Lithuim Ion Phosphate battery. Learn more about Lithium Ion Batteries. Lithium Ion Phosphate Batteries


Lithium Ion Phosphate Batteries in Mobility Scooters

Update: May 2013  After battery failures ground the Boeing 787 dreamliner test flights resume. What was the problem with the Li Ion batteries and how did they resolve the issue. Not a lot of information has been released yet. Scanning the web for information. Originally the use of Li Ion batteries would save 72 kgs in weight. The battery modification adds 81kgs. Does this mean they installed a firewall around the battery or could it mean they went away from Li Ion batteries. Or is it some other solution.  Hard to say.

Update: December 2012. A123 systems the inventor and main producer of this technology is bankrupt despite a $380 million stock offer and a $250 million government loan. Thats $620 million to make some batteries. Mind boggling! The reason may be that they had extraodinary warranty replacement issues. It does not bode well for this company and its technology. A Chinese company now owns the assets of A123 and maybe they can make it work. Time will tell and we will stay informed.

Its a good thing that politicians invest and believe in pushing new technologies along but this does not always transpire into the desired outcome.  Nikola Tesla early last century, after working at GE on AC current, spent the rest of his life taking money from the unsuspecting for dreams and delusions that never amounted to anything but smoke and mirrors.


New Type of Battery: There is a new style of battery that has emerged for use in electric vehicles. Lithium Ion Phosphate. Li Ion has had a history in mass production dating back more than a decade. Mainly in mobile phones. In the past few years lithium Ion phosphate has emerged as a serious contender for use in electric vehicles of all types. Including electric wheelchairs and scooters. The benefit being that they are lighter and they should have a longer life. Some manufacturers jumped immediately away from SLA or AGM EV battery packs to Lithium Ion Phosphate battery packs and as such there is now a history building and data being collected as to the real world performance of Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries when used in electric vehicles.

Must be Specifically Designed for the use: Technically the manufacturers of Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries have stressed that these battery's must be designed specifically for the intended application. And the charger must be matched exactly to the battery pack. This is critical for any warranty to apply from any manufacturer I have dealt with. So this rules out the idea of a one battery off the shelf fits all. We tried this in Australia in 2010. I put the recommended size battery in a Tycoon Golf scooter with the attached charger. Within 3 months or less than 3% of the suggested cycle life the batteries would not do a round of golf. And here is the kicker. The supplier refused to warrant the batteries, because after investigation the batteries were being used in an application outside their intended application. Aye! $1050 in boat anchors.

Current Test outcomes: At present we are working with the premium manufacturer and they have made a 36volt 38ah pack for the Montana. We did a few hundred kilometers of testing ourselves and then put them into a real world scooter. The pack failed within 3 months. "Not fair"screamed the supplier. Yes our user was at the top of a long steep hill in Hangzhou, and yes he is 135kg. And yes sometimes he sat his wife on his lap. Welcome to the real world of how people use scooters. The Panasonic SLA batteries performed much better in this application.

So test 1, a Tycoon sports scooter on a golf course in Australia with an off the shelf solution. Failure.

Then test 2, a high end user ( but not the most extreme we encounter ) on a Montana with a custom solution. Failure.

Test 3 and 4 are underway. Test 5 and 6 are in planning. Unfortunately we need a few years to get any sort of reliable result.

Cost effectiveness: In production the Panasonic SLA battery's provide a cost effective long life solution. Current data is  8 per 1,000 return rate under the warranty and 18% replacement rate within 2 years. This means most people get 3, 4 ,5 and we have seen 10 years out of this battery solution. Battery life is based primarily on use. Some people do 20 klm's a day (7,000 klms a year) and they understand the batteries are the consumable doing this. The average user does 1,200 klm per year and gets a longer battery life.

Big differences in Quality: The manufacturer has 4 quality grades at the production level. I have seen how they do this. Basically the make the battery then charge it completely, do a discharge test over a time period and read the battery condition. The battery's are graded A, B, C, and D  based on this test. In the test I observed only a small number were graded A. Most were C. Obviously A is the premium quality and D is faulty. The D's are relabelled as a no name brand and sold without warranty. To this day there are no big name corporations ( Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba etc ) selling Lithion Ion Phosphate batteries. I wonder about this. And look forward to their participation.

It isn't worth the cost: Switching to using Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries  in our scooters is a big step to take. Firstly, the premium ( A grade ) setup might be as much as $3,500 for the battery pack. This will make the new scooter a lot more expensive. Replacing a battery pack might in fact be uneconomical on a 5 or 10 year old scooter. The battery may be worth more than the scooter.

Lets do the math. Say you get 3 years from a $500 SLA battery pack. Then to justify the cost of an A grade Lithium Ion Phosphate Battery pack you will need to get 21 years from it. And this might happen. We just don't know. Its just a lot of money and time to find out. One thing that seems certain is that anything less than an A grade setup and there will not be of benefit.

Others using this technology. As a note Tesla (electric car manufacturer) led the way some years ago and they now seem to have an undesirable and  unintended outcome. Seemingly if a battery pack is let stand without being charged or possibly just undercharged for a relatively short period of time ( Tesla themselves say weeks or months, others say 28 days ) then the battery pack will not recharge. The term is you car is now a brick. The cost to the customer is $42,000.00 per incident. Warranty does not cover this scenario. The manufacturers I am testing with agree this is a real possibility. Coincidentally, (probably unrelated) General Motors announced a temporary closure of the Chevy Volt (electric car) production line shortly after the Tesla situation became known.

High Tech for no benefit: I am one for hightech. Believe me our current product lineup is so high tech as to be the most advanced small electric vehicles on the planet, and by quite a long way. Personally, I know of no other product in our industry that even attempts to emulate what we do. But, as much as I want to run Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries in our scooters and see what happens, the company is not prepared to commit and expose our users to an unknown outcome at such a high cost. And we are never going to lower ourselves to using a B, C, or even D grade solution just to say we run Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries. 

No warranty might apply:  My best advice is get it in writing that the manufacturer (not the reseller) intends this battery and this charger for use in this product and will 100% replace the battery. Then make sure that company has a presence on the ground and is just not a trade company exporting D grade batteries to an unsuspecting reseller in a far off land. It happens and is happening.

The future: Me, more than anyone will monitor and deal with, and progress this technology and I look forward to presenting the ultimate proven solution in our great scooters sometime in the next few years. We led the world in developing rare earth motors and so we will in Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries. if in fact this is possible.

An essay by Dario Pardella. LB Director of Product development.  Copyright 2012 reproduced with permission