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Japan’s Big Four standardizes batteries

Electric scooter Honda PCX

The short statement, co-signed by Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha, could be one of the most important motorcycle news this year. The four largest Japanese manufacturers have entered into an agreement to work together to standardize replaceable batteries for electric motorcycles.

Many countries of the world, including the largest European ones, have either announced or are already actually taking measures to reduce the sales of new vehicles based on internal combustion engines, and this process will unfold even more widely in the coming decade.

Electric transport problems

The problem with modern electric vehicles is that the range from a single charge can be disappointingly small even when choosing the maximum configuration, and this despite the fact that the price of such an option can significantly exceed the cost of a similar vehicle based on an internal combustion engine. The availability of charging stations can also become a problem: some countries have a sufficiently developed infrastructure, while in others the convenient operation of electric transport is simply not available yet. All this leads to the fact that the possession of an electric motorcycle does not yet mean the practicality that a similar gasoline motorcycle gives.

Japan's Big Four standardizes batteriesJapan’s Big Four standardizes batteries

One of the available solutions to this problem is to create a network of exchange stations, where you can simply leave a discharged battery and take a freshly charged one instead, which can be an even faster process than refueling a conventional vehicle.

A system with quick-change batteries looks perfect on paper, but in practice there is one major problem: Will manufacturers be able to agree on a single standard for batteries and chargers for them, or will we expect a huge number of different battery formats that are not compatible with each other?

The first company to announce an ambitious quick-change battery system was Taiwanese Gogoro in 2015 (read Battery Standardization for Electric Motorcycles and Scooters), followed by Taiwanese KYMCO with its Ionex line, which includes both electric scooters and replaceable batteries for them. KYMCO, thanks to the brand’s strong global reputation and wide dealer network, seemed a more suitable candidate to become the global pioneer of a network of exchange stations for quick-change batteries, and to this end, the company issued an open invitation for other manufacturers to join the development of the Ionex-compatible battery standard. KYMCO launched Ionex-based scooters in 2018, but so far it is keeping its standard in splendid isolation.

The Big Japanese Four

Until now, the big Japanese four have been endlessly producing concept and prototype e-bikes, but so far only the Honda PCX hybrid scooter and a few Yamaha e-mountain bikes have gone into production. Honda also announced an electric version of the PCX going on sale in late 2019, but it will only be available in the Asian market and only for organizations.

Even for the warmly welcomed electric Honda EV Cub, a production start date has not yet been released. But it was probably just the calm before the storm, and this is what the latest news tells us.

Electric scooter Honda PCXElectric scooter Honda PCX

The essence of today’s announcement is that the four largest Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are creating a common technology base for quick-change batteries and charging stations. The goal is clear: the race to set world standards, and it’s just as clear that the world’s four largest motorcycle manufacturers, all aligned with a common goal, represent a powerful force to be reckoned with. It’s one thing to compete with Gogoro or even KYMCO, and quite another to compete against Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.

For most manufacturers planning to make electric bikes or batteries, it would be very wise to take full advantage of the benefits of joining this powerful alliance.

According to the Japanese press, at the first stage, we are talking about the creation of small urban electric cycles, equivalent to gasoline vehicles with a working volume of 125 cc. It is also reported to be the first attempt by the Big Four to create a working group outside of JAMA.

For the first time, Japanese manufacturers have shown the world that they are taking electric bikes seriously – which means there will be a lot of interesting news. Stay in touch!

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