Alta 102 - Intro to Batteries
My last post explained why electric motors are the shizzle, producing outrageous power out of a tiny package, with little to no maintenance.
Okay, so why don’t electric motors already rule the world? It’s because of the front side of that “energy in, power out” equation. Unfortunately, today’s batteries have nothing on a tank of gas. For the same weight, gasoline holds a magnitude more energy than the best batteries commercially available. Even with brushless electric motors being 3-4X more efficient than the best gas motors, that means it takes many times as much battery (by weight) than gas to go the same distance. And gas is cheap. Batteries are getting better and are finally (with Li-Ion tech) durable, reliable, and safe, but pound for pound they are no match for mother nature's hydrocarbon magic and won't be for awhile.
Hard to blame her. If you were creating a universe, would you store energy in that battery?
So at present, technology has an amazing power output device (electric motor), but a mediocre energy storage device (battery). As soon as batteries improve sufficiently, electric motors will take over rapidly and almost universally, but that may not happen for a decade. Where can we take advantage of these amazing motors right now? Anywhere in the world of gas technology that is using a high-output gas engine hooked to a wee little gas tank. Alta found that in motocross and supermoto, where there is a premium for lightweight, high power bikes, but as off-road and short course specialists (respectively) they never hit the 120mph (let alone 200mph) top speeds nor road-trip distances of a highway- or long course-optimized vehicle. It's a rare space where we think we can go faster on an electric than gas vehicle (and tire out the user before we tire out the battery). And going faster is what it's all about.