Looking for some hot entertainment? Try shorting out a lithium battery. Apparently, exploding laptops are not all that uncommon. Imagine this happening to the hundred pounds of lithium in your plug-in hybrid after a fender-bender.

I have been following the development of a new kind of lithium based battery (nano-phosphate) over the past year that is inherently safe (they won’t explode or burn) and of course environmentally friendly (no heavy metals). It can also be recharged ten times more often than other batteries, faster than other batteries, and is designed for high power applications (power tools instead of laptops).

In this post, I had concluded that the technology had arrived along with the needed mass production to drive prices down. I also made the following boast in yet another post:

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I am going to put three of these DeWalt power tool batteries in parallel on my bike first chance I get. And I will brag about them every chance I get (unless of course they blow up).

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Well, they didn’t blow up. I wasn’t the only one waiting for these batteries to arrive. The radio control (RC) enthusiasts were also watching. Their forums quickly disseminated pictures of disassembled battery packs. It is cheaper to buy a battery pack on Ebay and tear it apart than to order a developer kit.

I didn’t just want a battery pack. I also wanted a new circular saw. My old one was looking pretty sad (having inadvertently sawed through its power cord more than once). This way, the batteries would serve double duty. This double-duty idea has also been proposed for plug-in cars to serve as load balancers for electric grids. I checked out Ebay but opted to buy what I needed locally. The best price on Ebay was for an unopened box being sold by a pawnshop (i.e., stolen property). By the way, I have used the saw already and I highly recommend it.

I managed to mount these batteries on my bike without tearing the packs apart to get at the cells. It works like a charm. Again, I don’t recommend trying this unless you are an experienced engineer, mechanic, or tinkerer. Unlike the battery in your car that has one positive and one negative terminal, this battery pack has three terminals as well as a separate three-pin connector. The positive and negative terminals are not even labeled, so, think about it before you spend big bucks trying to jury-rig these to your bike. They will be available for electric bikes soon enough.

So, why I was I willing to spend so much money on these batteries? Four reasons:

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  1. Over the life of the battery, they will end up costing half as much as my lead-acid.
  2. My present lead-acid battery pack weighs 19.25 pounds. The new one weighs 5.
  3. I can recharge these batteries in the middle of a long ride in less time than it takes to eat lunch.
  4. They won’t blow up.

Price and reliability have clearly turned the corner. The plug-in car’s weak link has been eliminated. I am hoping to be on the wait-list at my nearest Japanese car dealership sometime in the next few years.