It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited by an electric bicycle charger. In fact, my ebike charger is usually my last thought – just something I use at the end of the day to top up my battery. But that was until I bought a Cycle Satiator from Grin Technologies, an innovative Canadian ebike component company.
I’ll start with a quick summary of my thoughts on the Cycle Satiator. For me, it was a must-buy because it allows me to charge many different ebike batteries, replacing a pile of chargers. It also allows me to dial in the charging power and time I want based on different situations – no more waiting for my battery to slowly charge when I’m in a rush to get going. The charger is a bit expensive at $295, but below I’ll show you how this is actually quite a deal and can even save you more money over the life of your battery. So if you want to learn about a great quality charger that can pay for itself, keep reading!
Grin Technologies – ebike innovators
You guys might remember Grin (or better known as ebikes.ca) from my article on the Cycle Analyst – one of their first ebike inventions. They’ve developed all sorts of new ebike technologies in-house at their headquarters in Vancouver. From watt meters to cycle lights, they’ve lent their ingenuity to a number of different ebike developments, and now they’ve set their sights on redefining the conventional ebike charger.
The Cycle Analyst represents years of R&D aimed at correcting all the frustrating problems associated with cheap Chinese ebike chargers, namely:
- Poor quality
- Low reliability
- Loud noise
- Limited voltage range
- Lack of adjustability
Let’s take a look at how the Cycle Satiator improved upon all of these areas, below.
Ebike chargers – quality matters!
Today’s lithium batteries are usually very safe, but it is important to remember that these batteries contain a lot of energy in a small package. Charging of these batteries has to be done is a safe way to ensure that the process occurs without malfunctions. Although ebike fires are incredibly rare considering the huge number of ebikes out there, those rare fires almost always occur during charging. The fault: usually a cheap charger. Here’s an interesting story from a guy whose charger burned up, convincing him to get a Cycle Satiator.
The Cycle Satiator has been developed from the ground up with safety in mind. The design is highly efficient, generating much less waste heat than cheaper electric bicycle chargers. The Cycle Satiator is also 100% sealed, meaning no water or foreign objects can get into the charger. The charger has made it through all the testing, legal and regulatory hurdles to ensure that it meets all major international electronic standardizations, something that most cheap Chinese chargers can’t claim. All of that regulatory testing is expensive, and has helped contribute to the higher price of the Cycle Satiator, but this is a case of “you get what you pay for”. When you spend a bit more, you get a better, safer charger.
An electric bicycle charger you can count on
That attention to quality has helped make the Cycle Satiator one of the most reliable ebike chargers out there. The charger initially rolled out a limited beta-test run, giving Grin Technologies time to work with users and ensure the Cycle Satiator performed well in diverse real-world environments and uses. I got my charger over a year ago for testing and I haven’t had one single issue yet.
I’ve used dozens of other ebike chargers over the years, and I’d say that perhaps a third to one half of all cheap ebike chargers I’ve used have failed on me at one point or another. Of course my only one year with the Cycle Satiator isn’t enough to speak about its long term reliability, but I’ve had many other ebike chargers fail in less than a year. Wire joints break, cases become brittle, electronics burn out, connectors corrode or fail, etc.
So far I haven’t had any of those issues with the Cycle Satiator. The case is beautifully machined out of high quality aluminum – not plastic. The connectors are genuine (and expensive) German manufactured Neutrix connectors and waterproof Singatron connectors. Every detail has been considered to make sure the Cycle Satiator will continue working strong for years to come.
The Cycle Satiator – eerily silent power
I like powerful ebike chargers, meaning a high current charger that can pump a whole pile of electrons through my batteries in a short period of time. The only problem with high power chargers is that they generate a lot of heat, which means they need powerful cooling fans.
Before I bought a Cycle Satiator I was using a medium power 48V 4A charger (about 200 watts). It worked pretty well, but the cooling fan could be heard from any room in the apartment and drove my wife crazy. It left me trying to schedule my charging for when I had the place all to myself.
The Cycle Satiator is even more powerful, giving you the option to charge at up to 8A, about 350 watts. Despite this, it has absolutely no cooling fan. Instead, the designers aimed for high efficiency to reduce waste heat and used a well designed heat sink allowing the Cycle Satiator to passively cool itself, no noisy fan needed. At 95% efficiency, the Cycle Satiator is the most efficient ebike charger out there and leaves very few excess watts to escape as heat.
Now that doesn’t mean the charger won’t get hot. Sometimes I’m surprised at how warm the case feels during charging, but that’s a sign that it is working well, as the case is built into the heat sink and helps transfer the heat from the charger out through the case for passive air cooling. It certainly doesn’t get too warm to hold, and I just make sure to not leave the charger under anything that would obstruct the airflow around the case. Basically, don’t stack a pile of jackets on it then charge at 8A.
Ironically, I used to know my battery had stopped charging when the white noise of my ebike charger’s cooling fan in the background suddenly cut out. Now, I actually have to check the Cycle Satiator’s screen to see if the charge cycle has ended. It’s the same volume when it’s charging as when it’s unplugged – silent.
Charge every ebike battery you own
One of my favorite features of the Cycle Satiator, and the reason it’s the only charge I use now, is the fact that it can charge batteries of different voltages. My daily driver ebike has a 52V battery. I also use a 48V ebike on occasion. My wife’s ebike is 24V, though I have a 36V battery that I sometimes put on her bike when we go cruising and she wants a bit more power.
I used to have four different chargers for these batteries, but now I only have one – the Cycle Satiator.
To charge all of these different types of batteries, the Satiator can come with an optional adapter, shown above. The adapter works for a few of my batteries with the same type of connector (anderson powerpoles), but I made a few more adapters to charge the other batteries in my collection.
The process of making a custom adapter is very simple – you just need to solder the connector that matches your battery to a short piece of wire connected to an XLR connector that matches the Cycle Satiator’s DC output. Grin Technology has pre-made adapters that you can buy (I have the one pictured above, it’s great) but I’ll also be writing up a how-to article showing how to make your own custom adapters as well.
The Cycle Satiator also allows you to create profiles for each of your batteries so you can quickly choose which battery you want to charge and adapt the charger for any pack. And you’re not just limited to lithium batteries either. Sure, Li-ion packs are the majority of the market, but you can also charge a lead acid and NiMH packs as well!
The first version of the Cycle Satiator only went up to 60V, meaning you could charge a battery up to 52V (14 cells, which charge up to 58.8V). That covers almost all of the ebike community. However, some custom ebike builders like to push the envelope of power and speed, meaning they use higher voltage batteries, from 72V and higher. Grin Technology has recently released a second version of the Cycle Satiator that can charge up to 103V, though the original version should be enough for most ‘normal’ ebikers out there.
“Satiate” your battery for longer life
The Cycle Satiator admittedly has an odd name. The “satiate” part comes from the unique ability to dial in an exact battery charge voltage and undercharge your battery as much as you’d like.
Why would someone want to undercharge their battery? Recent research in lithium batteries has found that charging a battery to a point less than 100% can increase the cycle life (the number of recharges you get before the pack dies) of the battery.
The chemistry here is fairly complicated, but the simplified version is that the higher the charge level of a lithium cell, the faster a non-reversible reaction occurs on the electricity conducting material inside the cell that inhibits its transfer capacity over time. So basically, the longer a battery is at 100% charge, the worse it is for the health of the battery. Charging to just 90% means the battery doesn’t sit around all day in that fully charged state that slowly degrades the battery.
According to Grin Technologies, charging to 90% instead of 100% capacity can increase the life of the battery 1.5x, and charging to 80% capacity can double the life of the battery. Obviously the downside here is that you have less range due to not fully charging the battery, but the added lifespan of the battery is worth it for many ebike riders.
If you plan on having your ebike and/or battery for many years, the cost savings of doubling your ebike battery’s lifespan can more than cover the cost of the Cycle Satiator. For me, I tend to go through batteries fairly quickly, building new ones and selling my current ones. That means I don’t benefit as much from the added cycle life of undercharging. But for most people that have a battery for its entire useful life, this could be a big deal.
Make it an on-board ebike charger
Due to its 100% sealed design, you can mount it directly to your ebike and turn it into an on-board ebike charger. I’ve tried this with other ebike chargers and it’s always failed due to cheap components and an inability to completely seal off the charger. But the weatherproof and shockproof design of the Cycle Satiator finally makes an on-board charger a reality. You no longer have to remember to bring your charger with you on a long trip. Simply charge anywhere you can find an extension cord!
Personally I never mounted my Cycle Satiator on my bike, partly because then I couldn’t use it to charge all the other batteries I have for other bikes. I did use the convenient mounting holes to screw it to the leg of my desk though, which kept it out of the way but accessible as well. A charger with mounting holes, what an idea!
Do you ever look at your ebike charger, sitting in the corner humming away, and wonder how far its charged your ebike? It’s hard to know until it stops — it’s either charging or it’s done. But with the Cycle Satiator, you always know exactly how far along your battery is thanks to the digital readout on the charger. Not only can you see the instantaneous voltage of your battery, but you can also see exactly how much energy has been pumped into it, showing you exactly how depleted your battery was.
The two-button interface can be a bit confusing at first, but you quickly master it. There aren’t that many options anyways, so it’s hard to get lost in the interface.
Cycle Satiator’s force start feature
One aspect of the Cycle Satiator that caught me off guard was related to its force start feature. Basically, if the charger detects that a battery’s voltage is below the minimum voltage for the battery profile selected (for instance, you try to charge a 24V battery using the 36V or 48V profile) it will not start the charging process. This is an important safety feature, but it can occasionally cause a problem. Some BMS units will actually cutoff the discharge leads from the circuit when the battery reaches its minimum safe charge level. This means the Cycle Satiator will actually see a low voltage, usually between 0-10V.
To force the Cycle Satiator to start charging the battery (once you’ve confirmed that your battery really is the proper voltage for the selected profile), simply hold down the lower button while the battery is plugged in and the Cycle Satiator is stalled on the “Please connect battery” screen. That’s it! Your Cycle Satiator will now start charging, which immediately gets your BMS to click back on once it senses a voltage above its minimum safe level.
Always up to date
Another great feature of the Cycle Satiator is that you get free updates for life. Grin Technologies has already released a few updates to the firmware to improve the functionality and add features.
You might be thinking, “What do I need to update a charger for?” Consider this: battery technology is always developing and improving. One year from today we could have an entirely new type of battery that requires a different charging profile. Any other charger would be obslete, forcing you to buy a new charger. But not the Cycle Satiator, it’s ready for the future!
For that matter, updating and programming the Cycle Satiator is quite simple. You can make all of your profiles on the device itself, though the two button interface makes this process a bit slow and uncomfortable. In addition, you can do all the setup and profile creation you need on a simple computer program available from the Ebikes.ca Cycle Satiator page in the “Downloads” section. The program runs on Windows, Linux and Macintosh, so you’ve got all your bases covered.
Grin Technologies also developed a really cool charge simulator that is available for free on their website, even if you don’t have a Cycle Satiator. It allows you to test charging profiles on different batteries and customize everything. This can give you a good idea of how your charging times and performances will look in different conditions. Once you have a profile the way you like it, you can even download it and add it to your own Cycle Satiator.
To summarize, I’ve been very happy with my Cycle Satiator. I’ve been using it for over a year now and it is working flawlessly. It’s every bit as good as the day I bought it.
The construction and quality is top-notch. It’s got a small form factor and it’s absolutely silent.
Sure it’s a bit pricy, but as I pointed out above, I believe this price is well worth it. The Cycle Satiator has the capability of a box full of other chargers, all in a small package. Not only that, but it can actually help your battery last up to twice as long, easily paying for itself over the life of your battery.
If you’re going to pick up your own Cycle Satiator, I recommend purchasing it directly from Ebikes.ca here. There are some resellers online but I like to give my money to the company that invested the dollars and brain equity into developing good products. Plus by buying directly from Ebikes.ca, I always know that they’ll have my back if I ever have a problem – their service is the best in the industry.
Do you have your own Cycle Satiator or want to learn more? Let me know in the comments below!