Meet Our CTO, Michael Shope: Bamboo Lithium Batteries, Battery Customization, and The History of Dakota Lithium Batteries

In the beginning, Dakota Lithium offered only 12V LiFePO4 batteries. Although we have since grown and branched out from these trusty staples into multiple product categories, Dakota Lithium goods nonetheless remain true to our core values of simplicity, durability, and function.


Our years of experience have made our battery experts masters in harnessing the power of lithium such that we now build custom battery solutions for our clients. Always eager to collaborate with clients on their unique challenges, our American technical team aims to customize the best solution for their needs. So, what can you expect from a custom Dakota Lithium solution? Nothing less than a battery packed with hours of thoughtful, economic design backed by research and years of experience. (Oh, and lithium too, of course.)

As you can imagine, it has been quite a journey from only offering our two mainstay batteries to today’s custom solutions. But how did we get here? How did Dakota Lithium come to be? A good place to start would be with one of our founders and Chief Technical Officer, Michael Shope. Discussing all things Dakota Lithium, Michael takes us through the early days to our distinct red and blue color scheme to today’s custom OEM product design.


How did Dakota Lithium begin?

The Dakota Lithium concept grew out of our successes in the e-bike market. We’ve always had two locations: North Dakota and Seattle. After years of building experience with lithium batteries designed to power e-bikes, we started to test out our own more generic battery designs and found they were useful for many purposes other than e-bikes. We put out a few test products under the Dakota Lithium name and customers loved them!


Besides its incredible energy density, one of the most distinct characteristics of the appearance of the 12V 10Ah and 7Ah batteries is their red and blue color. Why did you decide on red and blue colors for the battery?

Great question. We found most batteries are just boring looking, with black or grey colors. There are a few others with colors but most are a little wacky and wild and look like toys. We wanted to choose a look and feel that communicated exactly what people could expect from the Dakota Lithium technology, which is industrial-grade reliability, a unique balance of price, quality, and service, and American design work. The blue and red primarily connote reliability and innovation together, and the red-white-blue is also a nice subtle nod to the American assembly and engineering.

What is your favorite part about working with OEM customers? Is there a custom project that Dakota Lithium has done that was notable or was your favorite?

My favorite part about OEM/wholesale customers is the challenge of meeting all their design needs in the most elegant way we can find. We look at more than just the technical battery design. We set up an entire supply, production, and service plan for the wholesale customer so that their entire experience is carefully engineered, in addition to their battery itself. We have so many favorites. There’s a customer who deploys Dakotas in remote control submarines, others in off-grid ecological monitoring equipment, and many innovative remote power solutions for farming. It’s amazing what people have done with Dakota Lithium products!


Has production of our batteries always been in North Dakota? Why did you decide to go with American assembly?

Yes, we now assemble some of the Dakota products in Seattle as well, but we’ve always assembled in North Dakota. We do, of course, have many strong partnerships in Asia for supply of key components, and even some assembly, but American assembly processes allow us a much higher level of control, design communication and refinement, and customer service for both consumers and wholesale customers.

People are big fans of the Vortexes! What are some challenges you faced in prototyping the many renditions of the big 50 – 60Ah pack, and how did you settle on its final form factor?

Oh boy! Yeah, there have been a lot of different opinions about how to get that concept out on the market. Basically, the challenge has been to get customers the same high quality, low price, and great service while offering them more powerful options for trolling motors and larger remote power systems. We found a lot of customers understood the concept of “putting a lot of small Dakotas together to make a big one” but were uncomfortable doing the wiring themselves. Some of our earlier designs of a pre-built, larger parallel power pack like the Vortexes were more bulky and/or delicate. With the neoprene and rugged velcro, we’ve found a fantastic mix of size, ruggedness, and cost that is making a lot of people really excited.

What is the history of the Bamboo Lithium batteries? Can we expect a small supply of bamboo batteries for old school Dakota Lithium fans?

We have experimented with wood and bamboo cases in the past. We do want to get back to a few of those designs for some fun boutique options. We’re looking for any suggestions customers have in that area since one of our strengths is applying the lithium battery technology in areas and packages that are outside the traditional lines.


Are there any sneak peeks of future products you could share with Dakota Lithium fans?

Absolutely. We’ve got a number of exciting projects in pre-launch testing right now, including remote solar charging options for all Dakota Lithium products, larger packs for electric vehicles, and even remote monitoring capabilities via new Internet of Things technology, so please let folks know to send us all their questions and ideas about what  new products they’d like to see roll out!

Thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer these questions and speak about the history of the company. As Dakota Lithium continues on our battery adventures, the capability and customization of our products will continue to expand! To speak to our sales team directly, please go to our Wholesale & Custom Orders page to learn more about large, custom-tailored orders.

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