Swappable batteries on the horizon: Giants team up to make swap-in, swap-out battery packs a reality
Honda, KTM, Piaggio and Yamaha have signed an agreement to create a 'Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium' with a view to standardising batteries in electric bikes globally.
Battery standardisation has been one of the key stumbling blocks to electrification, but it looks like this will finally be overcome, with the four manufacturers previously sigining a letter of intent back on March 1, 2021.
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The big issue with battery swapping has always been the cost of the infrastructure. If there are to be enough batteries in circulation, this would require enormous investment by a manufacturer.
If every company used a different battery type, it would be both expensive and wasteful. However, if a battery in a docking station fits multiple bikes, scooters, mopeds and other small machines, it becomes more viable.
The four consortium members say they are working closely with national, European and International standardisation bodies, with a hope of making accessible charging units more readily available in a wider range of countries, encouraging more riders onto an electric machine.
"Considering customer convenience, standardisation of swappable batteries and wide adoption of battery systems is vital, which is why the four member manufacturers agreed to form the Consortium," says Noriaki Abe, Managing Officer of Honda’s motorcycle operations.
"Honda views improving the customers’ usage environment as an area to explore cooperation with other manufacturers, while bringing better products and services to customers through competition. Honda will work hard on both fronts to be the ‘chosen’ manufacturer for customer mobility."
What’s particularly interesting about Honda’s involvement is that, so far, they’re the only ones in the group to have already developed their own swappable battery technology.
Yamaha have previously done a deal with Gogoro, the Taiwanese firm who have been pioneering battery swapping in the Far East for years, and Piaggio have an electric Vespa, but neither have created swappable batteries from scratch.
This also isn’t the first time this sort of project has been suggested with the e-Yan Osaka trial in 2020 bringing together Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki.
The hope is that by working together not only can they share costs, thus lowering prices both for the bikes and the infrastructure, but that they can work together to improve battery technology resulting in longer ranges and shorter charging times.
If they manage it, the group think this should help overcome the concerns of consumers and bump us along the road towards E-bikes.
Big four's electric dream: giants link-up for swappable battery project
First published on September 4, 2020 by Ben Purvis
The ‘e-Yan Osaka’ trial, in cooperation with Osaka University, is intended to be a large-scale demo of how battery-swappable electric bikes could revolutionise urban transport by eliminating the concerns about range, charge time and finding recharging points.
It’s the first big development following the establishment of a consortium between the Japanese ‘Big Four’ in April 2019 to create a uniform battery pack and battery exchange system.
While they’ve yet to officially unveil the resulting standardised pack, it’s likely to be based on the ‘Honda Mobile Power Pack’ system seen at CES in Las Vegas in January 2018 for use in the Honda PCX Electric and Benly-e, both of which are available to corporate customers in Japan as part of a slow phasing-in of the technology.
"As a result of repeated collaboration studies among four domestic motorcycle companies we were able to collaborate with e-Yan OSAKA to verify the common specifications of replaceable batteries," said Noriaki Abe, Managing Executive Officer and Head of Motorcycle Business Operations at Honda.
"We are aware that there are still issues to be solved in the spread of electric motorcycles, and we will continue to work on improving the usage environment of our customers in areas where each company can cooperate."
During the trial, electric bikes will be loaned to students and staff at Osaka University, with battery-swap stations set up on the University’s campuses and at local convenience stores. The idea is that rather than trying to pack big, heavy, long-range batteries into a bike and to force owners to find ways to charge them at home or at work, it’s made quick and convenient to simply swap the battery for a fresh one whenever it runs low.
The test is due to run for about a year, picking out any problems with the specifications of the batteries or the operation of the system before a final, common battery design is created along with the necessary chargers and battery-swap stations.
Honda’s Mobile Power Pack has already illustrated how the firm see the idea working. It’s designed to fit multiple vehicles, including the PCX Electric and Benly-e scooters but also everything from lawnmowers to quad bikes. However, by standardising the pack across multiple brands it takes another step forward, becoming the e-bike equivalent to your AA torch batteries.