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All About E-Bikes

The Status of Li-ion


Battery Development
for LEV Applications
Text: Mo-Hua Yang

Introduction
From the perspective of
market applications and technology advancement, the development of light electric twowheeled vehicles is proceeding
considerably faster than that of
conventional pure-electric vehicles. In 2011, the global light
electric two-wheeled vehicle
market contained more than 3
million vehicles, and the Chinese
market had more than 2.5 million of these. Europe is now the
fastest-growing market for highvalue e-bikes.
The three keys to a successful LEV product are marketing, product design, and technology development. Because LEVs
are highly individualized transportation products, marketing
must reflect the living habits and
state of socioeconomic development in different countries and
areas. The chart shows differences between the Chinese, European, American, and Japanese
markets. In the Chinese market,
e-bikes are a virtual necessity.
In the initial period of economic
reform and market opening, most
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Bike Market / CBES 2012-2013

people in China relied on ordinary bicycles for transportation.


As economic circumstances gradually improved and incomes rose
in the wake of reforms, obtaining
more convenient means of transportation became an urgent issue.
In addition, the fact that the Chinese government prohibits motorcycles with internal combustion
engines in major cities in order
to reduce air pollution has lent
even greater impetus to demand
for e-bikes and accelerated market growth. As a result, e-bikes
have become the widespread and
convenient means of personal
transportation, and e-bikes are
stimulating economic growth and

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Mo-Hua Yang
General Manager, TD HiTech Energy Inc.

All About E-Bikes

improving quality of life in China. In contrast, in the European,


American, and Japanese markets,
e-bikes are used as short-distance
personal transportation vehicles,
and most individuals and families
purchasing and using e-bikes also
possess cars. The chief appeals of
e-bikes as means of transportation and a recreational option in
these markets is their environmental-friendliness, energy conservation, carbon reduction, and
exercise and health functions.
The most important technologies used in LEVs constitute
the battery energy storage system
and motor propulsion system.
During the initial stage of LEV
development, many conventional bicycle and motorcycle
manufacturers felt that it was
only necessary to connect the
positive and negative terminals
of the battery to a motor in order to create an electric vehicle.
In reality, however, the safety,
reliability, and efficiency of the
overall LEV system are the keys
to successful product marketing.
As a consequence, the energy
storage system constituting the
battery and battery management
system and the propulsion system
constituting the motor and motor
controller are the key technological items in an LEV. Apart from
transforming energy, these two
important systems are the key to
product reliability and efficiency
because of their role in electromechanical integration and
information communications. In

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All About E-Bikes

addition, of the two systems, battery energy storage system technology development is the most
important aspect.
The LEV market currently
consists chiefly of e-bikes and
electric motorcycles. Battery
voltage specifications are chiefly
24V, 36V, and 48V, and storage
capacity ranges from 10Ah to
30Ah. The power of LEV motors ranges from 250W to 500W
in the case of e-bikes, and 500W
to 2000W in the case of electric
motorcycles. Apart from power
storage capacity, batteries must
have sufficiently high power
output in order to meet an LEVs
starting, acceleration, and hillclimbing performance needs. The
European market, more than 90%
of LEVs currently employ Li-ion
batteries. These batteries generally have voltages of 24V and
36V, capacity in the range of 250360wh, and the battery module
weighs 3-5kg. Lead-acid batteries still predominate in the Chinese LEV market, and are used
on more than 90% of all LEVs.
In contrast, Li-ion batteries can
be found on only a small number
of high-priced products. Chinese
Li-ion batteries generally have
voltages of 36V and 48V and
capacities ranging from 300wh
to 500wh. Furthermore, Li-ion
batteries in the Chinese market
are mostly inexpensive and have
fairly low safety and reliability;
price is still the decisive factor in
this market.
Most Li-ion batteries currently employed in electric ve74

Bike Market / CBES 2012-2013

hicles are cylindrical, rectangular,


or mounted in a soft pouch. In
the case of type 18650 and 26650
Li-ion batteries, because product
specifications were standardized
at an early date, there is considerable manufacturing technology
and battery safety experience,
and designs are relatively mature.
However, heat dissipation and the
series-parallel connections between battery cells make designs
quite bulky. In addition, the storage capacity of individual battery
cells is relatively low. While rectangular batteries have relatively
good heat dissipation characteristics, and their modular design
allows effective use of space,
manufacturing costs are relatively high. And although softpack batteries are light in weight,
have dimensional flexibility, offer
good heat dissipation, and are
relatively easy to mass produce,
their mechanical strength and dimensional stability are doubtful,
and, under high-temperature conditions, the battery seal integrity
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and gas discharge safety remain


to be improved.
With regard to the development of Li-ion battery cell
specifications, in the case of type
18650 Li-ion batteries, the saturation of the notebook computer
market, and the recent emergence
of tablet PC and ultra-thin notebook markets (type 18650 Liion batteries are not appropriate
for these products), type 18650
battery sales have leveled off or
even fallen. As a result, manufacturers have been searching
for other markets for type 18650
batteries, and LEVs represent
a major new market for these
batteries. Furthermore, because
18650 battery technology and
mass production processes are
highly standardized, these batteries offer large safety, quality, and
price advantages, and they have
gradually become the standard
battery cell specification used in
LEVs. The technology used in
type 18650 Li-ion batteries has
been developed over the course

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of more than 20 years. Thanks to


market experience gained over
this period, including several
negative safety and manufacturing experiences encountered by
leading manufacturers, there has
been great progress in the area of
design safety. Type 18650 Li-ion
battery manufacturers involved in
LEV applications include Japans
Sony and Panasonic (Sanyo), and
Koreas Samsung SDI and LG.
In addition, Chinas Lishen and
Bak are actively developing type
18650 Li-ion batteries for LEV
applications.
Li-ion battery modules for
LEVs consist of several tens to
several hundreds of 18650 batteries connected in several parallel
and series circuits. The key to
battery module system technology is to ensure that the performance of Li-ion batteries assembled into a multiple series and
parallel module is consistent with
single-cell performance. The two
chief battery module technologies are module structure design
and battery management system
electronic monitoring technology.
As far as battery module
structure design is concerned,
an appropriate battery cell must
be selected based on the overall
LEV and motor drive system
specifications. The chief factors
considered here are motor voltage, maximum current demand,
maximum instantaneous current
output, and sustained output time.
After selecting the battery cell,
the series-parallel arrangement
of the battery cells is determined

in accordance with the specifications. It is now necessary to consider the optimal series-parallel
arrangement of the battery cells,
as well as the strength of the battery cell mounting supports and
outer shell. The support system
must enable the battery cells to
withstand vibration and loosening, ensuring the mechanical
strength and reliability of the
product. In addition, a modules
structural design must take the
batterys heat dissipation and waterproof seal into consideration.
Wi t h r e g a r d t o b a t t e r y
management system technology,
to maintain battery safety, the
parameters of temperature, current, and voltage must be monitored, and software and firmware
programs employed to perform
protective management of the
battery. The key technological
content of a battery management
system comprises the management systems circuit design
and the design of the protection
panel. Finally, battery module
electromechanical integration
technology includes integration
of mechanisms and electronics, circuit design, connectors
between battery and motor and
battery and charger, and the communications interface.
There are great differences
between battery management
system technologies. Systems
range from simple battery protection circuits to systems with complex functions such as battery
equalization, power output and
battery health monitoring, and

battery and system communication interfaces. All of these can


be termed battery management
systems. While enhancing battery
management system monitoring
functions will increase battery
module cost, it will also dramatically increase the reliability of
the battery module. In the case
of LEV battery modules with
multiple series and parallel connections, the battery management
systems functions will ensure
greater product reliability. Compared with simple cell phone and
notebook battery modules, battery management systems play a
bigger role in the case of LEVs,
and the development of Li-ion
battery module technology is thus
seen as essential to the continued
development of LEVs.
The LEV market, consisting chiefly of e-bikes and electric
motorcycles, has grown steadily
and rapidly in recent years, which
verifies that LEVs are not just a
passing trend. In addition, motivated by the markets growth, an
increasing number of companies
are investing in battery and motor technology development.
Looking ahead to the future, as
technology and product quality continue to improve, LEV
safety and reliability will also get
even better, while costs will fall
steadily. These trends will ensure
the sustainable development of
the LEV market.

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