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Batterygate! Is it spreading?

Only a week ago, Exway issued an apology statement about how they handled the switch to lower capacity battery cells in two of their electric skateboard models. Yesterday it was WowGo’s turn. Who’s next?

  • WowGo 3: 180Wh (previously 216Wh)
  • WowGo 3X: 216Wh (previously 259Wh)
  • WowGo AT2: 418Wh (previously 504Wh)

Et tu, WowGo?

According to a Reddit post, people started noticing WowGo’s reduced battery capacities weeks ago. It just didn’t get much attention (at least not my attention) until u/Lelle_91 compiled the evidence from various people into a single post.

What happened wasn’t exactly the same as what happened with Exway. Exway at some point changed the batteries and later updated the battery specs on their website. They claim that it happened in that order by mistake.

In WowGo’s case, they changed the batteries and removed battery specs from their website. They claim they weren’t trying to fool customers.

But the end result is the same in both cases: customers didn’t get what they were expecting.

Hold up…

That Reddit post has a glaring mistake though: it states that the WowGo AT2 now uses Samsung 29E cells, which are 2900mAh and 2.75A discharge per cell. That would make the AT2’s 10S4P pack only 11A. Impossible.

I asked WowGo’s CEO Jason about this. He says the AT2 is using a domestic cell called Dongci (东磁) 29E, which is 2900mAh 10A. The person who guessed Samsung 29E likely made that wrong assumption because of the “29E” on the battery label.

Being 10A cells, the battery pack is still 40A like before, but the capacity has dropped from 504Wh to 418Wh.

Is it spreading?

The switch from imported to domestic battery cells is understandable given the worldwide battery shortage, but naturally prospective buyers of electric skateboards have to wonder if this capacity reduction is happening to other brands as well. I talked to two of the biggest e-skate mass producers: Meepo and Backfire.

I’d ask Evolve as well but mutual friends tell me they hate me over there. (I wonder why, lolz!) However we can make educated guesses on what cells they’re using.

By the way, check out my new range calculator! Use it to compare the range of different boards before buying.

Meepo

According to Kieran, Meepo’s CEO, Meepo has dealt with the shortage of imported battery cells by switching their use of Samsung 40T to the more expensive Molicel P42A since November of last year. This covers all of their boards above $500. While the Molicel cells are imported as well, Kieran says they are not in short supply because of their higher cost.

For boards under $500, Meepo has been using domestic cells since 2019 – and also stopped showing their battery specs on their website at that time. I don’t remember any commotion about that. Maybe no one noticed or cared? Maybe capacities remained the same? In any case, they have no need to make any changes now.

Backfire

Backfire’s CEO Randy saw this battery shortage coming a long time ago and the brand has been using domestic 21700 cells since 2019. Only two of Backfire’s boards today use 18650 cells but they too have been using domestic cells since they came out middle of last year.

To reiterate, all of Backfire’s boards today use domestic cells so they have no battery supply issue and don’t need to make adjustments. They still show battery specs on their website, but just the voltage, capacity, and cell size.

Correction (July 15): The Ranger X2, G3 Plus, and G2 Galaxy use imported cells but they simply remain out of stock when their specified battery cells aren’t available to produce more of them.

Evolve

I didn’t talk to Evolve (patent troll) but we can speculate based on what we know.

The Evolve GTR uses Samsung 35E and I believe they will continue to use that cell until they sell out and discontinue the board. It makes no sense to me that they would continue to sell such an outdated and underperforming board in mid-2021 unless they’re overstocked.

Perhaps Team Evolve mistakenly thought that their spike in sales in mid-2020 was due to their ingenious marketing so they produced more GTRs than they should have? (Every PEV brand got a spike in sales during 2020’s COVID lockdowns.)

Matty claiming his video did well for Evolve.
Oh Evolve… 🤦‍♂️

Nope, that video wasn’t a mistake and it did well for us.

Comment from Matty of Evolve Skateboards

Anyway.

Evolve openly disclosed the cell model for the GTR but not the Hadean, so I believe they are using Chinese cells in their $2500+ board. According to sources in e-skate manufacturing, the cells are likely one of these: SunPower (长虹三杰) INR21700-4000, LiShen (力神) LR2170SA, or Haihong (海宏) INR21700-4000.

It’s also possible that Hadean’s cell type hasn’t been finalized since the board won’t ship until September.

Are Chinese cells worse?

I know it’s difficult for some people to crawl out from under the rock and believe that good products can come out of China, but plenty of great products today come from Chinese companies.

I’m not saying that out of some sense of nationalism or anything – I’m not even a Chinese citizen. I just get tired of racism. Oh excuse me, that’s a harsh word for something that’s so rampant. Call it bigotry or stereotypes if that makes you feel better.

Kieran shows various 21700 cells on his YouTube video.
Specs for Molicel P42A, Samsung 40T, and a bunch of Chinese 21700 cells.

Based on Kieran’s recent video about batteries, there are domestic cells that have a good balance of capacity and discharge rate. (LiShen LR2170LA seems to be the standout winner in his table.) They’re likely expensive right now due to shortages.

Meepo and Backfire (and others) have been using domestic cells since 2019. It’s now 2021. If domestic cells as a whole are problematic, we should be seeing more reports of issues from domestic cells than imported cells, but we don’t. So far so good.

In any case, use of Chinese brand cells in mass production electric skateboards and other PEVs is now the norm and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

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