The Lithium Revolution Comes To the Gated Community

Vehicular applications of lithium power are in the news pretty consistently, although the focus is on the transformation of conventional vehicles from hydrocarbon to electric power.  As compared with the market for golf car-type vehicles, of course, the market on the conventional side is obviously much larger for now.
Lithium solutions for small vehicles
I make a point of saying, “for now”,  because small vehicles, such as our personal transportation vehicles (PTVs), will launch, in the not too distant future, into the global urban mobility market.  And, in many ways, our gated communities offer a robust, real world testing ground for the vehicles that will energize urban mobility.
The basis for this extrapolation into the future is the lithium battery, and in this case, the future is now.  Yes, did you know that you can replace your lead acid batteries with lithium batteries?  There are such products out in the market now, waiting for you.
RELiON Battery has a drop-in solution
Inside the Gated Community (IGC) conducted an informative interview with RELiON’s Christine Feodorov, Vice President, Product Management and Strategy for the company.  Here is what she was able to tell us about her company’s groundbreaking product line of lithium batteries:
IGC—Lithium power is a revolutionary power source across many industries, but Christine, lets focus on what we in the gated community are most concerned about, namely, PTVs and light duty utility vehicles.  So, let’s suppose a typical consumer has an LSV with lead acid batteries, does RELiON offer a true “drop-in solution”, should he or she wish to switch over to lithium power?
Feodorov— Yes, RELiON offers a true drop-in solution for 48V vehicles.  Our InSight 48V030-GC2 is a standard golf-sized battery so there are no tray modifications needed.
IGC—What makes RELiON’s InSight product unique compared to other lithium batteries?
Feodorov—RELiON’s InSight is the only battery designed from the ground up for this market by a team of people with over 100 years combined experience in the Golf/Utility Vehicle-type segments.  There are numerous differences between InSight and other lithium batteries, but the biggest difference is in the BMS and software.
RELiON’s BMS and intuitive Software, not only has sophisticated algorithms to allow for various levels of protection, it is the only system that can seamlessly manage regenerative currents, which means the vehicle will not experience sudden battery disconnects.  There are many other unique features and benefits which can be found on our website relionbattery.com.
IGC– Does the battery replacement require service at a dealership, or can the average consumer do the change-out?  What would you recommend?
Feodorov—It does not require service at a dealership.  The most challenging part would be removing the heavy lead-acid batteries from the vehicle.  RELiON’s InSight 48V030-GC2 batteries can be placed in the vehicle where the lead-acid batteries resided.  The only differences are they are connected in parallel rather than series and there are CAN cables to connect between each battery that are hand tightened.  Most likely, the consumer will use fewer lithium batteries compared to lead-acid, so in the event the hold-down brackets require 6 batteries to be installed, we recommend using our spacer batteries, which we provide, to fill the empty slots. We provide a Quick Install Guide to make it really simple.
IGC—Would there be a need to change the controller or reprogram the existing one?
Feodorov—There is no need to change the controller or reprogram the existing one.
IGC— In the case of a change-out to a RELiON battery, would the charging process be any different from what this person is used to with lead acid batteries?
Feodorov— The process is not different however they will charge much faster due to the superior efficiency of charging lithium over lead-acid batteries, which also results in a cost savings.  We have researched the common chargers being used in this industry and our end goal is to assure all chargers work seamlessly with the InSight battery.  With our world-wide presence and range of market segments, this is an ongoing work in process, but our team is readily available to address specific questions or concerns should they arise.
IGC—What about battery maintenance, including storage for relatively long periods of inactivity?  Are there advantages (or disadvantages) with regard to lithium batteries?
Feodorov—With RELiON’s InSight product there is no maintenance during storage; just charge them up and turn them OFF.  If you forget to manually turn them OFF its not a concern as they will turn OFF on their own within days.  There can be definite advantages to storing lithium if designed properly, which RELiON has done with its InSight product.
Although lithium cells self-discharge at a lower rate than lead-acid, the BMS included with the battery system often accelerates that discharge rate, negating the benefit.  RELiON took this issue into consideration at the design phase and its BMS combined with its intuitive software does not deplete the battery.  It will transition into an idle mode and then a standby mode to not drain the battery.  In fact, RELiON’s 48V030-GC2 would take well over 2 years to deplete its energy during storage starting from a fully-charged state.
IGC—Do you see a market in gated communities, such as The Villages in Florida, where gas engines are preferred because of the distances involved?
Feodorov—Absolutely.  Only 2, 48V030-GC2 batteries; which provide 60Ah, will deliver between 40-50 miles of range on a single charge.  Add a third battery and you will be able to drive 60-75 miles and a fourth would provide 80 – 100 miles.  Those who have been forced to use gas engines to get the range they want, can now switch to a quieter, environmentally friendly electric motor without sacrifice.
IGC—And what about light duty utility vehicles, such as Club Car’s Carryall line, the Cushman Hauler models, and Yamaha’s UMax Rally Electrics?  Have you been able to build a market in this segment?
Feodorov— Our InSight product was designed with Golf and Utility Vehicles in mind, amongst other light duty vehicles.  All the benefits provided by InSight are only magnified in heavier duty applications.  InSight is already being used in this type of equipment around the world and the RELiON team is working closely with many equipment manufacturers at the corporate and engineering levels to further advance our gains in these segments.
IGC—Many of us inside the gated community are golfers and use the facility’s fleet vehicles.  We don’t want to be stuck out on 16th hole with a dead battery.  And facility management has to be concerned about cost.  So, what can you say about the fleet market?
Feodorov—In the fleet market RELiON’s InSight product provides all the benefits that an individual consumer would get plus the additional benefit of a tremendous savings, up to a few thousand dollars per year, in electricity costs associated with charging a fleet of golf carts.  The charge efficiency of lithium batteries can often be overlooked as the benefits are not understood, but they should be a factor in the purchasing equation, as it can dramatically improve the ROI while at the same time providing a noticeably more powerful vehicle.
IGC—Thanks Christine.  This has been very informative and exciting.  And for us “Gaters”, the next time we think about an upgrade for our PTV, we need to compare a glitzy trick-out accessory with a whole, new “under-the-hood” vehicle that comes with lithium power.
Lithium battery technology:  Separating myth from reality
Want to learn more about lithium batteries?  Here is a link to an excellent, non-technical white paper put together by the folks at RELiON:
Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.

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