Racing This Time!

With these famous words, a commentator announces the start of a horse race. Now, too, the racing season is underway for motorised vehicles in NZ.

We have just had the opening round of the Suzuki Series in Taupo at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park and what an exciting weekend it was! Across all classes, the racing was close, offering great battles and unfortunately many spills. The pick-up trailer and the medical van were kept very busy, but fortunately no-one was seriously hurt despite some spectacular accidents.

As the national distributor for Shorai batteries, I was keen to attend and catch up with everyone. Many racers across the classes are using Shorai motorcycle batteries now and especially the top riders and teams. Shorai batteries have proved themselves to be light, powerful and safe. This was ably demonstrated in one accident where a rider lost his brakes at around 160km/h. The bike was totalled, the rider a bit bruised, and hanging from its cables, was a Shorai battery, completely undamaged. Had it been a lead acid battery, even a sealed one, it would have been broken causing acid and gas leakage. Not want you want in an accident!

Modern superbikes like the Suzuki GSXR1000R and the Honda CBR1000RR along with the 600’s are increasingly using sophisticated electronic controls, including more “fly-by-wire” electronics for throttle control. As with cars, these days the greater demand for electric power places huge strain on the batteries. Many manufacturers of motor vehicles are moving to 24V or 48V electrical systems, while relying on 12V batteries. Hence, batteries are becoming denser, with more plates, and heavier, in an attempt to cope with the loadings.

Lithium technology is gaining support, but is still expensive for most manufacturers to use as original equipment, leaving the parts departments of dealers and the aftermarket to fit where appropriate for the customer.

So how does a Shorai LiFePO4 battery compare with, say, a good quality lead acid such as the popular Yuasa? Yuasa have pretty much got the OE market and has a good reputation for consistent quality and reliable performance, and many have been reluctant to change, especially in the road market where weight has not been an issue for most riders.

Let’s quickly review the difference in technology. LiFePO4 is a version of Lithium technology, used in motor vehicles for its safety and consistency. Tesla, for example use this type of battery. Some others are okay, too, such as my Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV hybrid which uses Lithium Ion Manganese, and Mitsubishi have never had a failure. At 81,000km my own vehicle still runs like new. Virtually inert, LiFePO4 doesn’t catch fire easily, and if the battery is broken open, there is no gas or acid to leak out, making these very safe in an accident. Sealed lead acid, and more so standard lead acid, is far less safe in an accident and many fires and burns have occurred due to their volatility.

The other major difference is in consistency of performance. Even the best lead acid batteries, by their nature, drain flat over time used, reducing their power and output. If you don’t get your vehicle started first time, each successive attempt further drains the battery and weakens its output. Shorai batteries maintain their output at max power, right to the end. In fact, the hotter they get, the more power they produce! Handy if you’re stuck in the bush on a trail bike, or on a race track after a spill. Or when the temperature is freezing and your lead acid just won’t kick. In freezing conditions, all batteries may be a bit reluctant, even Shorai’s, but the trick is to switch your ignition and lights on for a few minutes while you are getting ready. This drain warms the battery up and gives it starting power. This is the opposite to lead acid!