Battery Swap Technology Gives Electric Motorcycles An Edge

Battery swap technology reverses the vicious cycle that bigger batteries bring to bikes, where more kWh means more weight, a bigger motor, bigger brakes and stronger suspension, all adding even more mass and volume to the mixture. Provided an extensive network of battery swapping stations is available (great demand, admittedly), allowing dead batteries to be swapped out for new ones in seconds – faster, cheaper and cleaner than even topping up batteries. a tank of gas – then regularly stopping to do so becomes less of a chore.

If you can reduce a bike’s range to, say, 50 miles, but make the battery swapping process quick and easy, you’ll reap the rewards everywhere else. The battery, motor, brakes, chassis and suspension parts can all be reduced in size and weight with no loss in performance, adding total efficiency. Since the batteries are essentially leased rather than owned by the customer, this means that the bikes using them can be significantly cheaper, and fears that the batteries will weaken with age are also put aside, as the packs used in the battery exchange network can be maintained. to a minimum standard.

Even better, as technology improves, new batteries with greater capacity or less weight can be developed to meet the same physical size and connection standards, giving a boost in performance or durability. autonomy to all the bikes that use them. A growing number of motorcycle manufacturers have already spotted the potential. While bikes with interchangeable batteries can already be purchased – for example, the new Maeving RM1, Honda’s Benly e and Gyro e or Yamaha’s NEO scooter – the sea change will come with the introduction of standardized batteries and a network of battery exchange stations.

The alliance of companies working towards this goal is already large and growing rapidly. As early as April 2019, the Japanese “Big Four” – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki – established a working group to develop a standard battery specification. Two years later, in March 2021, the results were known and this standard was defined in a technical document for the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan.

In September 2021, a similar consortium was created to do the same in Europe, this time including Honda, Yamaha, KTM (owner of the KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas brands) and the Piaggio Group which owns Vespa, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Gilera and Derbi, as well as the currently dormant Laverda.

At the time, Piaggio’s Chief Strategy Officer, Michele Colaninno, said: “Interchangeable batteries give the right answer to speed up vehicle charging times, providing valuable additional choice for users.” Stefan Pierer, CEO of KTM’s parent group, Pierer Mobility, added that “together with our partners, we will work to provide an interchangeable battery system for low voltage (48V) vehicles up to 11 kW capacity, based on international technical standards. ”

As Pierer suggested, the Japan-defined swappable battery specification, which the European consortium is also targeting, is for 48-volt batteries, essentially mirroring an ecosystem that Honda has already established with its Mobile Power Pack e swappable batteries, revealed in 2018. These batteries are used in several Japanese market Honda scooters, including the PCX Electric, Gyro e and Benly e, but are also intended for use in a range of other equipment, from snowblowers to electric walls. Like other standard battery types, they can be used singly or grouped together to increase performance or durability. Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna’s e-Pilen – a near-production concept bike shown in 2021 – also uses three removable batteries that appeared to be very similar to the 48-volt Honda design, which could potentially be used to power robotic lawn mowers. , chainsaws, trimmers, brush cutters and garden tractors that it manufactures.

Battery standardization is only the first step, however: the much bigger task is to set up a network to power, charge and exchange them. Earlier this year, in April 2022, Japan’s original battery-swapping consortium of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki teamed up with ENEOS Holdings, Japan’s largest oil company, to form a new company, Gachaco. , in charge of these jobs.

This “battery as a service” for electric motorcycles and scooters is intended to eliminate the worries of charging times and range, which are considered to be the big obstacles in the way of dominance of electric vehicles in the two-wheeler market. . Honda’s Mobile Power Pack e will be the standard battery used, with exchange stations to be set up across Japan starting in Tokyo this fall, at convenient locations like train stations and ENEOS gas stations, giving immediate access to a national network.

Since the European battery swap consortium is likely to adopt a similar set of specs, thereby allowing the same Honda-designed pack to essentially become a global standard, the Japanese model is likely to be rolled out on this side of the world in the next year or two.

With it, we could expect to see a rapid growth in the number of motorcycles on the market using standardized and interchangeable batteries. Most are likely to be in the smallest and cheapest end of the market, equivalent to 125cc petrol machines producing no more than 11kW (15hp) of continuous power (although peak power can be considerably higher) and comply with European standards. learner laws, eliminating the need for a full motorcycle license and allowing anyone with a valid CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) certificate, obtained with just one day’s training, to use them.

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