Scooters are seeing solid growth as fuel prices rise, but there is also growing concern over their emissions. Several companies are addressing this environmental concern with battery-powered systems and fuel-injection techniques on vehicles in Europe and Asia, including those used at the Beijing Olympics.
On the battery side, Italian scooter supplier Oxygen SpA is expanding its relationship with Valence Technology Inc., which makes lithium-phosphate batteries. Oxygen is expanding its relationship with Valence, buying another $2 million of its 13-V batteries as the scooters go into production.
Oxygen uses those batteries in its Cargoscooter, which runs up to 74 mi (119 km) at speeds up to 25 mph (40 km/h) without recharging. To date, 500 Cargoscooters have been shipped, proving the concept.
“Electromotive transportation is already hitting the road in Europe,” said Robert L. Kanode, President of Valence Technology Inc. “The Oxygen scooters are being used for postal delivery and some food delivery.”
Lithium phosphate offers longer life times and more safety than other lithium alternatives, Kanode said. The batteries greatly simplify design since complex transmissions are not needed. Electric motors deliver high torque over most of their speed range, so shifting is not necessary. Maintenance is also reduced, since bearings have the only metal-on-metal contact in the motor.
Reducing fuel consumption for scooters could have a big impact on air quality and global CO2 emissions. Though the high mileage of gasoline-powered scooters might be associated with low emissions, that is often not the case.
“Many scooters now use inefficient two-stroke engines that lose 30-40% of the fuel. Each scooter creates as much pollution as 50 cars,” said Rich Beyer, Freescale Semiconductor’s CEO.
Freescale partnered with ElectroJet, a contract design house that is shipping fuel-injection systems to Dayang Motorcycle Co., the official scooter supplier for the summer Olympics. Compared to previous-generation vehicles with carburetors, Dayang’s new scooters generate 65% less carbon monoxide and 35% less hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide.
Fuel injectors let Dayang meet Euro 3 emissions standards, making a big impact in a country that now has no emissions regulations. ElectroJet’s system uses a 16-bit controller to minimize cost and size while simplifying the engine redesign.
“We reduce the number of sensors needed to control the engine, which does two things,” said Kyle Schwulst, ElectroJet’s CEO. “Our costs are significantly lower and we have 100% physical compatibility with existing carburetors.”
Keeping costs down is a key aspect, since the $600 some scooters cost represents a full year’s wages for many Chinese families, Schwulst said. Though Dayang uses the fuel-injection system on four-stroke motors, the same system can be used on two-stroke engines.
Adopting fuel injection for either type engine could have a huge impact in Asia’s air quality and fuel consumption since there are 34 million motorcycles sold in China and India, Schwulst said.