Lithium Ion Motorcycles

Lithium-ion batteries are lighter than the nickel metal hydride used in the Vectrix maxi-scooter, and new chemistries have made them durable as well, lasting as long as or longer than nickel metal hydride batteries, writes Kevin Bullis.

Published: 19-Jul-2007

Advanced battery technologies are enabling a much cleaner alternative to pollution-spewing gas-powered motorcycles and could help promote a larger-scale move toward electric vehicles. Yesterday, an electric scooter with motorcycle-like performance made by Vectrix, based in Newport, RI, was delivered to its first customer. And next year at least two motorcycles powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries will be sold in the United States.

Although conventional motorcycles get extraordinary gas mileage--with many getting more than 50 miles per gallon--they emit more pollution than even large SUVs because they aren't equipped with equivalent emissions-control technology. Indeed, with new emissions standards, SUVs are 95 percent cleaner than motorcycles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So while motorcycles could help reduce oil consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions, these gains come at the price of dirtier air. Electric motorcycles eliminate tailpipe emissions, keeping pollution out of the city, and they can be powered with clean sources of electricity. What's more, electricity costs less than gasoline. Vectrix estimates that it will cost riders just a couple of cents a day to operate its scooter.

All three battery-powered vehicles are limited in speed. The fastest is the Vectrix scooter, which can go 65 miles per hour. The speeds could be increased if the manufacturers were to change the gear ratio, which is currently designed for urban settings and motocross, for which acceleration is more important than sustained high speed.

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