Group pushes for a uniform way to recharge electric scooters, bikes

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Some of the standards that vehicles must comply with also apply to the growing number of bikes and scooters on the road, especially as these methods of transportation become increasingly electrified.

Consumers and cities want electric vehicles that can be charged universally and don’t require chargers specific to each make and model. Likewise for the cities that are looking to invest in micromobility docking and charging infrastructure; many hope to invest in a one-size-fits-all approach.

But with so many different devices on the roads, it’s challenging to get every micromobility provider and stakeholder on the same page, especially as it relates to charging componentry and battery management systems.

That’s what inspired the formation of SAE International’s Micromobility Battery Standards Committee.

Micromobility companies need to share some of the same components and follow similar guidelines so they can streamline and scale up manufacturing and drive costs down, and so cities can invest in the appropriate charging infrastructure that these devices need, said Kevin Moravick, chief technology officer at universal charging network provider Swiftmile.”If a city is going to invest in something with public funds, they want to know that it plays nice with everybody,” Moravick said.

The committee, which Moravick chairs, is looking to solve discrepancies among bike and scooter providers by finding interconnectivity between charging infrastructure and these vehicles, and establishing a universal system for their battery management.

“[Cities] have been very vocal to us that ‘we’re not investing in one infrastructure that supports only two of the companies operating in our city,’ ” Moravick told Automotive News. “That’s like having a gas station that not everybody can use — it’s just so impractical.”

While some e-bikes and e-scooters share the same connector for use in charging, not all do — which poses challenges for the those trying to keep up with the right infrastructure.

There’s little in common among devices across manufacturers, even though they have identical needs for charging. For instance, some might have “RCA” style connectors, while some might use XLR or other connectors, Moravick said.

The Micromobility Battery Standards Committee, formed last September, is focused on standardizing a charge interface. The group, made up of micromobility manufacturers and operators and other stakeholders, is researching alternatives for the charge connectors now in use and drawing upon industry best practices for battery management and packaging — many of which have been implemented in recent years for EVs.

“There actually is a path forward on infrastructure right now with the existing connectors,” Moravick said. But “once standards are set such that these are the key design elements every connector should have for micromobility, all of a sudden the cost of producing that is going to go down and everybody is going to adopt that connector because it’s purpose-built and easy to use. It’s safe. It’s easy. It doesn’t break. It’s reliable.”

Swiftmile helps cities organize scooter usage through a universal platform and is interoperable with most micromobility vehicles. Moravick said he believes standards could further clear the path for it and similar universal networks.

“There’s a lot of ways to skin the cat when it comes to making a micromobility vehicle,” he said. “There’s really no right or wrong way to do it. There certainly are things that are safer and better practices for a lot of reasons, in that they’re more compatible with communities and infrastructure.

“That’s our goal: Identify what these best practices are, put them out there as standards people can strive to meet as they view their designs and let things unfold organically.”

It’s important as more micromobility devices hit the roads, he said. “COVID hit, and people realized right away the vulnerabilities of the current transportation structure,” Moravick said. “There’s no doubt that individuals have started looking elsewhere for transportation options and then because of that, cities have seen an overwhelming need for attention in that area.”