ZapBatt Intros Super Fast-Charging, Long-Life E-Bike Battery

Tech Industry

ZapBatt co-founder and CEO Charlie Welch smiles as he says it’s like going from dial-up to high-speed WiFi. He’s referring to the three-year old company’s new battery designed for e-bikes and other electric micromobility vehicles it says can recharge in minutes instead of hours and last at least two decades.

The new batteries could be available as soon as late this year, feeding a micromobility market expected to grow exponentially globally over the next few decades.

“Lithium-titanate was developed around two decades ago for the Navy,” Welch told Forbes.com in an interview.

It was right for the Navy, but, at the time, not so for consumer products like mobile phones or laptop computers because of its price or energy density, Welch explained.

But Welch and ZapBatt saw three significant positives in lithium-titanate that merely needed to be unlocked for specific purposes.

For one, titanate is designed to “move energy very quickly” making it possible to charge a battery in as little as 15 minutes.

Second, titanate, and the metal titanium which is a component of the compound, are very stable. That property means “even at high charge rates they can achieve 15,000 cycles,” said Welch. “So if that was a cycle a day—technically, that’s like 40 years but we like to say it’s closer to 20.”

Third, since titanate is considered an inert chemistry the risk of a battery catching fire is remote.

The ZapBatt battery can be fully recharged in 20 minutes and last as long as 20 years, according to Welch.

There’s no real difference in range between the lithium-titanate battery and today’s more common lithium-ion cells. Range is extended by just carrying a few spare batteries knowing you could recharge them in a matter of minutes, Welch said.

But even with the positive properties of lithium-titanate batteries, they still weren’t ready for wider use without some high-tech manipulation by ZapBatt in the form of employing artificial intelligence and software to better control its energy output and other characteristics.

Welch calls it a “software-enhanced battery” explaining, “Because lithium-titanate can move energy so quickly and efficiently, the software can tell it, say I’m on an e-bike ride, hey, I should have more efficient regenerative braking, I should have taken possibly a different route. It’s like saying, when I’m out in the world I should actually be operating like this. Essentially the AI, is meant to, in the long term, empower batteries to teach us how to make them more efficient.”

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ZapBatt has also added technology called bi-directional adaptive terminal voltage or BAT

BAT
V to its batteries. What that does is make it possible to digitally adjust its voltage via software from five to 60 volts by over the air updates.

The question comes up, of course, if ZapBatt’s lithium-titanate battery is so good for the likes of micromobility vehicles such as e-bikes or even golf carts, why not install them in full-size EVs?

Sounds like a good idea but Welch doesn’t see that happening any time soon for several reasons including the notion that just changing the battery type is easily accomplished.

“It changes everything. It changes the brakes, the suspension. Everyone will have a bad day if you change the battery,” said Welch. “I think eventually it will be in EVs but it’s just not there today because they’ve adopted chemistries that are coming out of the three big suppliers. Between CATL, Samsung and LG they supply like 80% of the market anyway so they’d have to make the switch.”

There’s still plenty of growth potential in the micromobility market very much on the upswing according to several reports.

The e-bike market was valued at $27.22 billion in 2021 and it is expected to reach $54.48 billion by 2027 according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.

In Europe direct-to-consumer e-bike sales are expected to reach 17 million units annually by 2030, up from 3.7 million in 2019 according to NPD Group as noted in an October, 2021 report by CBInsights.

ZapBatt’s Charlie Welch says the faster charging and longer life of his company’s lithium-titanate batteries will actually translate into improved revenue for micromobility companies, predicting those two characteristics could reduce their operating costs by 45%.

Longer battery life may also help offset sustainability issues often overlooked by those who believe electric vehicles are environmental nirvana.

“To produce one EV does cost hundreds of thousands of kilograms of CO2 and the only thing offsets that is the battery lasts long enough. I feel like we’re in the fast-fashion era of batteries,” said Welch.

While powering e-bikes and other small electric vehicles is ZapBatt’s initial target, Welch sees a future its lithium-titanate batteries for residential uses. With a life of 15,000 cycles, “that’s almost the life of a home,” Welch predicted.

But the first step is locking down the micromobility battery. Welch said ZapBatt is sending them out to a number of companies for testing and for their feedback with expected production to begin later this year.

Welch is confident the lithium-titanate that’s the basis for ZapBatt’s batteries will do the job because, “it’s an absolutely phenomenal chemistry.”

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