Last year (2008) Chinese bought about 90% of the 23 million e-bikes sold worldwide. Experts say that next regions to likely embrace e-bikes are Southeast Asia, where gas-powered scooters are popular, and India, where rising incomes mean personal transportation is starting to be in reach of hundreds of millions. Japan has seen steady annual sales of about 300,000 for several years, and in the cycle-crazy Netherlands e-bikes are beginning to take off. In the U.S., where bikes are still overwhelmingly used for recreation rather than transportation, e-bike sales are expected to break 200,000 this year, or about 1% of China’s sales.
* Typical e-bikes in China have 100 km on a full charge
* official top speed is 12mph but many go 30 mph
* Typical e-bikes in China cost 2000 RMB (USD290)
* In 2006 there were 2,700 licensed manufacturers, and countless additional smaller shops
* Leading manufacturer Xinri makes 1.6 million e-bikes per year
Motorcycles are too dangerous, cars are too expensive, public transportation is too crowded and pedal bikes leave you too tired
Higher Power Nanocrystalline Core Electric Bike Motor from Texas
The device is an electric motor with a nano-crystalline core. It is the size of a casserole dish, and more powerful than a 600cc motorcycle engine. Okonsky’s company, KLD Energy, is supplying the motor to the Vietnamese motorbike company Sufat and by the end of the year he expects to startle Hanoi with something it has never seen before — a clean, quiet electric scooter that can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in under 10 seconds.
The main difference, though, is that KLD’s electric motors are simply much stronger than those on traditional electric scooters, because they use a different technology. Electric motors work by alternating the polarity of several magnets back and forth, causing a rotor to spin. Most materials release heat each time their polarity shifts, and if the frequency of alternation goes too high, the motor will overheat.
But the nano-crystalline material at the core of a KLD motor scarcely heats up when its polarity shifts. That means the motor can alternate much faster, generating more power. The KLD motor is so strong and so small that it doesn’t need a drivetrain, or gears. It is simply built into the motorbike’s rear wheel, which it turns directly, like pedaling a unicycle. Eliminating the drivetrain saves energy and improves reliability — there are fewer parts to break down.
The new bikes are slated to sell for between $1,500 and $2,000 U.S. dollars. That’s a reasonable price in the Vietnamese market; a mid-range Honda Future gas-powered bike sells for $1,700, while more chic bikes, such as the Piaggio Honda SH, sell for $4,000 or more.
The high-performance motor system’s technology innovates in several key areas to drive performance:
* With a high-frequency to low RPM ratio, the motor system does not require a transmission.
* Through the use of an innovative nano-crystalline composite material the motor conducts energy ten times more efficiently than traditional iron-core motors, eliminating the need for additional cooling mechanisms and enabling greater responsiveness.
* As a result of the more efficient material used to build the motor, it can achieve 2500 hertz, outperforming traditional motors’ 250 hertz average.
* The system’s computerized motor controller is designed specifically to perform and respond to the higher-frequency output of the motor
KLD scooters go for about $2,000 in Vietnam. The scooters headed to America will feature lithiumion batteries and cost $3,288. That is about $5,000 less than the VX-1E by Vetrix, an electric scooter of similar size and ability.
China’s Electric Bike Success
Government regulations limit the top speed of e-bikes to about 12 mph. But manufacturers are building bigger and bigger machines with speed regulators that are easily removed. E-bikes that are basically pedal-powered machines with an electric boost are common in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but e-scooters with heavier motors and top speeds of around 30 mph, fast enough to rival mopeds, are growing in popularity.
Major Chinese cities have extensive bicycle lanes, which means riders can avoid the worst of rush-hour congestion. In cities such as Shanghai, local governments have drastically raised licensing fees on gas-powered scooters in recent years, effectively driving hoards of consumers to e-bike manufacturers.
There were 500 million regular bicycle riders so there is a conversion of regular bikers to e-bike riders.
The electric bikes (EBs) contain lightweight, compact, NdFeB [Neodymium-Iron-Boron] magnets for their miniature motors. They use approximately 350grams of NdFeB per bicycle. The chemical formula is (Nd-2-Fe-14-B) so this yields 86g Nd/EB. In 2007, EBs accounted for 5800 tons NdFeB or 13% of the worldwide total. I don’t have figures for the neodymium produced in 2008 but if it was the same as 2007, the share would have increased to 18%. The average growth rate for the past 8 years was 35%. If this continues then by 2014 Chinese demand would be 100 million/year or 35000 tons NdFeB.
There does not appear to be an alternative to NdFeB in bicycles due to space and weight considerations. The price of NdFeB magnets are about $40/kg so the bicycle contains $14 of magnets and $1.70 of Nd @ current $20/kg.Nd. EBs retail @ $290 and neodymium represents 0.6% of that.
A hybrid car’s electric motor can be up to 100kW although 55kW is a reasonable figure. For a 55kW motor 0.65kg of Nd-Dy-Co-Fe-B is required which gives 200g Nd/Motor (3.6g/kW) and 30g Dy/Motor (0.55g/kW). A 25kW generator is typically required to recoup braking energy so for analysis purposes a hybrid vehicle contains 288g Nd and 44g Dy. At $20/kg a car contains $5.76 worth of Nd and at $110/kg Dy a car contains $4.84 worth of Dy. At $10.60 worth of REs per car and a selling price of, say, $20,000, REs represent 0.05% of sticker price.
Light Electric Motors
According to the blue paper on China’s auto industry in 2009, the number of electric bicycles and electric motors has reached about 50 million, which accounts for 90% of the world total.
One of the targets set by the national plan on industrial adjustment and revitalization of China’s auto industry released in March, 2009 specifies that by 2011, China will have developed the production capacity of 500,000 new energy auto vehicles, including pure electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles and mixed power-driven vehicles
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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