How Elon Musk and Tesla are Revolutionizing E-Scooter Batteries

Illustration of Elon Musk and batteries

For a man who prefers rockets and roadsters to micromobility, Elon Musk is—perhaps inadvertently—playing a key role in revolutionizing a core component of e-scooter technology: the battery. 

Onstage at Tesla’s most recent Battery Day event, the visionary CEO described his company’s newest energy storage innovation, an integrated structural battery pack, in these terms: 

“The battery for the first time will have dual use: [it] will both be used as an energy device and as structure. So this is really quite profound…The volumetric efficiency of a structural [battery] pack is much better than a non-structural pack. It’s really major. [There’s] a 10% mass reduction in the body of the car, 14% range increase and 370 fewer parts.” 

In other words, according to the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, there are three key advantages to structural battery packs: Less mass. More range. Fewer parts.
 


The Environmental Advantage of Integrated Structural E-Scooter Batteries


This same logic is at work in e-scooter design, albeit on a simpler scale. As operators like Bird innovate new technologies to increase the safety and sustainability of our vehicles, integrated batteries that serve a dual structural role have emerged as a clear way to streamline vehicle design, reduce manufacturing materials and improve sustainability. 

“When the battery is sharing some structural work in the system, the material mass in the other parts of the vehicle’s main chassis can be reduced,” said David Tenhouten, senior director of engineering at Bird. “We tend to think about clean transport only in terms of energy consumption and emissions, but the larger picture including material extraction is quite significant. Bird’s integrated structural batteries reduce mass in the overall system, which in turn reduces the overall material required to produce the vehicle, which in turn reduces its carbon footprint.”

Think of it like the evolution of the airplane, where fuel tanks that were once bolted to the internal structure of the wing eventually transitioned into the wings themselves.

“[On] all modern airplanes…your wing is just a fuel tank and wing shaped,” Musk explained at Tesla’s Battery Day event. “This is absolutely the way to do it. The fuel tank serves as a dual structure, and it’s no longer cargo. It’s fundamental to the structure of the aircraft—this was a major breakthrough. We’re doing the same for cars.”

And at Bird, we’re doing the same for e-scooters.

The Technological Advantage of Integrated Structural E-Scooter Batteries


Interestingly, improved sustainability isn’t the only advantage to integrated structural e-scooter batteries. 

Bird’s industry-leading vehicle diagnostics rely on an onboard series of up to 200 customizable sensory inputs per scooter that measure everything from abnormal battery temperatures to skidding brakes. Critical to the proper functioning of this system is consistent connectivity, something that structural battery packs offer by default. 

“Because integrated batteries are always connected to the vehicle’s telematics and cloud communications, advanced monitoring for various potential faults is much better,” said David Tenhouten, referencing Bird scooters’ ability to run millions of automatic fault checks per day. 

“Swappable batteries, for example, spend a good portion of their life off the grid, so the opportunity for real-time monitoring and issue response is extremely limited. From a safety and sustainability perspective, particularly when it comes to all of the variables involved in shared micromobility, it’s better to have consistent visibility on batteries to reduce risk and extended each battery’s life cycle as long as possible.”

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There’s no doubt that successfully integrating a battery pack into the structure of a 2-tonne automobile is more challenging than integrating one into the structure of a 20kg e-scooter. Nevertheless, both the rationale and the benefits remain the same. 

Integrated structural batteries like those found in Bird’s newest e-scooters, and those soon to be found in Tesla’s electric cars, offer significant sustainability benefits through reduced mass, increased range, improved diagnostics and extended lifecycles—benefits that can’t be found in other types of batteries. 

To stay up to date on all of the technology that’s powering the next generation of safe, sustainable micro-EVs, including aerospace engineering and critical testing of swappable e-scooter batteries, subscribe to the Bird Cities Blog.


Main image: JD Lasica | Flickr
Body image: Electrek

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