Even if their price plummeted in the last two to three years by 30%, batteries are still the most expensive part of an electric vehicle. What’s most troubling about such a battery is that if it breaks, only specialized factories are able to fix them, because they are welded together for maximum electrical conductivity.
Neal Saiki, the founder of Zero Motorcycles (you guessed well, they made electric motorcycles), found out a solution for those batteries used in the type of vehicles he’s into and for battery subassemblies in general. He invented a method to effectively press the batteries to one another and thus make the pack easy to open by the user in case of a faulty element.
Saiki uses the same lithium ion cells that Tesla Motors uses – those cylindrical “18650” used in laptops. They were expensive three years ago, but since the iPad boom it got cheaper, since tablets don’t use cylindrical batteries.
The connections of the new battery pack are hence made mechanically. This approach doesn’t ensure the level of instant power offered by welded contacts, but can successfully be used in normal loads – not in Roadster-like supercars. And it’s easy to replace any dying cell, without having to change the whole thing.
For example, a 16.1 kWh pack would contain 1440 such elements and could offer an electric motorcycle a 100-mile range. Saiki is now preparing for commercialization and hopes his pack will hit the market as soon as possible through his startup called NTS Works. He will license the pack design to 3rd parties rather than manufacturing them in his own yard.