Will Cobalt-Free Batteries Be the Future of Electric Motorcycles?

An ebike you’ve never heard of is doing unheard of things with battery technology.

The Chemix 21700 cylindrical format working prototype for its battery.Chemix/UBCO

Lost in the excitement and rationale of electrification is the fact that much of what goes into batteries themselves are toxic to produce and exploitative—like cobalt. But UBCO (Utility Bike Co.) and battery developer Chemix recently announced they have “cracked the code” in developing the first, high-energy-density cobalt-free cylindrical battery. They’re partnering up to bring this battery technology to New Zealand-based UBCO’s brand of rugged 2x2 ebikes (more on that later).

Lax environmental laws and production sites in war-torn countries undercut the benefits of anything needing a battery. For reference, nine of the world’s 10 largest cobalt mining operations are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a perennially war-torn country over the last 25 years.

Specifically, UBCO and Chemix will replace nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) and nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) chemistries. Until now, iron-based battery chemistries don’t offer enough for high-performance, long-range applications—the fancy word for vehicles. Research is costly and time-consuming, but Chemix claims to be accelerating the research process using AI, or artificial intelligence.

By partnering with UBCO (and vice versa), Chemix can design a battery for UBCO, rather than using off-the-shelf tech. While many of the materials needed for li-ion batteries still won’t be as pure as the driven snow, ethically speaking, it could make a real difference. Combined with endemic supply chain disruptions, conflict in Europe, rising energy prices, etc. (deep breath), this could be a good thing.

Ideally, this will power UBCO’s upcoming premium performance trail models, including 2x2 and planned 4x4 models. As promised earlier, check out the pics. No joke, UBCO’s 2X2WRK and 2X2ADV models are two-wheel drive, via a hub-mounted motor, front and back. Performance is said to be workmanlike, with an emphasis on utility. Like an electric Rokon? Stay tuned for a Ride Review.

The UBCO 2X2ADV: AWD, 30 mph, 75-mile range, and 155 pounds.Chemix/UBCO
The UBCO 2X2WRK has a claimed payload of 330 pounds (including rider, of course).Chemix/UBCO