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Best battery design?

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More and more ebikes are coming with integrated batteries. That’s good, right? Then why did Canyon launch a new bike for 2019 with an external battery? And why would anyone put a non-detachable battery inside the frame? Here’s a closer look on the different common solutions.

  1. To me it has turned into a form following fashion statement. The demand for "stealth" and adherence to conventional looking frames, no matter how bulbous the dt, is the driving force towards the semi and integrated batteries. Biggest issues I see with this other than mentioned are the fact that carrying a spare battery can be an issue due to their length and forward compatibility with new cells such as the 2170’s on the horizon. Integrated must makes no sense to me YMMV.

    External batteries are the oldest format and should stand the test of time as more people accept the fact that it is an eBike afterall and they have a battery stealth be damned. It is the most economical way and perhaps the strongest/lightest frame wise as the dt is fully intact. Also there can be varying ah/wh batteries that fit the same dock to allow for choice dependent on range requirements and their overall size allows them to be carried in several different ways if another pack is necessary for the days adventures. Forward compatibility perhaps will be more fluid for the 2170 format also dependent on how the manufacturer in question decides to support their older models.

  2. I have enjoyed several bikes with an external battery, and I wasn’t really that exited about frame integration, especially if it comes with a huge weight penalty. But I can’t help it, riding a really stealth emtb actually makes me feel extra happy! So as long as the future brings lower weight and lower price, then it might as well be more stealth.
  3. Have to say I love the external Shimano batteries, when I was first looking at EMTB’s I didn’t want an external battery, but got the Vitus as the spec was so good, and decided I could live with the looks.

    However after 9 months of ownership the ability to swap out the battery in 30secs, the compact nature of the battery if carrying in a rucksack, and the fact that the design of it allows the weight to be placed about as low as you can get it on an EMTB ( something I have noticed when riding some bikes where the weight is higher up the downtube/front due to the battery design) means that I wouldn’t go down another route unless there was a compelling reason.

    One thing I have learnt is never buy an EMTB based on looks, buy the best EMTB for you and your situation, not the one that looks the best!

  4. Have to say I love the external Shimano batteries, when I was first looking at EMTB’s I didn’t want an external battery, but got the Vitus as the spec was so good, and decided I could live with the looks.

    However after 9 months of ownership the ability to swap out the battery in 30secs, the compact nature of the battery if carrying in a rucksack, and the fact that the design of it allows the weight to be placed about as low as you can get it on an EMTB ( something I have noticed when riding some bikes where the weight is higher up the downtube/front due to the battery design) means that I wouldn’t go down another route unless there was a compelling reason.

    One thing I have learnt is never buy an EMTB based on looks, buy the best EMTB for you and your situation, not the one that looks the best!

    I agree wholeheartedly. I also changed my mind to prefer external batteries. And with two bikes that have the same battery I can carry an extra, swap if I forget to charge (yep, I’ve already done that… :) ).

    And around here, there’s more chance other bikers are going to give me a positive reaction if I turn up on an eBike. #RobNevyn has even demo’d his bike to someone on the trail while we were out for a ride. I get admiring glances when people see my battery. haha…..

    Gordon

  5. I love my Focus, light and built in, real design for adding an external extra battery, no rucksack required.
  6. +1 for external it’s much more convenient for my use.
    I have a spare battery which I carry sometimes for long rides and it’s small, light(ish) and it can easily fit in any of my backpacks. I don’t have a heated garage and I keep/charge the battery in the house it takes seconds to take it off/put it on.
    While many of the integrated battery solutions look good but the function is more important for me than the ‘stealth look’. I hope at least some of the manufacturers will continue to make good bikes with external batteries in the future too. At the moment we have some awesome selection thanks to Commencal, Vitus, Canyon, Merida etc.
  7. Yep, I prefer external too for all the reasons stated above. However I suspect we will not have much choice on this at the end of the day, certainly in the more premium brands – if sales and focus groups tell them integrated is what the majority want, that is what they will produce.
  8. Agree with that MattyB. No denying the good looks of integrated, but l hope there will always be a choice. One small positive of external for me is being able to remove the battery quickly before wrestling the bike into the back of my not so large car. At my age and history of bad backs, it helps.
  9. I have just taken delivery of my first emtb, so I 100% acknowledge that I have a lot to learn in many aspects of ownership. But the very first item of my selection criteria was the "look back factor" (always has been). When I walk away from the bike, I needed to "want" to look back at the bike as something nice to look at. Not just the colour, but the form. I don’t care how highly rated the bike is, nor what cracking value it is; if it is neon pink with a great wart of a battery on the down tube, I will not even test ride it, no point as I wouldn’t consider buying it.

    Fortunately there are many really good bikes out there that fit the bill so that I could then concentrate on the function. I chose a Focus Jam2, which has an integrated battery that is not a practical proposition for the owner to remove. And yes I do accept that adding the optional range extender will involve "a great wart of a battery".

    I have a garage attached to my house that I keep the bikes and all our garden crap in. It has power and lighting. Crucially, the builder’s brickies made a mistake when building it and it was built to the same standard as the house. As a consequence the brick garage has a thermal insulating breeze block layer and the cavity is filled with rockwool. Therefore despite the two up and over garage doors (un-insulated plain steel), the garage is actually quite warm. The tumble drier is in there too, which helps. Even when we had a few nights at -17degC, water in the garage never froze. I freely admit that before I committed to the bike, I knew nothing about the perils of charging a battery below zero, but it turns out that I need not be concerned. Lucky me! :)

    If global warming starts to reverse and we have an unexpected extra cold spell, then I can wheel the bike into the house to charge.

    Right now I’m feeling like I made the correct decision. But I might change my tune in a few years time when I have taken the bike away overnight and found no safe place with power to store my bike overnight while the battery charges. (I could always take an extension lead to power it from the place I was staying). But until that moment comes, I’m just happy with my bike. :)

  10. @steve_sordy That’s awesome to hear, enjoy your new bike! Luckily there is a big selection of ebikes in all shapes and forms so we all find the one that suits our preferences. :)
  11. Here in the states, there is a stigma still attached to riding and E-bike, so a more concealed look was prime in my decision. Though things are changing in places like Arizona. Hopefully a trend.
  12. Most of my rides are <2hrs, so a smaller in-frame battery suits fine, and the option of the TEC pack works well for longer adventures.

    If I had to choose between a 500Wh internal or external, I'd find the decision much harder. Like @steve_sordy, I can't buy an ugly vehicle and enjoy it, but if I lived in the Scottish highlands (and didn't have a heated shed) I'd probably feel somewhat differently. Guess it comes down to context as to which is right for each of us, but ultimately market forces will do what they always do and make the decision for you.

  13. Agree with all said here about external batteries , I bought a bike to use and be practical . looks are personal taste , I think the external battery looks better especially the shimano . All the bikes that use it are nice looking to me but that’s also to do with geo being sorted too , so it looks like a normal bike with a motor rather than a bike that’s been built to accept a motor that wasn’t really designed to fit
    For me the huge downtube is ugly and that huge square motor housing on the Levo in particular is even uglier and waiting to get bashed . I think giant have made a great looking bike for An integrated .
  14. Just adding to the external battery pros.

    Just ordered a spare Shimano battery which my partner and I can share on longer rides. The BT8010 battery is relatively easy to transport in a back back.
    Obviously have not done it yet however what we will do is one starts on the spare battery until about half then change to the existing battery. When the other is near empty change to the spare which still has half charge.

    In effect gives us 750wh each.The key is to balance so that we do not have 2 flat batteries and one fully charged battery with distance to ride.

    However we have balanced our existing batteries (I tend to use more battery) by simply changing batteries (remember to take your keys) on the longer rides.

    The pro is the change of battery is a 30 second exercise.

  15. The external battery took awhile to grow on me for looks but now I really like how it looks. I personally think water bottles are even uglier… Lol. That said the Norco eBike and Levo are two of the best looking bikes IMO.

    I think most new shoppers what to look as stealth as possible when riding an eBike especially In the US where there are a lot of people who still don’t understand them. And I think internal batteries will continue to dominate in sales.

  16. Just adding to the external battery pros.

    Just ordered a spare Shimano battery which my partner and I can share on longer rides. The BT8010 battery is relatively easy to transport in a back back.
    Obviously have not done it yet however what we will do is one starts on the spare battery until about half then change to the existing battery. When the other is near empty change to the spare which still has half charge.

    In effect gives us 750wh each.The key is to balance so that we do not have 2 flat batteries and one fully charged battery with distance to ride.

    However we have balanced our existing batteries (I tend to use more battery) by simply changing batteries (remember to take your keys) on the longer rides.

    The pro is the change of battery is a 30 second exercise.

    I did this recently when out with a hyper-fit rider. I was down to 2 bars and he was on 4 (of 5) when we swapped. At the end of the ride both batteries were on 2 bars…

    He does weigh somewhat less than fuck all though and sometimes rides his Bosch motored bike uphill with the power off for fun!

  17. Here in the states, there is a stigma still attached to riding and E-bike, so a more concealed look was prime in my decision. Though things are changing in places like Arizona. Hopefully a trend.

    …I think most new shoppers what to look as stealth as possible when riding an eBike especially In the US where there are a lot of people who still don’t understand them.

    Admittedly I live in the UK, but I don’t quite get this logic…

    • Anyone who’s into their cycling but anti-ebike is not going to miss even "stealth" machines like the Norco, Focus or Levo – they still have much bigger downtubes and a prominent motor at the BB. Even if they do miss it at first glance they are going to notice the vast difference in performance at the first hill.
    • Anyone who’s a keen cyclist but likes ebikes won’t comment negatively anyway.
    • The majority of non-cyclists are either anti-bike, pro-bike or ambilvalent, but few have an opinion on on ebikes (yet). That may change over time, but for now you are a lot more likely to get "you can’t ride a bike here" (almost always incorrectly ;)) than "you can’t ride an ebike here".

    By all means buy a stealth ebike if it is the right one for you and you like the looks, but it wouldn’t be a major part of my purchasing decision even if I lived in the US. For now we just need to ignore any stick we get and respond with a gentle "Cheating who?" ; these attitudes will change over time as ebikes become more prevalent. If you’re not doing anything illegal and you behave with decent trail etiquette then the problem is theirs, not yours.

  18. Admittedly I live in the UK, but I don’t quite get this logic…

    • Anyone who’s into their cycling but anti-ebike is not going to miss even "stealth" machines like the Norco, Focus or Levo – they still have much bigger downtubes and a prominent motor at the BB. Even if they do miss it at first glance they are going to notice the vast difference in performance at the first hill.
    • Anyone who’s a keen cyclist but likes ebikes won’t comment negatively anyway.
    • The majority of non-cyclists are either anti-bike, pro-bike or ambilvalent, but few have an opinion on on ebikes (yet). That may change over time, but for now you are a lot more likely to get "you can’t ride a bike here" (almost always incorrectly ;)) than "you can’t ride an ebike here".

    By all means buy a stealth ebike if it is the right one for you and you like the looks, but I it wouldn’t be a major part of my purchasing decision even if I lived in the US. For now we just need to ignore any stick we get and respond with a gentle "Cheating who?" ; these attitudes will change over time as ebikes become more prevalent. If you’re not doing anything illegal and you behave with decent trail etiquette then the problem is theirs, not yours.

    Yeah, it’s still an ebike and it’s clearly visible… :unsure:
    I have friends who prefer the ‘stealth’ look because they feel less embarrassed and they think others will not see that they are riding an ebike… :LOL:

  19. Both my Scott’s are external battery and can swap between them easily, looking for a new bike and I’d like to keep the same power pack but loads are going to integrated, I prefer external for ease of carrying too
  20. Hi, very good info. thank you. I changed my perspective since i ve bought my first eMTB in 2017 – a Levo HT 450Wh, then in 2018 i grabbed a Rotwild 630 Wh. Now, in 2019, i prefer – in theory – an external standard battery, because of easy handling. The downside of ext. battery is only 500 Wh and no place for the water bottle, both are showstoppers for me.. I found a really cool approach – have a look at the intense eMTB. They designed an inframe solution in the downtube with standard shimano battery packs. waterbottle problem solved´ looks good, easy handling. very cool
  21. Cell phones are not good analogy. It is not easy to make a quality thin phone with removable battery. Cameras are more like e-bikes. Those still offer them.
  22. I like a easily removable battery. The trend of putting a external battery inside the frame also works well as i think it means spare battery’s are easier to come by and cheaper. But most of all it has to be easily removable, this was the worst thing about the pivot shuttle. it had a removable battery but the process to get the battery out was such a pain that it was easier to leave it in the frame.
  23. External battery works for me. I wish they would bring out a lightweight, maybe 250w spare to extend the range though, would be perfect then.
  24. I found when comparing my haibike to a levo that my bike felt more rigid and i put that down to the external battery. Also i m hopeful that they will become really efficient and bring out a 800wh batgery the same size as the one i have :)
  25. I found when comparing my haibike to a levo that my bike felt more rigid and i put that down to the external battery. Also i m hopeful that they will become really efficient and bring out a 800wh batgery the same size as the one i have :)

    Don’t hold your breath on the same size 800Wh battery it’s not coming any time soon and not with the current battery technology.

  26. Haha i wouldnt be surprised of that technology already exists tbh i know that there is a 650wh capacity that is inside the standard bosch 500wh battery case so anything is possible.
  27. Haha i wouldnt be surprised of that technology already exists tbh i know that there is a 650wh capacity that is inside the standard bosch 500wh battery case so anything is possible.

    Existing and commercially feasible are two different things. With current technology more capacity comes with a bigger size (weight) so a 650Wh might be squeezed into a 500Wh casing but it is ~30% heavier. New 22700 cells might be the new standard in the coming years (Tesla is using them) and will replace the current 18650 cells but the size and weight won’t be changed significantly. The bigger cells will allow faster charging which will be the next step I think.

    An interesting article on the subject:

    E-MTB Battery Revolution? A realistic Assessment of the Situation | E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

  28. External battery works for me. I wish they would bring out a lightweight, maybe 250w spare to extend the range though, would be perfect then.

    I like that idea but it’s got to plug in to the existing battery somehow , it’s no good carrying a small battery if you then end up carrying the big one when it’s empty .
    If only there was some kind of all purpose adapter that allowed you to plug in a battery of your choice , perhaps utilise a power tool battery as a top up as they seem to be the best value for power output . No idea how much something like a 5ah Dewalt battery would add to an ebike battery but it’s surely not that difficult ?

  29. I like that idea but it’s got to plug in to the existing battery somehow , it’s no good carrying a small battery if you then end up carrying the big one when it’s empty .
    If only there was some kind of all purpose adapter that allowed you to plug in a battery of your choice , perhaps utilise a power tool battery as a top up as they seem to be the best value for power output . No idea how much something like a 5ah Dewalt battery would add to an ebike battery but it’s surely not that difficult ?

    The RoPD connector used by Specialized and Focus (and others) is hot-swappable, and has data connectors, so could work to tag on extra power in different sizes, but the batteries need to be coded to the motor (at least for Shimano) in order for them to be ‘allowed’ to provide power. I assume this a safeguard against the proliferation of cheap & nasty power-packs but that’s guesswork on my behalf.

  30. Haha i wouldnt be surprised of that technology already exists tbh i know that there is a 650wh capacity that is inside the standard bosch 500wh battery case so anything is possible.

    Existing and commercially feasible are two different things. With current technology more capacity comes with a bigger size (weight) so a 650Wh might be squeezed into a 500Wh casing but it is ~30% heavier. New 22700 cells might be the new standard in the coming years (Tesla is using them) and will replace the current 18650 cells but the size and weight won’t be changed significantly. The bigger cells will allow faster charging which will be the next step I think.

    An interesting article on the subject:

    E-MTB Battery Revolution? A realistic Assessment of the Situation | E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

    I suspect what Josh may have been suggesting is that the absolute max capacity of the battery may be higher than 500Wh, but because the BMS optimises for maximum cycle life the usable capaicty is lower. This is pretty standard in consumer goods like computers and mobile phones. As an example the lipos I use in RC are generally considered to have a max voltage of 4.2V/cell and a minimum of 3V/cell, but you can increase the cycle life out of that pack by charging only to say 4-4.1V/cell, and discharging to 3.5-3.7V/cell. You can’t fly for so long then though!

  31. The uptake of 22700 type cells (which are essentially just a different way to pack the same old Li-ion parts together) should mean a few % better energy density for eMTBs over the next 2-3 years. That should be enough, with other manufacturing improvements from Bosch, for a 650Wh battery option that drops in to today’s 500Wh external mount.

    While there’s lots of battery tech coming, you have to look at what new battery types are actually going in to volume production now. Solid state Li-ion and a few other variations on Li-ion should hit volume around 2021/22. If they don’t all get snaffled by automotive, then the likes of Bosch can start the process of taking them to the eMTB market. That in itself might require them to develop new BMS and new battery units to house the new cells. Another 18-24 months perhaps?

    After all that – by about 2023/24 – we may see new cell technology delivering 30-50% better battery density for eMTBs.

    Summary – Enjoy what you have today….

  32. The RoPD connector used by Specialized and Focus (and others) is hot-swappable, and has data connectors, so could work to tag on extra power in different sizes, but the batteries need to be coded to the motor (at least for Shimano) in order for them to be ‘allowed’ to provide power. I assume this a safeguard against the proliferation of cheap & nasty power-packs but that’s guesswork on my behalf.

    However, I simply bought a second battery for my Shimano motor equipped Overvolt, absolutely without any coding work in the shop. Bike never complained about unknown battery. It just works.

  33. "The uptake of 22700 type cells"

    I have seen this reference a few times here. Actually the new cells depending on the manufacurer are 20700 or 21700 of which the latter is the most popular due to Tesla adopting that format, although they call them 2170’s, and most likely to end up the new standard replacing 18650’s in the next few years.

    Their higher density allows for a higher mah rating so it takes less actual cells to make the same amount of wh’s so using them in a similar size format will yield a higher wh rating. But because they are slightly bigger going forward it will be up to the manufacturers to supply batteries that are retrofittable to replace the stock 18650 ones. Otherwise they will just do what the bike industry always does and dangle the new tech out there and make you buy a new bike to get with the program…..

  34. Interesting but way beyond my techy understanding . Coding shimano battery , never heard of that , shimano battery fits any shimano bike swap all you like
  35. However, I simply bought a second battery for my Shimano motor equipped Overvolt, absolutely without any coding work in the shop. Bike never complained about unknown battery. It just works.

    Good to know, very interested in a Lapierre next time around.

    Coding shimano battery , never heard of that , shimano battery fits any shimano bike swap all you like

    We watched the dealer plug a new Focus integrated battery into the motor but the bike wouldn’t even turn on. Plugged into a PCE1 box, applied eTube firmware updates and all was fine. He said that was down to the battery being a 3rd party Derby unit, not required for original Shimano batteries.

  36. "Coding shimano battery , never heard of that , shimano battery fits any shimano bike swap all you like"

    That is true but a Bosch battery won’t work with a Shimano motor and a BMZ Brose battery won’t talk to either etc, etc. The proprietary software used by big companies these days is all about keeping their business to themselves which locks the consumer into using only their products and service centers.

    The same concept on a larger scale: John Deere Just Swindled Farmers out of Their Right to Repair

  37. Interesting but way beyond my techy understanding . Coding shimano battery , never heard of that , shimano battery fits any shimano bike swap all you like

    Some come with different fittings. We had a pivot shuttle and a orbea wildfs in. The orbea would not switch on. Suspecting the battery we took the one from the pivot to put in the orbea to test, only to find that they had different fittings. both were external shimano batterys that mount inside the frame, and on first glance look identical. Now we thought it looked like you could take the fitting (the bit that plugs into the bike) off and swap them over but we didnt want to risk trying.
    Also the lapierre uses the snake battery so this wont fit a standard shimano either.

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