The Big Four are working together on electric motorcycle technology, but we haven’t heard much about the manufacturers’ progress. That might change soon, as the Japanese manufacturers have announced a testing program to run at Osaka University.
In 2019, Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki announced a team-up to work on electric motorcycle technology. Instead of all four OEMs competing with different designs, they’d work together on a common battery shared by all the companies. This would make battery quick-swap technology more practical.
Since that announcement, we haven’t really seen any progress on the project—no doubt COVID-19 had something to do with that. Now, MCN is reporting the Big Four have finally started up a year-long test of their shared battery design, run at Osaka University. Supposedly, students and staff at the university will have access to a fleet of electric scooters, with quick-swap batteries available on campus and at nearby convenience stores. This will allow riders to simply remove a depleted battery and drop in a fully-charged replacement, instead of setting their scooters aside for hours to recharge. Obviously, that’s far more convenient for someone who’s on the go.
The three factors holding back electric motorcycles are recharge times and lack of battery range, with high MSRPs also hampering sales. Quick-swap batteries will somewhat address the first two issues, as riders would be able to have fresh batteries as quickly as a fill-up at the gas pumps on a standard bike. The collaboration between the OEMs means we might see that tech come to market more quickly, and it also means it might not be as high-priced, as the manufacturers can share development expenses. The Big Four have all been developing their own electric bike designs for years, even building quick-swap battery designs (Honda, in particular, really pushed this tech forward). But, it’s been a slow process—hopefully this university project moves the scene forward.