Long Term Test | Lithium Ion Motorcycle Batteries

Well, the Skyrich is in that special battery home in the sky now, ready to become fertilizer thanks to the lack of any battery management system (BMS). I ran this battery on my 2009 Yamaha R1 since May 2011, (first reported here) putting about 12,500 miles of mostly city riding on it. So while Skyrich advertises that the battery lasts 2,000 cycles, as opposed to the 3-500 lead acid batteries can take, I only found it to last about 2.5 times as long as the lead acid my bike came with.

I didn’t count the cycles, I counted the years. The stock battery lasted 1 year. The Skyrich was starting to get weak this winter, but I didn’t do the research until after it died. It turns out that with liIon batteries, when it’s cold you actually heat it up by turning the key and letting it power the lights for a minute. I did find that although it wouldn’t crank on the first try in the cold, it would eventually crank. Unlike lead acid, lithium batteries get stronger as you use them, they “warm up”.

Which brings me to how this battery died… A month ago I crashed my bike, (full story here) and my mechanic told me the key had been left on by the tow company. Great work, considering the tow was ridiculously overpriced. My mechanic, Motorcycle Performance Services, has a great setup for high performance 21st century bikes, and also sells a brand of LiIon batteries, so he has a proper charger/balancer for these. He put the Skyrich on it, and the cap popped off. He then replaced it with the Alien Motion battery he sells, which we found to be severely underpowered for my R1. It would barely crank the bike, and couldn’t start it all if the fan was on. We tried another one, just to be sure, and no dice. I don’t know how many amps it was, but it just wasn’t quite enough for my bike. Indicative of his excellent customer service, Alex gave me a lead acid as a temporary loaner while I find the right LiIon for my bike. When the Skyrich was new, I could start it with the fan on as many times as I wanted, it would jump right to life.

Still wondering why this happened, I took the dead Skyrich to LA’s premium expert on LiIon batteries and motorcycles, Harlan Flagg, owner of Hollywood Electrics. As an Electrical Engineer, Harlan knows a lot about these batteries. He took one look at it and explained that the cells were supposed to be flat as pancakes. The fact that they were puffy indicated they were ready for the garden. He said that two things can cause this- either letting the battery run down to nothing powering the bike’s accessories, or overcharging it. He pointed out that there was no internal BMS, which would’ve prevented this battery’s death.

Now the real search for a LiIon battery that’s powerful enough for an R1 and includes an internal BMS begins… I’ve found a few reviews, but none that mention the BMS. Shorai is a popular brand, but has a separate BMS/charger. That’s fine if you park your bike for months on end, but what about if you crash & some knucklehead tow truck driver doesn’t bother turning the key off? What batteries do you like?

  • Shorai vs Ballistic review
  • Long term review of Shorai
  • Lightning (yes, THAT Lightning!) review in a comment here, which states it has an internal BMS and is powerful.
  • Another highly informative thread on ADV Rider forum

Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.