For me, the major issue with electric motorcycles is they’re silent. There’s no exotic exhaust note emanating from the engine (motor, to be precise) to give you that exhilarating experience of riding. I’m sure (and I hope) that quite a handful of bikers or motorcycle enthusiasts out there would agree with me. But hey, this is just my perspective. Anyway, the other thing that is really annoying about electric motorcycles, or of an electric vehicle, is the limited range. However, it seems that someone has found a solution to that.

A chemistry team led by Chemistry Professor Linda Nazar, at the University of Waterloo, Canada, appears to have achieved a major breakthrough in battery technology that could increase the range of electric motorcycles tremendously. According to the team, it discovered that the performance of a lithium-sulphur battery can be boosted dramatically by using a nanosheet of manganese dioxide. The increase has the potential to propel an electric vehicle three times further than a lithium-ion battery of the same weight.

Chemistry Professor Linda Nazar
Chemistry Professor Linda Nazar

Speaking on this, Dr Nazar said, “This is a major step forward and brings the Li-S battery one step closer to reality. Very few researchers study or even teach sulfur chemistry anymore. It’s ironic we had to look so far back in the literature to understand something that may so radically change our future.”

The study revealed that the surface of the manganese dioxide nanosheet essentially transforms the sulphur cathode of a Li-S battery into a high-performance cathode that can recharge more than 2,000 times. Cathodes and anodes are the two electrodes on a battery, separated by an electrolyte solution. Sulphur, which is an extremely abundant, relatively light, and very cheap battery material, historically hasn’t worked as a cathode material because it dissolves into the electrolyte solution as the battery discharges.

The university reported that previous research by Nazar found that metallic titanium oxide could work to stabilize the sulfur, but the research published this week shows that nanosheets of manganese dioxide work even better. The main goal of this paper is to explain the mechanism at work. The chemical reaction that stabilizes the sulfur is similar to a chemical process discovered in 1845 during the golden age of German sulphur chemistry.

This could be it then. If things work out and this new technology got implemented in the batteries of electric motorcycles, then the ‘range issue’ would be solved. However, charging them would still be a problem unless we have got charging stations or ports located at some predefined intervals on all roads. Similar to fuel stations, I guess?