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Soaring Nickel Prices Make Better E-Bikes

Published October 16, 2007

COLOGNE, Germany (BRAIN)—Soaring metal prices are causing a shift to lighter and more powerful electric bike batteries much sooner than anyone expected, a leading e-bike researcher said.

Because of a surge in the price of nickel, aluminum, copper and cadmium, manufacturers have jacked up prices for nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are commonly used in e-bikes. That means NiMH batteries no longer offer a significant price advantage over lithium-ion batteries, which offer better performance at less weight.

“At this show, many manufacturers have announced, no more NiMH,” said Hannes Neupert, president of Extra Energy, at the IFMA trade show. Extra Energy is a non-profit organization that tests batteries for e-bikes and scooters. “They will just make batteries as spare parts.”

Lithium batteries are not only lighter but do not lose power as quickly when not in use.

The change to lithium batteries should boost market acceptance of e-bikes, which are already selling strongly in Europe.

“As a consumer, you will never want to go back,” Neupert said.

While some e-bike makers are using lithium batteries to extend the range of their e-bikes, others are tapping the extra power to offer make e-bikes that can reach speeds of 45 kilometers an hour (28 miles an hour).

The changes come as electric bike sales in Europe continue to grow strongly. Neupert expects e-bike sales to reach about 400,000 units this year, of which 250,000 are “IBD quality” with retail prices starting at 1,200 euros ($1,665).

Growth should continue next year, he said.

“Some months ago, I said there would be about 440,000 sold next year. But now I think that’s much too low,” he said. -Doug McClellan

Topics associated with this article: Tradeshows and conferences

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