Friday, October 08, 2021

A Bit of a Price Puzzle ...

It's been a while since I had to buy a car battery, so I hit a couple of sites to refresh myself on pricing. The low end looks like $50+, average $100-150. There are "performance/sports" batteries that go way higher, of course, but if you're driving a normal car you can probably find a battery for it for around $100.

But when I go looking for a 36-volt, 10 amp-hour electric bike battery of an older, popular model (it's referred to as "silverfish" for some reason), the bottom end looks to run around $200.

Right now the "official"/brand replacement for my Nakto bike's battery is $319.99 (plus $49 shipping) on Amazon. The bike (with one battery and charger) was only $650! I could get another brand of "silverfish" for $210 or so, but apparently the model does have variations so I'd have to either be careful in finding one that fits my battery receptacle/plugs, or be able and willing to modify the battery case (I'd rather not).

Granted, the lithium-ion technology is newer than the old lead/acid car battery technology, but it's not exactly new, and it's used in a lot of stuff.

Given the increasing popularity of electric bikes, and the popularity of the "silverfish" configuration in the "budget e-bike" niche, I'm surprised I'm not seeing lower prices. It looks like a market opportunity. These batteries do have to be periodically replaced, and a lot of people would presumably like an extra for a couple of good reasons:

  1. To extend the bike's range by carrying an extra; and/or
  2. To have one battery charging while the other is being used, so that there's not a 4-6 hour wait time between trips.

Do I need a second battery for my bike? Not really. But I'd like one.

I've milked a single battery for better than 30 miles by being willing to do some un-assisted pedaling (supposedly the range of the bike is about 20 miles, but that supposition seems to assume not just using battery power the whole time), and even on shorter trips I generally do a little leg work just because.

On the other hand, I suspect (I've never tested the suspicion) that if I wanted or needed to go somewhere using only battery power, I'd get about 10 miles out of a battery. And I'd like to be able to get 20. It's about 10 miles from my house to downtown Gainesville. One of these days I might be tired or nursing an injury, but still want to go into town and back.

Also, the original battery will eventually die, and it makes sense to have a second one on hand so that I'm not bikeless while waiting for a replacement to arrive.

Next time I ride the bike into town, I may stop at a couple of brick and mortar battery stores to see what their prices look like.

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