– Mar. 2nd 2021 2:55 am ET
Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Piaggio have inked a deal to work together on developing swappable batteries for light electric vehicles such as electric motorcycles and scooters.
The four electric motorbike manufacturers have announced the establishment of a new consortium to oversee the swappable battery development program.
According to a statement announcing the agreement:
The founding members of the consortium believe that the availability of a standardized swappable battery system would both promote the widespread use of light electric vehicles and contribute to a more sustainable life-cycle management of batteries used in the transport sector.
The new consortium will begin initial activities in May of this year and is inviting other companies to join the four manufacturers.
Those four companies had already made enough progress together to begin actually prototype testing in September of last year. Now it is unclear if this new consortium will replace the existing Japanese Big Four consortium, or will continue on as a separate partnership.
The focus of the swappable battery system being designed by the consortium members won’t be limited to only electric motorcycles, as the companies made clear:
The aim of the Consortium will be to define the standardized technical specifications of the swappable battery system for vehicles belonging to the L-category; mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles. By working closely with interested stakeholders and national, European and international standardization bodies, the founding members of the Consortium will be involved in the creation of international technical standards.
The new partnership could help the four companies speed up advances in their respective electric vehicle programs.
Honda recently patented what appears to be a 125cc-class CB125R-styled electric motorcycle, which could be the first true street-oriented electric motorcycle from the company. Honda also has some wackier designs in the works, including an electric motorcycle that launches its own traffic-scouting drone.
KTM has produced electric off-road motorcycles for several years now, including models for both kids and adults. The company is also working on an interesting electric scooter design.
Generally speaking, a standardized format for swappable batteries is certainly a good thing for consumers. It will also benefit manufacturers by allowing them to design around a consistent battery architecture and not waste time reinventing the wheel – or the battery.
The only downside is that a single battery format can be limiting to designers’ creativity with component placement. But at this point I’ll trade off that disadvantage if it means we’ll finally see more progress from these major manufacturers.
Of course the elephant in the room is that the world isn’t without an existing electric two-wheeler battery standard. Any company seeking a successful swappable battery design need look no further than Gogoro, the Taiwanese electric scooter powerhouse that operates the Gogoro Network of several thousand battery swap stations. The company’s 50+ mph (80+ km/h) electric scooters each house two swappable batteries, and the design has proven wildly successful across Taiwan.
Perhaps if Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Piaggio really wanted to make quick progress on EVs, they would simply cut Gogoro a check and start building electric two-wheelers using Gogoro’s batteries.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented; Yamaha previously did exactly this.
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