Power Electronics

Batteries Take to the Road in Electric Scooters

The latest generation of NiMH and Li-ion batteries is finding its way into electric scooters, bicycles, Segways and other forms of personal transportation. The new scooters and bikes answer demands for emissions-free transportation, particularly in congested urban areas. The introduction of NiMH and Li-ion batteries in these “personal transporters” extends driving range over what may be obtained using NiCd batteries.

As evidence of these trends, consider the adoption of Valence Technology’s Saphion Li-ion technology in Oxygen S.pA.’s electric scooters and Saft Batteries’ introduction of its second-generation VH Module Ni-MH batteries.

Valence Technology recently announced that its U-Charge Power Systems have been selected by Oxygen S.p.A to power two of that company’s electric scooter models. U-Charge Power Systems are based on Valence’s Saphion large-format Li-ion battery technology. Saphion batteries are built using a phosphate-based cathode material that is considered fundamentally safer and more environmentally friendly than metal-oxide cathode materials. The most common example of the latter is the lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode found in most Li-ion batteries used in cell phones, laptops and other handheld applications.

“We selected Valence’s U-Charge Power Systems because they offer the range, reliability and longevity needed for our electric scooters. We also like the fact that they require no maintenance and are environmentally friendly,” said Raffaello Locatelli, cofounder and director of Oxygen S.p.A. “With these batteries, we can offer our customers clean-running, cost-effective transportation solutions for personal and commercial use.”

Oxygen will use the U-Charge U1 Power System in its Oxygen E, which is designed to address the need for low-cost transportation in congested urban areas, recreational areas such as beaches or resorts, and restricted communities where gas-powered vehicles are prohibited. The Oxygen scooters feature advanced technologies such as brushless motor, electronic engine control and regenerative braking to recharge the battery. In addition, this larger scooter has a range of up to 86 miles.

Oxygen vehicles powered by Saphion batteries will be available starting late this year, with volume production beginning in first quarter 2006.

At the recent 2005 Interbike International Bicycle Expo in Las Vegas, Saft Batteries presented its VH Module nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries. The environmentally friendly Ni-MH batteries are designed for urban mobility applications such as electric bicycles, scooters, the Segway and other forms of personal electric transportation.

The second-generation VH Module batteries are composed of complex electronic systems, which manage the charge and the discharge of the battery to extend the battery’s life cycle. In addition, Saft’s VH Module features a parallel installation of several modules to increase the capacity, gain of energy when braking and continuous current up to 50 A.

“At Saft, we are constantly striving to meet our customer’s demands for highly reliable and long-lasting batteries, whilst also manufacturing high-quality batteries that respect our environment,” said Blake Frye, Saft sales and marketing director, North America. “Our Ni-MH batteries are custom designed for electric bikes and scooters, and provide a superior energy source for urban mobility applications.”

The VH Module features recent innovations from Saft for enhanced performance and maximizing the battery’s service life. The housing, connections and safety electronics have been improved to provide a more reliable and high-quality energy source. The module features a state-of-charge indicator (LEDs or 2-wire bus) for easy monitoring and maintenance.

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