade possibilities.
Typically a scooter will run on 4 blocks, giving speeds of between 80 and 100 kph and a range of 100 km.
Batteries used in electric motorcycles and scooters are cell based. A battery will consist of many different cells, all spot welded together. Eventually, over time, a cell will fail. When the cell fails, the battery reduces its power output, and will require replacement. But replacing a battery is very expensive. And cells will fail over time. It's one of the reasons many manufacturers lease the battery, since replacing them every few years will cost you an arm and a leg. This way, the cost of replacing the battery is spread out over several years.
KLD uses a different approach. Their cells are not welded together. They use an electric laminate strip, connecting the cells together. When a single cell fails, a technician removes the strip and replaces the faulty cell, not the whole battery. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars (200-300US$) for the whole battery replacement, you now replace a few dollars worth of a cell. Replacing a faulty cell can also increases the life of the other cells. Financially, it makes a lot of sense, making the cost of ownership and running cost much more attractive.
In-between the two components, the Engine and the Battery, sits a controller. This is the heart of the bike. It controls the electricity output to not only the engine, but also lights, horn, etc. Since both main components are made by KLD, it makes sense that the controller should also be from the same manufacturer (which is rarely the case in "traditional" motorcycle manufacturers).
The controller is optimized to work with the other two components. The advanced KLD controller can also be configured with profiles, and record data of bike usage, making diagnostics easier and more efficient when things go wrong.
The controller will let you know when a battery cell has become faulty, and regulate the regenerating braking system recovering the kinetic energy, and extending the range of the motorcycle.
Advances in technologies in electric motorcycles are making them more efficient, faster, longer range and more powerful. They are also making them cheaper, and more interesting. Battery technology is becoming the most important factor for making electric motorcycles mainstream. The longer you can ride at decent speeds, the quicker they will become adopted by bikers.
It looks like KLD technologies can make this happen more quicker. Currently, their technology is used by some Asian manufacturers, but interest has been generated by other manufacturers, and I can see others coming on-line. This will make electric motorcycles and scooters better, cheaper and more accessible to all.
Click here to access the KLD Energy Technologies web site .