Ravi Kempaiah and his partners at Zen Electric Bikes are planning to disrupt the way we commute and maybe even the way we power our lives.

- December 12, 2022

(Nick Pearce photo)
(Nick Pearce photo)

INNOVATION: Electric bikes are the ideal alternative for urban commuting. Their environmental cost is small, they support physical and mental health and they’re fun to use. The downside? Most e-bike batteries only last two to three years. Zen E-Bikes are different. Thanks to battery technology developed by the Jeff Dahn Research Group, where Ravi Kempaiah is a post-doctoral fellow, Zen battery packs have double the endurance of the competition. And soon, they’ll last even longer.

“Our first-generation battery pack already lasts twice that of a typical e-bike battery pack. And we want to be the first company to commercialize Dr. Dahn’s million-mile battery for two-wheel e-mobility. It would last 10-12 years and reduce thousands of tons of CO2 emission.”

FOUNDATION: Like Dr. Kempaiah, who has a PhD in Li-ion battery science, Zen’s co-founders are enthusiasts and experts: a principal engineer with ten years’ experience in EVs, and a tech solution architect. Backing them up is an advisory board that includes Dr. Dahn, NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair, and Dr. Chris Burns, CEO of NOVONIX.

INSPIRATION: “In 2013, I was doing my master’s and I was adamant that I should not use a gasoline car just to transport me the three miles to campus,” recalls Dr. Kempaiah. “I got an e-bike and thought ‘This is game-changing technology.’ I wanted to bring more attention to it. That’s when I did the Guinness Record ride.” Dr. Kempaiah holds the Guinness World Record for longest journey on a motorized bicycle: 8,209.10 km over 34 days across twelve US states. “It only cost me $6 in electricity! That convinced me that e-bikes are the future. So, I did my PhD working on batteries.”

WHY IT MATTERS: “Long-life batteries for electric mobility—that’s our goal. A battery that lasts 10 to 12 years means less e-waste and better sustainability,” says Dr. Kempaiah. But their ambitions don’t stop there. “The next step? Let’s say you have two e-bikes, they could become an electrical backup for your home during a power outage. In places where the electrical grid is unreliable, you can ride your e-bike during the day and when you get back home, use it to power your lights and radio and other things.”

This story appeared in the DAL Magazine Fall 2022 issue. Flip through the rest of the Fall 2022 issue using the links below.


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