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Honda, Yamaha, KTM, and Piaggio cooperating on swappable batteries for electric motorbikes

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.

The news follows a similar consortium between the Japanese Big Four – Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki – that was announced in late 2019.

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.

Yamaha EMX electric trials bike concept

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.

electric honda cb125r
A recent Honda patent shows what appears to be an electric CB125R motorcycle.

Yamaha has a number of electric scooters and recently patented several new designs, though some of the company’s electric vehicles have left us underwhelmed.

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.

Many readers may also know of Piaggio’s electric Vespa. But that’s not the company’s only electric model. Interestingly, Piaggio also produces an electric tuk-tuk.

Electrek’s take

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.

Gogoro GoStation 3
Gogoro already successfully operates the world’s largest swappable battery network.

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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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power and the Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide.

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