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Sooner or later I had to replace my motorcycle battery and the time finally came. I was faced with a decision to purchase another lead acid battery or try the newer Lithium style batteries on the market. Being familiar with Lithium-ion/iron technology from past projects and personal experience with them in Aerospace Engineering field, I found a few companies making batteries for motor sports applications. As with any industry, companies come and go and there are few which make a name for themselves and last in a competitive industry. I decided to go with Shorai for various reasons.

In the RC world variants of Lithium style batteries have been used for a long time so when this technology is fairly old, however when I found Shorai was using Lithium Iron prismatic cells (LiFePO4) I decided to give them a try. Shorai claims they uses proprietary cells specifically designed for motor sports application which is key. There are a lot of other companies out there using A123 style batteries, however there is no way to confirm the source since there are a lot of knock off LiFePO4 batteries on the market readily available. It is a known fact A123 Systems does not sell batteries directly to the public. Their batteries are made in different factories at China and smaller factories in South Korea and Malaysia. So people take apart Dewalt batteries which contain genuine Grade A A123 batteries and make their own battery packs, if not done properly this can lead to a lot of problem like fires and explosions. Prismatic cells on the other hand are not as counterfeited since they do not come in a conventional cylindrical casing similar to standard batteries. Shorai used to sources the base material from Japan, now the material comes from another source which is leading the cutting edge development in new cathode technology. Since this info is proprietary to Shorai I will leave the source out. Shorai has excellent quality control and every battery is assembled in an ISO 9000 certified factory in China which goes through extensive testing. I can tell you any factory with ISO 9000 certification is a big deal, it means extreme quality control to the level you can trust the part being put on a commercial aircraft and the process from beginning to end is about a 2 year time frame so if these batteries are going through that factory you can rest assured you are getting a quality product. What sets Shorai apart from their competitors is the amount of testing each cell goes through. The battery comes with a limited 2 year warranty with some restrictions so it is important you understand and read the warranty information.

I feel I need to put this out there since there is a lot of miss information in general with respect to products made overseas. You have to remember not everything from China is of poor quality. There are standards companies set for products which determine the quality control in factories. Take Apple for example, all their phones, tablets, etc are made in China with high quality control. I don’t agree with the wages and how the workers are treated specifically at Foxconn but that is a whole other argument. I’m all for buying American made products but you have to consider the source and the company as well as cost when factoring your final decision. Shorai is an American company similar to many other American companies using factories overseas to produce a product to the highest quality possible and passing down the lower cost to us consumers due high volume orders and cheap labor rates. Some Shorai competitors will claim their batteries are made in the USA as if it is more superior being assembled by Jon Doe in the back of the warehouse. The reality is these batteries are only assembled here in the USA but the cells are all made overseas and they all come from overseas markets like China. I personally would rather buy a product from an ISO certified factory with stringent quality control than good old Jon in the USA, but that is just me and my decades of experience in Aerospace which has taught me one thing, individuals make mistakes but groups of individuals are more likely to catch a mistake.

A quick History of this Technology from Wikipedia:
“LiFePO4 was discovered by John Goodenough's research group at the University of Texas in 1996, as a cathode material for rechargeable lithium batteries. Because of its low cost, non-toxicity, the high abundance of iron, its excellent thermal stability, safety characteristics, electrochemical performance, and specific capacity (170 mA·h/g, or 610 C/g) it gained some market acceptance.
Its key barrier to commercialization was intrinsically low electrical conductivity. This problem, however, was then overcome by reducing the particle size, coating the LiFePO4 particles with conductive materials such as carbon, and doping the result with cations of materials such as aluminium, niobium, and zirconium. This approach was developed by Yet-Ming Chiang and his coworkers at MIT. It was later shown that most of the conductivity improvement was due to the presence of nanoscopic carbon originating from organic precursors.”
In 2001 Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang and his colleagues from MIT started A123 Systems. They make batteries for various industries and do not sell directly to the public simply because they want to make sure the product is used correctly and have no interest in selling them to integrators who may damage the product or hurt themselves. If you are as so lucky to get a response from the company like I did they will request credentials and details about your project which must include proposals which will be reviewed by their management and top engineers. So in a nutshell unless you are making the next Tesla Roadster or have a compelling project which requires this power form, forget about trying to get your hands on a sample for personal projects.

There are two major forms of this cell technology which is aggressively marketed today to consumers and they come in Cylindrical and Prismatic cells. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. Cylindrical cells are basically the same shape as your cylindrical AA batteries and come in different sizes. Prismatic cells come in different sizes as well but they are flat and rectangular which makes them easier to form to match the shape of a standard battery case. Grade A A123 Systems batteries have the highest surge power discharge available and continuous high current output compared to any other cell. This makes them an ideal choice for systems which require a high continuous discharge rate of current and high initial output surge which for example EV’s and power tools require. When it comes to motorcycles these batteries are great for basically starting your bike with the highest possible cold cranking ampere but after that the benefits of having the highest continuous current is moot since the alternator aids in supplying the necessary current for the electronics on these bikes. The cylindrical shape is great in that it allows for proper air cooling for high current setups you would see in a Tesla EV, but the metal exterior also adds weight and inherently the space between cells is unused real estate. This is where prismatic cells have a big advantage since they can be stacked into smaller space without lost real estate and reduced weight, however at the expense of cooling. Since our motorcycles do not need the massive energy draw like EV’s with the use of thousands of cylindrical cells with adequate air flow for thermal issues, it makes prismatic cells a clear winner out of the two for motorcycle applications. With recent advances prismatic cells feature an increased energy density through new anode and cell design with flat electrodes placed into a box with separators placed between them. One big advantage with a prismatic cell is the long Amp Hour (Ah) rating which allows a much longer discharge at a lower current draw. The benefit of this is for those of you who like to fill your motorcycle with electronic gadgets which draw low current or have a parasitic discharge after you turn off your bike, the prismatic cells will last longer before it needs a charge so the maintenance on this type of cell is lower compared to cylindrical cells. A possible scenario is when the charging system can not keep up with the number of additional electronics you add to your motorcycle drawing more current than what the alternator can supply back to charge the battery. The prismatic cell offering a longer Amp Hour will supply a continuous current to those electronics at a low amp rate and will last longer than a Cylindrical cell. This scenario depends on the electronics and how much current is drawn so there are a lot of factors but generally speaking most advanced EFI tunning devices like Motty AFR draws 70mA, other accessories like HotGrips use 3A and so on. It is important to understand the total time of discharge and load applied is not linear so as your load increases the capacity decreases. So if you want to get a battery that is similar to a lead acid but has all the other benefits of a LiFePO4 than a prismatic cell battery is a better choice for motorcycle applications. On the other hand if you have parasitic electronics which you must keep than a lead acid battery with a much higher Ah capacity will be better for you.
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Think of these LiFePO4 batteries as the new “LED bulbs” of the battery industry. They have been around for a while, but now finally companies like Shorai are bringing them to the forefront and making them readily available to consumers. They have several huge advantages over conventional lead acid batteries which include: weight savings, maintainability and durability. On average you can save anywhere from 5lbs or more by switching from lead acid to LiFePO4 depending on which model battery you choose. The size of these batteries is also much smaller so designers and engineers can utilize the extra free space for something more useful. They can be mounted upside down, sideways and in any orientation you want without having to worry about acid leaks. The concerns of fires or explosions from these batteries have been eliminated as well compared to standard Lithium-ion batteries. I should state some lead acid style batteries (AGM) can also be mounted in any orientation but they cost more than your standard off the shelf Walmart lead acid battery. These batteries handle vibration well and can withstand the roughest conditions on the street, track or dirt. These batteries can also be stored with a much longer shelf life than conventional lead acid batteries. The slow discharge rate of these batteries make them ideal for various industries thus making them more maintenance free in terms of having to constantly run a trickle charger compared to a lead acid being stored for a long time. The cold cranking ampere (CCA) on these batteries is much higher than lead acid allowing the motorcycle to start up much faster. Cylindrical cells typically have the highest CCA rating and even though Shorai’s prismatic cells do not have the highest CCA ratings what makes them stellar in starting a motorcycle is the higher voltage level under load and flat discharge curve which makes them superior over lead acid batteries. Running some tests with a lead acid battery the bike starts up fine the first time but restarting causes the battery to sulfate and build resistance thus making it harder and harder to restart. This test clearly strained the lead acid battery as each subsequent start took more cranking before the bike fired up and after a while it would not fire back up until I recharged the lead acid battery. Repeating this same test with the Shorai battery had no affect after the eighth restart and each time the bike fired up quicker. Environmentally since these batteries do not contain cobalt oxide like standard Lithium-Ion or acid which can leak they are safe compared to other battery technologies but it is too soon to tell the implications since they are still relatively new compared to the 150+ year old lead acid batteries.

Shorai battery came nicely packaged in a box filled with different size adhesive backed foam for that perfect fit and four nuts/bolts which was designed to match oem spec(10mm). For ease of installation the nuts came attached with a little piece of foam which allows you to insert them in the battery terminal without having to worry about them falling out when you are getting ready to screw in the mating bolt. The design of the Shorai makes it really easy to fit into any standard battery compartment due to its rectangular shape, unlike other companies who simply shrink wrap cylindrical cells or even provide a hard case cylindrical style case to save weight but require more foam and some trial and error in getting that perfect fit. You can see from my video how easy it was to adapt the Shorai battery to the oem compartment by simply cutting just one piece of foam which took a few seconds and the battery fit like a glove. The oem style terminals on the Shorai are also a welcome sight as it does not require any cutting or soldering for special connectors and so on. It makes this truly as close to plug and play as you can get which is a big plus. The terminals and other parts of this battery have been revised over the years to improve on design and it shows as the beefy terminals handled the torque I gave with a 10mm socket as I tightened down the bolt, it showed no sign of movement. These Shorai batteries also contain circuitry to protect against an over-charge and over-discharge along with protection against internal cell short circuit. The circuitry also has protection against spikes and unusual charging systems and the ability to charge using a Battery Management System for balanced charging. The low self-discharge rate of the prismatic cell structure is what really sets this battery apart from the competitors with the lowest internal resistance offered and the ability to use a BMS charger. The reason not all manufacturers offer a BMS is because of cost. This is really a shame, they are doing their customers disservice by not offering what is considered a key part of LiFePO4 technology. Using this type of battery without a BMS is basically spelling disaster in the longevity of these batteries. Having experimented with LiFePO4 batteries, specifically different Grade A A123 System batteries in a lab environment I can tell you without a BMS the batteries will only last half the normal life of a balanced battery. Skeptics arguing BMS is not needed for motorcycle batteries have a point, but they are missing the point of this technology and are simply doing it because of cost. When these batteries are used for example on a Power tool or a EV they are fully drained and charged up using a BMS, however on motorcycle applications you would technically never let the batteries discharge below the required voltage or overcharge them since you mainly use the battery for turning the motorcycle over and assume everything else is working correctly. If you happen to use a battery tender or some generic charger without a BMS circuit you can easily over charge these batteries or discharge them causing damage, which is why most of these batteries do not last long. There is a reason why the certain power tool battery packs have all that circuitry in them and are to be used with specific chargers. So a BMS is not a luxury but a must have for the longevity of the battery. I have not taken this Shorai battery apart to confirm there is an equalizer on each cell but I suspect Shorai has not cut any corners since they offer a BMS charger and provide a BMS port on these batteries. I did however confirm with Operations Manager from Shorai and Technical Director and AMA racer Shawn Higbee who also uses these batteries, and has opened these batteries to confirm each cell does have its own balance module. The Shorai BMS is not a full blown BMS system you would find in a EV but it does balance each cell individually using a circuit of MOSFETS which bleed of excess voltage. On a more advanced BMS when a charge is taking place the circuit is monitoring each cell for temperature and percentage of charge/discharge from each balance module and sending this data to the master control unit which is essentially the brain of the circuit. The control unit monitors each cell and prevents over-charge while also controlling over-discharge rate to ensure each cell is balanced equally to provide maximum life expectancy for each cell.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

The only reason I see why people are not jumping the gun on this type of battery is price. The skeptics might say there are cheaper alternatives to LiFePO4 batteries and that is true but you are missing out on all the advantages of this new technology. The alternative to traditional lead acid is another variant of this old battery technology which include: absorbed gel mat (AGM), gel cell and wet cell which I won’t get into details since there is plenty of info on the web. For the sake of argument I’ll compare AGM which is the most popular among the three variants. The Yuasa AGM battery costs two to three times more than a standard lead acid battery so when you consider the total cost of this battery you are not far off from the cost of a new Shorai LiFePO4 battery. AGM does provide more CCA than a standard lead acid but it is still not as superior to LiFePO4 nor will it last as long sitting on the shelf without use. AGM battery weight savings over lead acid is minimal if any. On the other hand if you have parasitic electronics which draw from the battery even with the motorcycle turned off than you might be better off with a lead acid or AGM battery which will have a higher Ah to allow a low current drain and be able to start back up if left unattended for an extended period of time. This is why a lot of car batteries are still lead acid or AGM. I took my Fluke meter to measured the current draw with the motorcycle turned off and my digital meter as accurate and fine of a reading it measures read zero down to micro Amps levels. So I used my older Fluke and confirmed the reading. I have some unique electronics on the motorcycle and I don’t run the oem dash which could have something to do with my readings, but I had a buddy with the same year bike and basic electronics package do the same test on his bike with a oem dash and he measured 2.4mA using an older analog style meter while his digital meter also registered zero. Surprisingly he initially got 20mA then it dropped to 2.4mA and stayed there after multiple readings. My guess would be the initial spike could be from the internal resistance of the old analog meter but I can’t confirm. I suspect this 2.4mA draw might be coming from his dash since the yellow box and PC III USB wouldn’t be drawing anything as the yellow box is inline with the bikes power source and calibration maps on the PC III USB are stored in NVRAM so there is no need to draw anything to store the maps in a volatile state. So in essence, motorcycle manufacturers and the people who make aftermarket parts for our motorcycles design them in a smart manner knowing our battery capacity where there is little to zero current draw when the motorcycle is turned off. So AGM batteries are really not needed in motorcycles unless your application such as a poorly designed alarm calls for it, therefore your money is better spent on LiFePO4 battery which can survive for a longer period of time of inactivity due to the low discharge rate especially one with a prismatic cell like Shorai. Another concern with this technology is cold cranking capability. It is no secret as temperatures decrease these batteries build internal resistance, this is more of an issue when you are 75 thousand feet up in the air or space for aviation purposes, but also in climates where the temperature drops below zero. The simple solution is to run your headlight and even flip the high beam on for a while which will allow the battery to warm up and fire right up on the first or second crank. This inherent problem is relevant to both cylindrical and prismatic cells. I tested this by putting the battery in my freezer for 24 hours and my freezer is set to 0C, to my surprise the bike fired up fine on the second crank without any break between the cranks and my headlight was off (I run a switched HID). Though the battery is new I will have to run this test again in the future when I have more use on it but I suspect the results will be the same.


I left out some basic information which can easily be obtained by reading the FAQ page on Shorai’s website http://www.shoraipower.com/t-faq.aspx I urge anyone who is going to purchase one of these batteries to get informed and read the information provided by the manufacturer’s website. I ran multiple tests on this battery and the results are basically what I expected compared to a lead acid battery. The BMS Shorai charger is a very nice compact unit which I urge anyone buying this battery to purchase to prolong the life of your battery. The charger has a store mode and a charge mode both of which are useful for different situations. The instructions are easy to follow and all the connectors are provided for their 12v and 6v batteries. I can only speak for myself when I say I’m very happy with this battery and charger combo and will purchase these for other applications. Overall this is a great product and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new battery.

Keep an eye out for a follow up article to Shorai’s new car batteries which will be available later in the year around September/October 2012 time frame. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on this new car battery to test in different vehicles and report back my results.


Here is a Video on how to fit the Shorai battery and use the BMS charger
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM-oBfZuBvU&feature=youtu.be
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Holy review. However, yes...they are badass one. I have one my bike and so do many others on the forum. One of the best warranties with Shorai as well :fact
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Are those race legal in roll on racing out in Cali?

I bet Tank34 would know.
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Excellent review. I was skeptical when I bought my battery but so far working great.

Just a side note is I use this charger to balance the battery once in a while.

http://www.hobbypartz.com/thac6smbachw.html?gclid=CJLt1avLzbACFbEBQAod5RiGVw

All I needed was the BMS connector from Shorai that they were nice enough to send me for free..:cheers
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Thanks for posting, I didn't purchase the Shorai because I saw it was made in China, I swore they were made in Japan at first. I purchased a ballistic for my race bike, it has caused me zero problems so far, but I might buy a Shorai for my street bike.
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Excellent review. I was skeptical when I bought my battery but so far working great.

Just a side note is I use this charger to balance the battery once in a while.

http://www.hobbypartz.com/thac6smbachw.html?gclid=CJLt1avLzbACFbEBQAod5RiGVw

All I needed was the BMS connector from Shorai that they were nice enough to send me for free..:cheers
That is the nice thing about the BMS port on the battery it can plug into virtually in LiFePO4 capable charger with balanced charging option.

Thanks for posting, I didn't purchase the Shorai because I saw it was made in China, I swore they were made in Japan at first. I purchased a ballistic for my race bike, it has caused me zero problems so far, but I might buy a Shorai for my street bike.
That is just the reason I posted this article, a lot of misconception out on the web. The best LiFePO4 battery cell technology in the world comes from Asia: China to name a few, so the only thing you have to worry about is companies using what they claim to be authentic cells. Ballistic and others use cylindrical cells which is fine, but I can assure you they are not A123 Systems cells. Their cell material more than likely comes from overseas and even more likely the completed cell itself is made overseas. If you notice not a single company including Shorai claims they make the cells here in the USA. There is a reason for that. Lastly the nice part about the BMS on Shorai over the competitors is that it does not require additional connections other than to the BMS port, so you don't need to hook up positive and negative leads on top of the BMS cable. That is a designed flaw to begin with and not engineered very well if you need to hook up additional cables if you ask me.

:cheers
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

i see you got the 18 versus the 14 battery. Any particular reason?
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

I went with the bigger battery b/c of the amount of electronics i have on the bike and the higher CCA to be on the safe side. I have no doubt the x14 would have started the bike as well.
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Thanks for the review. I was considering Shorai, now I am going to get one. It helped me to know about the differences between the types of batteries. Your review was great. I wish other people would read my mind and answer all my questions before I ask them. :)

Cheers!
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

wisegunner - Glad you found it helpful, that was my intention to clear up a lot of questions and bad info out there. Yes the article is long but it address a lot of the issues and questions.

I'll be doing a car battery review in a few months and I'm curious as to how they are going to address the typical electronics in cars.
:cheers
 

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Re: Shorai battery and BMS Charger Review & LiFePO4 Cell technology - Lots of Pics

Great review. I actually just purchased a Shorai for my '05 1K, it's been great so far but now I'm even more pleased with the purchase. Cutting 5lbs. is well worth the money IMHO.
 
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