Japan’s motoring industry saw a short statement, with the companies signing it stating their intentions to work together towards standardizing replaceable battery technology for electric motorbikes. What makes this statement so noteworthy is that it’s signed by Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha; Japan’s four biggest motoring companies.
Personal transport is moving away from fossil fuel, embracing more renewable sources of power for vehicles, with several prototypes for electric Honda bikes having been revealed, for example. Several countries across the world, including several major European countries, have announced or are investigating plans to ban the sales of new internal combustion vehicles within the next decade.
The current issues with electric bikes are low mileage per charge, as well issues with the charging networks. The latter could translate to costs exceeding that of gas-powered engines, while the latter could result in a lack of support for electric vehicle owners. All of these problems underline an inconsistency to owning an electric vehicle and having a level of practicality that equals or surpasses that that gas-powered bikes provide.
One solution that’s been suggested is the installation of charging stations where people can simply leave drained batteries and pick up new ones, which could be faster than just refuelling, but the problem with that is the fact that manufacturers need to agree on a common scheme for both batteries and their chargers. Taiwan’s Gogoro tried it in 2015, then KYMCO followed with their Ionex electric scooter line. The latter was a well-established brand, but didn’t garner support from other manufacturers.
There have been several concepts for electric motorcycles, including Honda bikes, and models from other major manufacturers, but the only production models are the Honda PCX hybrid and a few electric-assisted mountain bikes from Yamaha.
The main point of this new alliance is that the four biggest Japanese manufacturers are working on creating a technical standard for replaceable batteries and their charging stations. Their combined strength is a force to be reckoned with in the race for setting global standards for electric vehicles.
Reports from the Japanese press say that the deal will, initially, focus on smaller commuter electric models, equivalent to the 125cc range.
This alliance is the first time that these manufacturers have made it clear that they plan to work on production model electric vehicles, and it is also the first attempt to create a development group outside the scope of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.