Electric bikes will reach a tipping point where they will make financial sense for both owners and manufacturers, and Honda plainly believes that time is approaching as it begins on a bold electric strategy for the future. The company has said that by 2024, it intends to have at least four new electric bikes on the market.
- It has also agreed to a standard specification for swappable electric bike batteries with Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, and has started a project with KTM and Piaggio to obtain a similar agreement in Europe. After years of lurking on the outside of the electric motorbike market, Honda now appears to be ready to take the plunge.
- We’ve seen many patents from Honda in the previous several months that hint at the company’s ambitions for electric bikes, and the machines confirmed for production by 2024 closely match those designs. Honda will initially participate in the 50cc and 125cc divisions with three models: a 50cc-equivalent moped, a larger scooter to compete with 125cc machines, and a 125cc motorbike. The CB125R-based electric bike that the company patented last year is likely to be the last of them.
- At a press briefing in Japan last month, Honda President and Representative Director Toshihiro Mibe confirmed the bikes. Mibe also revealed, somewhat suspiciously, that Honda will release electric bikes in the “fun” category, with a slide depicting the silhouette of a sporty-looking model to demonstrate.
- “The key to effective electrification of motorcycle products is to consider the battery, which is still expensive, apart from the motorcycle,” Mibe said, explaining why swappable batteries are important to the plan. We will pursue electrification using the Mobile Power Pack in developed countries where electrification is in high demand.” That’s a battery switch technology Honda first demonstrated a few years back, and it’s already in use in Japan in Honda’s low-volume PCX Electric scooter, as well as the business-oriented Gyro e and Benly e models.
- “We must not only increase our product selection for personal-use customers but also make a large number of battery-swapping stations available and ensure user convenience by making them compatible with EVs from other manufacturers,” Mibe noted. Honda has formed a collaboration with other motorcycle OEMs in Japan and Europe to develop technology standards for interchangeable batteries. Honda wants to expand Mobile Power Pack uses beyond motorcycles to include power and micro-mobility.”
The latest Honda patent reveals specifics of a tiny charging mechanism that accepts one of the battery packs at a time, showing how customers of the new generation of electric motorcycles would be able to charge their battery packs at home (Honda has previously shown prototypes of multipack chargers to be used at battery swap stations).
The charger itself resembles an oversized version of the ones used by power tools, but with some added safety features to deal with the Mobile Power Pack battery’s much bigger capacity. The battery pack slides in on its side, onto a slanted set of rails that lift it into place using the battery’s own weight.
Then you lift a locking handle, which physically holds the battery in place while also bringing the charger connections forward and engaging them into slots in the battery pack’s base through a linkage. Bikes that use the packs have a similar system in place to ensure that the batteries are unplugged and attached neatly and accurately each time they’re installed or removed, without the need to fiddle with plugs that are physically close to the connector.
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