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Flywheel: Battery recycling | Vehicles from CUBE, Tern, Haibike, Eunorau, & Velotric
Exploring micromobility battery recycling & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week explores micromobility battery recycling. This week’s featured vehicles are a bakfiet, two longtail cargo bikes, and two commuters.
Observation of the Week
Micromobility battery recycling
Given that batteries are typically the most valuable component on a micromobility vehicle, in addition to the fact that we are facing a global shortage of battery materials, ensuring the circularity of batteries is critical to sustainably grow and scale micromobility.
In that spirit, RadPower just announced a partnership with Redwood Materials to recycle their ebike batteries at their end of life. Redwood is a vertically integrated battery recycler and recycled components (cathodes and anodes) supplier founded by former Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. They claim that they can extract 95%+ of reusable batteries, and have been one of the key players leading the charge for a circular supply chain for batteries. While they have primarily been working in the auto sector with the likes of Tesla, Ford, and Toyota, this isn’t Redwood’s first foray into micromobility. They began working with Specialized in March 2021 to recycle consumer ebike batteries, and launched a partnership with Lyft to recycle the batteries of their shared ebikes and escooters. They have recently started expanding to other consumer product segments as well.
In this partnership, Rad Power will collect and ship end of life batteries to Redwwood, who will then go on to process and recycle them domestically in-house. Given the murky regulatory requirements and expenses for shipping batteries, customers currently can only drop off their batteries at a physical Rad Power retail location. These retail locations will also eventually serve as Redwood drop-off points for other used batteries as a part of their new consumer e-waste collection program.
This is a really smart move by Rad Power. Rad Power’s batteries are rated for ~800 charge cycles. According to Flywheel’s analysis of used ebike listings since Jan 2021, used Rad Powers’s have an average mileage of 420.49mi and therefore only reach about 20-30 charge cycles. There’s plenty of life left in these batteries when these vehicles enter their second life. Many of them, if the used vehicles don’t get resold, just end up in a landfill due to the lack of protocols around battery recycling.
Redwood is also a really smart choice of partner for Rad Power. For a lot of recycling programs, due to the complicated logistics of handling old batteries, packs change hands a few times before they actually get to the recycler. Since Redwood is vertically integrated and handles everything themselves, they make the process far more efficient and simplify it significantly for Rad Power.
Another company tackling the circular battery space is Trucks portfolio company Cling Systems, a full-service marketplace and “Online Mine” for second life batteries. I spoke to Cling’s founder and CEO William Bergh and their Head of Marketing Eden Yates about this announcement. Their thoughts:
Micromobility batteries are often retired to second life and recycling due to mechanical/electrical failures. In fact, 90% of the cells that we have tested together with Circuli-ion from discarded micromobility batteries can be reused.
That being said, the dismantling of packs to cells is laborsome and manual. Additionally, to make a second life system with a new type of battery commercially sustainable, repurposing companies often need 5-10 MWh in the first system to cover the design, development, and integration costs. 10MWh of cells is roughly 20k packs (if 0.5 kWh per pack) or 1M cells (if 50 cells per pack). This may be different for someone with billions in the bank like Redwood. But, for SME repurposers (at least for PH/BEVs), that’s a lot of effort relative to the second life value.
In the case of shared fleets, if the battery is fine and the ebike/escooter (or fleet) is old or replaced by gen2 version, the entire fleet is usually sold off to a less developed market to become a secondhand fleet. Since shared fleets often are updated with gen2s while gen1s are still fine, the vast majority of the batteries will end up in these less developed markets and are much harder to keep track of/recover.
Another angle to consider is the regulatory divergence between the US and Europe, particularly with some European cities seeking to slim down the number of shared operators and becoming increasingly picky, and some US cities like New York banning certain types of ebikes or scooters. For companies with large decentralized operations across multiple countries, the economics of getting them all consolidated for second life is a big job to be done. It will probably look like choosing multiple local players, but that may result in less second life value.
For more observations and resources on owned and used micromobility, check out rideflywheel.com/resources.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The CUBE Cargo Sport Hybrid is a class-1 box cargo bike with arguably the sportiest handling in the bakfiet segment. Its powertrain features an 85Nm Bosch Cargo Line mid-drive motor and a 500Wh Bosch PowerPack, with mountings for a second optional 500Wh pack. Many mid-drive riders accidentally damage the transmission by pedaling while shifting, so the CUBE Cargo actually has shift detection to protect the 10-speed Shimano transmission by cutting motor power when shifting. As you’d expect given CUBE’s mountain biking heritage, the Cargo Sport has incredibly agile handling even when loaded to its max payload capacity of 495lbs. Its larger (27.5”) rear wheel than front wheel (20”) set up, front suspension fork, hydraulic brakes, and well balanced center-of-gravity give it exceptional maneuverability. One feature I believe would improve the Cargo Sport is a throttle given that it is quite clearly a utility oriented vehicle. This listing was purchased one year ago and is offering the second optional battery for an additional $200. Listing can be found here.
The Tern GSD S10 is a class-1 longtail cargo bike and the best cargo hauler for urban riders due to its compact form factor and exceptional maneuverability. Its wheel base is roughly the length of that of a typical commuter (180cm long), and is combined with short 20” tires and a low center-of-gravity to make the vehicle extremely easy to handle even for newer riders. The GSD S10 is also very portable and easy to store because of its low ~60lbs weight, folding handle bars, and flat rear that lets you store the bike vertically on its rear wheel. Its powertrain features an 85Nm Bosch Cargo Line mid-drive motor and a 400Wh battery pack (with mountings for a second battery pack), giving the GSD S10 a 400lbs max payload capacity despite its diminutive stature. This listing is fully kitted out and comes with two battery packs, running boards, panniers, a rear seat, and a rear seat handle. It also includes proof of purchase, with the seller even going as far as listing the serial numbers for the bike frame, batteries, and keys to prove that the vehicle is legitimate and not stolen. Listing can be found here.
The Haibike Urban Plus is a nimble class-3 commuter and the flagship urban offering within Haibike’s lineup. Its powertrain features a custom 70Nm TranzX mid-drive motor and a TranzX 490Wh battery pack. While TranzX isn’t as well known as the Bosch or Yamaha systems Haibike typically uses, it’s a cheaper and lighter powertrain that Haibike’s parent company frequently uses for their other brands Raleigh and IZIP. The Urban Plus is known to have sporty handling given its stiff frame and hydraulic brakes. However, the stiffness of the vehicle, particularly since the vehicle has no suspension, can be uncomfortable for newer riders. While most dealer-brand ebikes rely on the built-in display as the UI and controls set up for your vehicle, the Urban Plus uses a COBI smart hub. COBI smart hubs allow you to dock your smartphone and use their mobile app to not only view data about the vehicle/ride, but also to control the vehicle’s settings, lock/alarm, etc. This listing has a mileage of <600mi and comes with an upgraded front fork suspension to soften the aforementioned stiffness. Listing can be found here.
The Eunorau G30-CARGO is a budget class-2 longtail cargo bike. Its powertrain features a 65Nm geared rear hub motor and a 672Wh battery pack (with mounts for an optional dual battery set up), giving riders a max payload of 440lbs. The G30’s max speed is set to 20mph to comply with class-2 regulations, but there’s an off-road mode that unlocks speeds up to 25mph. To provide ample comfort and stopping power for a vehicle that may be moving up to 25mph while carrying 400+ lbs, the G30 has a front suspension fork and hydraulic brakes (both of which are a rarity on cargo bikes even at higher prices). This vehicle also comes standard with integrated LEDs, a Y-kickstand (a small but incredibly useful detail for cargo bikes when loaded), fenders, a wooden rear rack, and wooden running boards to make the G30 cargo-hauling ready right out of the box. The G30’s closest competitor is the ever popular RadWagon. However, the G30 retails for ~$300 less yet still comes with several components (i.e. suspension fork, hydraulic brakes, rack accessories) not found on the RadWagon. This listing is practically new with less than 3 miles ridden. Listing can be found here.
The Velotric Discover 1 is a class-2 budget city cruiser. Founded by Lime’s hardware co-founder Adam Zhang, Velotric was started with the mission to provide ebikes with certified, automotive-grade electronics at accessible prices. The Discover 1’s powertrain features a 65Nm rear hub motor and a 692Wh battery pack integrated into the down tube. This battery pack is actually made of 21700 size electric car-grade cells vs. the 18650 size cells found on most ebikes, which helps the battery provide higher power while minimizing cell degradation. The powertrain itself is also UL2849 certified, which is starting to become a requirement for legality or eligibility for government rebates across the country. Even premium ebikes rarely have both auto-sized cells and UL certification, so finding them on a vehicle as affordable as the Discover 1 is noteworthy. This listing has a Flywheel estimated mileage of ~576mi and is selling for $349 less than this model’s average resale price. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva
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