I don’t mean the infamous scooters sold for those with infirmities meant for moving about within a home or other facilities.  Rather, what the rest of world outside of the U.S sees as an electric bike (ebike).

A U.S firm is about to break out into a major market outside of China.  Now China is said to have sold more than 20 million ebikes last year bringing their fleet to over 100 million.  Even in the U.S., where ebikes are still overwhelmingly used for recreation rather than transportation, ebike sales are expected to break 200,000 this year, or about 1% of China’s sales. Japan has seen steady annual sales of about 300,000 for several years, and in the cycle-crazy Netherlands ebikes are beginning to take off. This is a large world market that is sure to get bigger.  Electric power sets are looking to overcome some of the consumer perceptions.

So just what can one expect in the coming years?  You’ll likely see 65 mph speeds and 100-mile ranges.  That ought to keep most folks happy for a day’s use.

These kinds of numbers are based on new technology, one that has the aforementioned U.S. company rolling.  KLD Energy has an electric motor the size of a casserole dish, and more powerful than a 600cc motorcycle engine.  The motor is being supplied to the Vietnamese motorbike company Sufat.  By the end of the year KLD’s Christian Okonsky expects to startle Hanoi, Vietnam 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.

KLD's eScooter. Click image for a larger view.

KLD's eScooter. Click image for a larger view.

KLD solves in a major way three consumer objections.  First is current ebikes are much slower than those with gas engine power, second, the price is too high and third, the batteries don’t last long enough.  Another issue is the near silence – a perceived risk in busy streets.

The technology gain 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 the rotor to spin from the positions of magnetic attraction and repulsion.  Most magnetic core materials release heat each time their polarity shifts, and if the frequency of alternation gets too high, the motor will overheat.  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 ebike’s rear wheel, which it turns directly. Eliminating the drivetrain saves energy and improves reliability — there are fewer parts to break down.

KLD's Neue eBike & eScooter Motor

KLD's Neue eBike & eScooter Motor

As a result of the more efficient material used to build the motor, it can achieve 2500 hertz, outperforming traditional motors’ 250 hertz on average. The system’s computerized motor controller is designed specifically to perform and respond to the higher frequency output of the motor.

KLD Energy Technologies is in Austin Texas. Their plan, beyond shipping to Vietnam, is to offer ebikes or in our parlance, scooters in the U.S perhaps as early as this year with motorcycles and three wheeled vehicles coming later.

With 600cc worth of equivalent gasoline power it’s not hard to imagine the demand for their motor to be pretty intense.  One could sign up to preorder a ebike or, er, scooter at their web site.

The technology is based on the patented nano sized crystallized composite material licensed from Green Ray Technologies.  Very little information is available on Green Ray or the technology, but considering the people behind KLD the technology builds confidence and might slip a little more info out over time.  Proprietary for now, it’s likely to see intense reverse engineering soon.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly a certainty that the core has some rare earth elements.  Brian Wang over at Next Big Future looked at ebikes a few days back that can be connected to connected to a piece at Seeking Alpha where there is a piece titled “Rare Earth Metals Not So Rare but Valuable.” Opening with, “The most commonly occurring rare earth metals – cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and yttrium – are actually more common in the Earth’s crust than lead,” the article points out that the rarity is based in that mineable concentrations are less common than most of the familiar ores such as iron, aluminum or copper.

But motors and their components are endlessly recyclable.  This and the reality that a small amount is needed per motor reduce the expected rare earth pressure.  While there is plenty of the elements, getting them in useful concentration is just a matter of processing and the costs to meet demand.  A steady demand and increased volumes could hold prices or even reduce them over longer time periods.

In China ebikes use primarily lightweight and compact NdFeB magnets for their miniature motors. They use approximately 350grams of NdFeB per ebike. The chemical formula is (Nd-2-Fe-14-B) so this yields 86g Nd/EB each.  The price of NdFeB magnets are about $40/kg so the conventional Chinese ebike contains $14 of magnets and $1.70 of Nd @ current $20/kg.Nd.  Those raw material costs are not going to drive off many consumers.

Just how that dovetails into hybrid auto production isn’t known, but can be forecasted in a raw way.  Currently almost all hybrid autos use a Permanent Magnet Brushless Direct Current motor. These contain NdFeB magnets and there is no viable alternative, although Sm-11.2%-Co-53.3%-Fe-27.5% (wt%) would be better but the high reliance on cobalt at over 53% is a price killer. The best performance compound is a sintered magnet composed of Nd-31%-Dy-4.5%-Co-2%-Fe-61.5%-B-1% (wt%). Dysprosium is critical in this application to give resistance to demagnetization at high temperatures as the magnet reaches service temperatures of 160C.  There are options in the magnet field.

Yet dysprosium is especially rare and dysprosium reserves are almost entirely located in China. Japan is painfully aware of this fact and is scouring the globe looking for Dy deposits while also trying to develop magnets without Dy. We’ll see how that works out.

Those points serve to illustrate just what the Green Ray innovation could promise.  Without knowing the magnet’s nanocrystal composition, we’re in the dark.  But the construction, whatever the materials, is offering a polarity frequency that’s a ten-fold improvement.  So whatever is happening at KLD, their motors are sure to get very close inspection by every electric motor maker worldwide.

Now we need a measure of the power needed for KLD’s motor.  Ebikes or scooters are one thing that should prove to be exceptional ground for development.  The need for great range at low weight is perhaps, from most developer’s point of view, a critical part of any design for something that moves and takes its energy along with it.

Electric power sets are improving fast.  Four of those ebike motors would be equivalent to 2.4 liters of gasoline engine, more than enough for today’s midsize car.


4 Comments so far

  1. Matt on July 22, 2009 7:59 AM

    Eestore (the maker of super capacitors?) has an exclusive Automobile arrangement with ZENN of Canada. And, an agreement with Lockheed that covers the military applications.

    But, I sure wish I had the market on super capacitors for electric bikes. It would concievably quadruple the range. And, the very high voltage of the super capacitor introduces even higher efficiencies in electric motors. (According to ZENN.)

    Better batteries = extended range. And, that is the final piece of the electric vehicle puzzle.

    Btw, I recently build a gauss gun for a science fair. I noticed that rare earth magnets has tripled in price. Now, I know why.

  2. Scott Ledgerwood on July 26, 2009 12:00 PM


    EEStor has exclusively licensed a Eugene, Oregon based company, LEV (Light Electric Vehicles) for the bike/scooter apps for their EESU.

    Web link: http://www.lightevs.com/

  3. Eddie on July 26, 2009 3:07 PM

    ZAP has been making electric scooters for years. This is nothing new…


  4. Mariusz on June 11, 2013 8:02 PM

    I like e-scooter

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